What is a lick?
Licks & Phrases
By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
Licks to me are the widdly bits in between melodic phrases.
A riff I think, is a rhythmic figure, usually played with single notes, double stops including power chords, on the E A and D strings and can contain full chords and higher register notes.
A phrase is what I would think of as the actual music in amongst the riffs and licks
This is an interesting and common topic online; right or wrong I have my opinions. I always considered lead guitar to be solo break and fills oriented, this is to say, in any given song, a solo is played where the lead guitar shows his stuff off, tastefully and hopefully in context.
So lead guitar to me was a pub gig concept, where a host of repeated figures , usually blues licks, and other licks, are all connected together to for the lead break.
Now this is valid and incredibly enjoyable concept of lead guitar, yet seems to lack the musical calibre a flutist, sax player or violin may convey.
So when is a lick not a lick ?
I don’t know, but maybe when it’s mixed up in a phrase it become a phrase , it’s a bit of a word play thing, but rapid fire licks and robotic scale runs may well be amalgamated into both .
What makes a phrase a phrase?
Personally I feel phrases will have more melody and thought gone into them, more dynamics and feel, more bends and slides and follow the chords more, rather than blindly widdled over the progression.
Still there is the grey area but hopefully you get where I’m coming from.
I singer rarely sings licks, they are melodic phrases, some slide players seem to play more melodically too.
The need for speed
I have a suspicion that the need to play fast is the guilty culprit of murdering the phrase, though I don’t dispute phrases can be fast and furious too (see what I did there ? )
How to be more phrase orientated
Play more melodies and learn more intervallic theory, learn vocal, sax, and violin type parts