How to Write 720 Variations On "THE LICK"

Tommaso Zillio

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theme and variations

The ability to create endless variations of a melody is the hallmark of a great songwriter.

The more variations you can create out of a melody, the more options you have - and the easier it is to write a verse that goes with that chorus, or a bridge, or a solo...

... it's truly one of the best solutions to the dreaded "writer's block".

Remember all this for a moment... then read below.

(... and now for something completely different...)

"The lick" is probably the most famous Jazz cliche' ever. It's a short musical phrase that has found its way in all musical styles.

You've definitely heard it.

It also became an inside joke with musicians - since now composers, songwriters and improvisers quote it as an easter egg in their songs.

Different musicians on YouTube have celebrated the lick in various way. Famously, bassist Adam Neely made a video playing the lick for 5 hours straight.

You're not going to see this from me :-)

Here instead I pay my own homage to the lick in true 'music theory for guitar' style. Rather than playing the same thing for a long time... I will play several things in a short time!

So in this video I show you how you can take a stock phrase like 'the lick' and write variations on it. And we create a few HUNDRED variations on it.

Not only that... I show you exactly how I'm doing it.

Now think about it... if we can do this with a cliche' like 'the lick' and still find something new...

...what will happen when you apply these ideas and techniques to your original melodies?

Of course there are several more ways to create nearly infinite variations on any melody - or at least, more than you can play on your guitar :-)

Here's another idea to create endless new licks:

And here's another, more radical if you want, idea on how to change the rhythm of phrases so that the notes are the same and yet the phrase sounds different:

It goes without saying that to be able to do all this in real time - yes, it's possible - you need to be very familiar with your guitar fretboard. You don't want to spend half a minute just to find out where the D note is!

If you want to finally master your fretboard and know deeply how scales, modes, arpeggios and all the like work on guitar, then check out the Master of the Modes guitar course. Not only you will finally make sense of the guitar fretboard, but you also will become a more creative lead player.


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