In rock history, there have been many legends and heroes that have pushed the boundaries and revolutionized music, rock and roll, and the way you can express yourself with a guitar.
Through their innovative imagination and creativity, they have created many riffs and solos worth learning and using as guidance tools.
The best way to understand and incorporate a guitar player’s style of play is by learning their licks. Here’s a list of easy rock guitar licks. Let us begin!
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Jimi Hendrix Licks
Lick “Blues Solo”
Let’s start with a simple one that we’ve also seen variations on previous licks. This one is in E pentatonic and it involves one of the most used areas in the pentatonic scale (the top part of that shape of the pentatonic scale).
It is important to pay attention to the amount of vibrato used to give it some juice. Hendrix relied a lot on vibrato and this lick is a great example of it.
Lick “Voodoo Child”
This lick is longer than usual but it incorporates a lot of little phrases. In reality, you can divide this lick into 3 licks and make it simpler for you.
The first one involves that high bend on the 15th fret. The second one involves that pull-off into a bend, which is something Hendrix did a lot.
The final one is a good way of resolving the G note on E minor pentatonic, which gives you a feeling of finishing the phrase. Good stuff here you guys.
Lick “The Jimi Hendrix Bend”
Arguably the #1 Jimi Hendrix lick out there, loved by all rock guitarists.
This lick involves doing a bend up in one string and consecutively doing a bend down in another string. It is a bit of a tricky lick, but once you get the hang of it, it is awesome.
In this case, it’s in the key of E minor and uses the pentatonic scale.
Lick “Voodoo Child” #2
This lick can be divided into two sections and it explores the second most common shape of the pentatonic scale.
So far we’ve done mostly in the main shape of the pentatonic, which is taken from an E minor shape. The second most common is taken from an A minor shape and on this lick, a double stop is included.
Hendrix loved that double stop where you bend the 2nd string to have a B and a D note together.
If you find the following licks too hard for you, you may want to start with something easier in the following post 15 Famous Easy Guitar Songs With 3 Chords For Beginners
Lick “All Along the Watchtower”
This lick comes from Jimi’s rendition of “All Along The Watchtower” and it is in the key of C# minor. As per usual, it relies on the pentatonic scale and it is another idea to use in that super used position of the pentatonic scale.
I’d say with this one, pay attention to where repetitions are made and feel free to do variations. This is one of those licks you can play many different ways to get different phrases.
Lick “Paradise City”
Slash is known for having long phrases, so all of the licks seen here will be slightly larger than from the previous guitarists. This first lick comes from Guns and Roses legendary song “Paradise City”.
Notice how at the end of this combination of pentatonic and blues scale, Slash uses pinch harmonics to give it a little more grit to the lick.
Lick # “Night Train”
This lick is in the key of C# and uses the Mixolydian mode we have talked about. We can see this again when he does that hammer-on from the 9th to the 10th fret on the 3rd string, making the chord have a major sound.
Once again, notice the spots where Slash uses pinch harmonics to add a little color to his soloing.
Lick “Welcome To The Jungle”
This lick is from one of their most famous songs, “Welcome to the Jungle”. It comes right after the riff before the vocals come in and it is a great one to learn.
This one is in the key of A and uses a combination of pentatonic and blues scale. Slash uses a lot the blues scale, which consists of adding the #4th note of the scale (in this case, D#).
Blues scales and pinch harmonics are Slash territory.
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A lick in A Mixolydian that relies heavily on double stops. This lick comes from their song “Nightrain”.
Once again, notice that hammer-on at the 3rd string that makes that change from the minor 3rd to the major 3rd of A.
This is what makes the change from Dorian (a minor mode) to Mixolydian (a major-mode).
Lick “Welcome To The Jungle”
This lick comes from Slash’s solo in “Welcome to the Jungle”. I like this one because it uses more bends and in the end, you can hear the sound of using an interval of a 6th.
In this case, he uses a double stop with the notes E and G, which create a minor 6th. Pay attention to the vibrato at the very end of the lick that gives it a little bit of character.
Jimmy Page Licks
Lick “Black Dog”
This lick is probably one of the most famous Jimmy’s licks. A lot of variations with this pattern make up several of his other licks, but this is the foundation.
It is in the key of A minor and will use the pentatonic scale (most of them will).
The one thing I’ll say is, even though Jimmy Page uses his ring finger on the pull-off happening on the second string, I appreciate this guy uses his pinky and would recommend also doing so to develop finger strength.
Lick “Moby Dick”
I particularly like the melodicity of this lick. I also like this one because he mostly uses the pentatonic sound, but he adds a double stop that incorporates what would be the Dorian mode (no need to get into details).
This one is in the key of D minor and it’s a great lick to focus on picking technique. Make sure you use alternate picking to enhance precision and velocity.
Lick “Rock And Roll”
One of the variations I mentioned from Jimmy’s first lick. This also uses the pentatonic scale. He wrote a lot of stuff in A minor.
This one is a great lick to practice your bends, but the important part is the pull-off and it’s a great technique to develop finger strength as well.
Again, I’d recommend using your pinky since it’s just a good idea to be able to use your four fingers without any difficulties.
if you liking this list so far make sure to check my other list 33 Famous & Easy Electric Guitar Beginners Riffs With Tabs
Lick “Black Dog” #2
You guessed right, another lick in A minor pentatonic! You’ll see as we progress that the pentatonic scale is the rock guitarists’ best friend.
This one is fairly short and simple, but it is a great phrase to incorporate to your playing without copying a full-on solo and losing originality.
Make sure that when you do your bend, you make it big enough to cover the two notes it is bending towards (from C to E). You can also do it from C to D and it will still sound awesome.
Lick “Page-Style Technique”
This one is particularly good to develop bending intonation and strength. This lick involves double-stops, which are essentially two-note licks.
The cool thing with this one is that he plays a note on the second string, but the one on the third-string will bend up to the same note on the second string. This will create unison and it sounds awesome, especially with distortion.
Angus Young Licks
This lick is a classic staple of Angus Young’s playing.
He became particularly known for doing many variations of this lick and it is a good one to know! This one is in the key of B minor.
Pay specific attention to the speed of the bend. He does it pretty fast, which gives it this particular vibe.
Lick “Back In Black”
Double stops! Angus sure loves double stops. This lick uses one of the most rocking double stops found on the guitar.
This lick is on the key of E minor and by bending the 14th fret to the 16th on the 3rd string, while playing the 15th fret on the second string, you get the notes D and B.
Try this with distortion and be ready to rock out!
If you play acoustic guitar as well you may want to check my following post as well 25 Famous & Easy Acoustic Guitar Rock Songs For Beginners
Lick “The Chuck Berry”
This is another classic staple of Angus Young’s awesome guitar solos. This one is heavily influenced by rock and roll legend, Chuck Berry.
It is in the key of A and uses a bend on the 3rd string while playing a double stop on the 2nd and 1st string. Very rock and roll lick for sure!
Lick “What Do You Do For Your Money”
This lick is very similar to the first lick, except it is a bit more complex and cool sounding.
This one is on the key of E minor and uses the pentatonic scale as well.
Notice how his vibrato on the bend at the beginning is quite fast and aggressive. That is the way Angus does his vibrato and it’s pretty rocking.
Lick “Back In Black” #2
Combination of bend and double stops for our final Angus Young lick.
This one is in the key of E minor and does a mix of the pentatonic scale and the Dorian mode.
You’ll find this sound on the double stop used on the second and third-string of the lick. This one is a great tool for you to develop multiple techniques on the same phrase.
Eric Clapton Licks
Lick “Blues Intro”
This lick is a classic staple not only of Eric Clapton’s playing but also for any blues/rock players out there.
It’s a very simple yet powerful lick and you can do many variations with it to give it a different flavor. This lick is in C minor and solely relies on the pentatonic scale.
Lick “Clapton-Styled Technique”
Speaking of ¼ bends, this is more of an expression of that technique rather than a specific lick. Part of Eric Clapton’s tasteful choices for soloing come from the sensibility with which he bent notes just to give them a bit of attitude.
These slight bends are not designed to reach a certain note (like most bends), but to add some character to the note already used. These work well with the 3rd, 4th and 7th degrees of the pentatonic scale (in this case C, D and G on the A pentatonic)
Lick “Clapton Bend Technique”
This lick is in A pentatonic and is another classic staple of Clapton’s playing.
He would hold a bend up (in this case, the 7th fret of the 3rd string) and pick on the note more times. You can play with that and bend the note up and down, progressively up, or progressively down.
Also notice at the end that full bend to a ¼ bend on the 8th fret of the top string, giving it a bluesy flavor.
Lick “Cream Slide”
This Lick is in the key of A minor and uses the pentatonic scale as well.
Notice how in this lick, Clapton uses that technique I mentioned on the second lick, where he slightly bends the 5th fret of the 3rd string.
He is not looking to hit a certain note, it is just to give the C note some attitude and it works nicely.
Lick “Slowhand Technique”
This lick is another of the many licks that Eric Clapton popularized through his masterful guitar skills.
This lick is the one that attributed him the nickname “Slowhand” and it showcases the speed he had in his solos. It’s in the key of D minor and uses the pentatonic scale.
The main component of this lick is the hammer-ons and pull-offs happening on the 2nd string and it’s a great tool to develop legato skills.
Joe Perry Licks
Lick “Walk This Way”
This lick comes from Aerosmith’s famous song “Walk This Way”. It is in the key of E minor (another super-popular key in guitar) and it mostly uses the pentatonic scale.
This lick is a good one for you to practice bending a half-step up (you do that on the top string from the 14th to the 15th fret) and bending a whole step (the 15th fret to the 17th on the 2nd string).
You need to develop a sensibility for accurately bending to where the note is asking to go. That is why I chose this lick.
Lick “Dude Looks Like A Lady”
I like this lick because it shows one of the variations of a common way to use the pentatonic scale.
This one is in G pentatonic and the bend that happens on the 3rd string is very popular (we saw it on some Jimmy Page’s licks).
The variation that happens here is when Joe Perry mixes it with the 6th fret on the first string.
Lick “Dream On”
This lick can be found on the song “Dream On” and it is one of the most common licks used not only by Joe Perry but by many other guitarists. I
t is in E minor pentatonic scale and on this lick, you do a lot of bends on the second string, but then you do a run down to the 6th string.
That rundown has many variations out there but as I mentioned, it is very popular amongst rock guitar players.
This is my favorite lick from Joe Perry and even though it is a bit more challenging, it showcases a lot of the rock pentatonic stuff you can use.
This one is played in Aerosmith’s song, “Cryin” and it is in the key of G minor. It is high on the neck and you will find there that the strength required to bend is less than lower on the neck.
It is another great way to achieve sensibility on the accuracy needed to bend.
Lick “Last Child”
This final lick incorporates a little bit more of the harmonic richness found in both rock music and the blues.
So far we’ve stayed mostly on the pentatonic scale with a bit of minor scale added. In reality, most old-school rock music is based on the Mixolydian mode, which in short means that it is more of a major scale than a minor.
This lick incorporates that by adding the major 3rd on the 3rd string and will give you a different vibe.
David Gilmore Licks
Lick “Comfortably Numb”
One thing you need to understand about David Gilmore’s playing, he loves slides and vibrato.
Those two things, accompanied by the incredible accuracy of his bending game is what makes him the guitar hero he is.
This lick is a very simple one, but it showcases that and it’s a great tool to your repertoire.
Lick “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
This lick is played on Pink Floyd’s song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and it is in the key of G minor.
The reason why I love this lick is because of the slow steadiness on which he bends, picking twice and the last one just pulling up and down your hand.
This gives it a very smooth, silky tone to your phrases and it’s a great one to develop your bending game.
Lick “Comfortably Numb”
Another simple lick from David Gilmore in the key of B minor. Pay specific attention to the intensity of the vibrato once you resolve it into the B note.
Another element to consider is the space in between each note, achieved by a staccato technique.
I like these small phrases to enable you to use a bunch of them, creating your unique sound, rather than learning a full solo and not being able to make it your own.
Lick “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
Like most licks in this article, it also plays with the minor scale.
By using the 2nd and minor 3rd of the scale (in this case, A and Bb on the top string), you create this sort of melancholic vibe, which is very much characteristic of the minor scale. David Gilmore sure knew how to exploit that.
Lick “The David Gilmore Run”
Relying completely on the pentatonic scale, this one is a good way of covering the whole shape of that pentatonic part of the guitar.
As with previous licks, this one is a good one to learn and then to variations to create your phrases, rather than copying note by note.
Eddie Van Halen Licks
Lick “Spanish Fly”
This lick is one of the two pentacle techniques that defined the style of Eddie Van Halen.
This lick is in E minor and as you’ll see in the video, it relies on alternating between hammer-ons and alternate picking.
I find this lick/technique to be excellent to develop left-hand strength, right-hand dexterity, and a vertical understanding of scales in the guitar. I would definitely spend some time working out this lick.
Every guitar player who knows about Edie Van Halen knows about this section of his insane solo piece, “Eruption”.
His second pentacle technique is tapping, which is one of the most complex techniques to truly learn on guitar but is eternally satisfying to control and use in your own soloing.
Make sure you take your time and play this lick slowly to get proper accuracy on the right hand.
This lick comes out from Van Halen’s song “Panama”.
This one is a weird but cool combination of bending up a note and after that tapping the string to get bent up notes and finally come down the bend.
It is a very cool lick and one of Eddie’s favorite techniques to solo.
Lick “Hang Em High”
This lick is in A pentatonic and relies heavily on pull-offs and a few double stops.
Notice how at the beginning of the lick you are using more than the standard shape of the pentatonic scale. It is still the same notes, just extended on the guitar.
This is a great lick to expand your range of soloing in terms of position on the guitar.
Lick “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”
This lick is very melodic and quite easy to learn. Also it relies on using the same pattern/shape and moving it up and down the neck to fit the chords on the song progression.
This is one of the biggest quirks of playing guitar, the fact that everything is symmetric allows you to move certain shapes up and down the fretboard and have it still sound good.
Billy Gibbons Licks
Lick “Billy Gibbons-Style Slide”
This lick is a classic example of the way Billy Gibbons approaches the guitar.
It is in the key of E minor and uses the pentatonic scale.
The first two notes on this lick, which he repeats constantly, is a huge element of rock guitar and is one of the most frequented areas on the guitar when playing rock. So give it a listen and do your own thing.
Lick “A Mixolydian Style”
This lick is in the key of A and uses the Mixolydian mode. A great sound for blues-influenced rock, which is Mr. Gibbons specialty.
Notice how he hammers-on the 5th fret to the 6th to play with the major third of the chord. That sound is usually used in blues and I would recommend paying special attention to that.
Lick “La Grange”
A lick in C minor that plays with the 3rd. By slightly bending the 3rd of a chord (in this case on the 6th fret of the 3rd string), you can get this bluesy feel which is very used in rock soloing.
Billy Gibbons is a master at playing in between the mayor and minor 3rd and it is a big component of his playing. You have two variations on the lick on this video.
Lick “La Grange Pinch Harmonic”
This is the same lick as the previous but with an added technique.
This technique is called pinch harmonic and it is designed to give a little extra bite to the notes. The way it works is by using your picking hand to “pinch” the string while you play to create artificial harmonics.
It works better with some overdrive or distortion, but can also be heard with a clean tone. The video explains in detail how to achieve pinch harmonics.
Lick “Hybrid-Picking Technique”
This lick is one of the signature techniques in Billy Gibbons playing.
For this one, you will use what is called “hybrid” picking. “Hybrid” picking essentially consists of using your pick and a finger to play alternate strings at a faster speed.
You will usually use the middle finger, but you can also use the ring finger. Watch how he uses this technique to play around with the A minor pentatonic scale.
John Mayer Licks
John Mayer is very well known for his ability to make simple yet beautiful melodies. Part of it comes from using the right embellishments at the right time.
In this lick, for example, that double bend on the 10th fret of the second string is what makes it sound like he is singing and why he is a great “lick library” for all guitarists out there.
Lick “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”
This lick comes from his song “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room” and is in the key of C# minor. Smooth bending is what this lick is all about.
John Mayer has a great talent for knowing when to bend aggressively and when to do it gently.
This approach of bending with delicacy is what gives all the juice to this lick.
Another example of a simple melody that through his embellishments, John Mayer makes it sound awesome.
The meat and bones of this one are the bends on the 10th fret of the 2nd string. As you go down, you do this quick slide out-slide in a thing that gives it all the power, and once again, makes the guitar sing.
Lick “John Mayer Slide”
This lick is an excellent tool to develop both your slide skills and to also be able to do one-string improvisations.
Improvising over one string is an amazing restriction you can give yourself that will force you to truly see the scale horizontally, but also to be much more melodic (since it’s kinda hard to shred on one string).
Lick “John Mayer Bend”
It’s all about bending with this one. Notice how there are three different types of bendings in this lick.
You have the regular full bend up, a full bend starting up and going down (so you essentially bend the note, strike it, and bend down) and a ¼ bend just to add some color to the lick.
All excellent tools that require precision and sensibility.
There are so many licks out there and these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with the guitar. The important thing to pay attention to any time you listen to a guitar player is to figure out what are his quirks or particularities as to how they play the guitar.
Do they use fast, aggressive bends? Or slow and smooth? How intense is their vibrato? Do they rely on picking or use legato? It is all of these things that shape the style of a guitarist and it will do the same for you and your playing.
Now go out there and play some rockin’ solos!
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