It’s time for a few more of my favorite blues licks. Remember that a blues lick is a standard phrase or pattern that is memorable and often includes blues ornaments like grace notes. Licks are used to distinguish the blues style generally or communicate an individual playing style.

All the licks are shown in the key of C. To get the most from these links, transpose them to other keys!

The first lick is very common and very catchy. It proceeds from the lowered third (one of the blues notes) to a natural third, and then by an ascending sixth. It’s particularly effective to include it at the start of a longer phrase:

Lick 0



It’s characteristic of the blues that many – possibly most – phrases progress in a descending fashion. This lick proceeds right down the blues scale before rising at the end to highlight the flat third blues note:

Lick 1



The following lick is a little harder, as it contains some harmonic (blocked) thirds, uses a triplet rhythm, and is topped off with a grace note. After the first two notes, it too proceeds by descending:

Lick 2




Here’s a challenging yet very exciting lick that makes use of a tremolo ornament followed by a rapidly-descending chromatic scale. While a few notes of the chromatic scale are not technically part of the blues scale, as quick passing notes, they can be very effective:

Lick 3



Finally, here’s a definitive blues lick that makes good use of both melodic and harmonic sixths, which are often quite effective in blues melodies:

Lick 4



If you like one of these licks, add it to your improving vocabulary by consciously incorporating it into your practicing and soloing.


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