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Learn 7 different ways to play a guitar lick

Picking
(Image credit: Future)

Guitar lessons: You probably have a stock of favourite lead guitar licks you draw on – it really helps to start with a few familiar phrases if you’re improvising. Still, you’ll want to take these ideas further, right? Well, before you go blazing up the fretboard and blowing all your best licks, you can develop some of your simpler ideas. Our Eddie Van Halen-inspired examples will show you how.

1. Flip the switch 

Tab

(Image credit: Future)

This is the lick we’ll be creating our variations with. Play the lick with your guitar’s bridge pickup selected then flip to the neck position to try a warmer tone.


2. Same note but tapped 

Tab

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Instead of fretting the 10th fret A note on the second string, try it on the third string. You’ll be tapping at the 12th but the string is bent so sounds like the 14th.


3. Phrasing trick 

Tab

(Image credit: Future)

So far we’ve kept the basic lick the same, but this one adds a quick triplet hammer-on and pull-off to give the line more movement.


4. Hybrid picking 

Tab

(Image credit: Future)

This variation moves the high note to the first string for a country-esque tinge. Play the third string with the plectrum, then pick the first string with your fourth finger.


5. Engage killswitch! 

Tab

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Turn the volume on one pickup to zero and the other to max then flick the selector switch between the positions to create a stuttering effect.


6. Pinched harmonics 

Tab

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Place your thumb close to your pick’s edge and dig in. For clear harmonics, target a point on the string 12 or 24 frets higher than the fretted note.


7. Tremolo pick 

Tab

(Image credit: Future)

Here we’re experimenting with tremolo picking (indicated by the pair of diagonal lines). Rather than a specific rhythm, aim to create a flurry of fast picking.

Backing track

Learn more: Alternate picking masterclass