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How To Play Awesome & Exotic Guitar Licks
By Tom Hess - 02/16/2015 - 03:05 PM EST

Tired of playing the same guitar licks over and over using the pentatonic and blues scales? To become a more creative lead guitarist, you must learn how to play with tons of expression – this can sound especially cool when used together with exotic guitar licks. Here is what you need to have to do this:

1. One or more exotic scale patterns or arpeggios to play

2. Great command over lead guitar phrasing (knowing HOW to play the notes of any pattern or lick)

Using these two basic elements, you can play great guitar licks whenever you want.

Fact is, you don't need to know a ton of music theory or have masterful guitar skills – you'll find out what I mean in a few moments.

Before I explain how to play badass licks that will grab people's attention, watch this short video to see how applying the two simple things above leads to killer results:

Okay, so you've now seen the video above. Next, do the following:

1. Read the tablature for the exotic licks below (as well as the explanation beside each one)

2. Play each lick many times until it becomes second nature

3. Finally, check out the guitar phrasing section toward the end of this article so you can learn exactly how to make these licks sound awesome

Exotic Guitar Lick #1: This lick is taken from an arpeggio that uses notes of the the Lydian mode (even if you are unfamiliar with modes, you can still easily use this lick). This lick is made exotic through the #4 scale degree in Lydian (circled in the tab) being bent up to the fifth scale degree. This generates a lot of tension, making it sound unfamiliar and exotic to the ear.

Exotic Guitar Lick #1:
Hear It

E Lydian:
Hear It


You can easily apply this exotic lick by playing it above any major (or major add #11) chord. To do so, just move the lick so that it matches the note name of the chord it’s being played over.

Note: the above lick is taken from the scale in the tab, but uses notes in a different octave. It makes no difference which octave you are playing in.

Exotic Guitar Lick #2: This guitar lick comes from the fifth mode of melodic minor. To hear its exotic sound, bend up to the “flat 6” from the fifth below (as shown in the tab to the left).

Exotic Guitar Lick #2:
Hear It

Melodic Minor Mode 5
Hear It

Watch the video on this page once again to hear how I play these exotic licks.

Notice: there exist tons of other exotic scales (if you want to learn more of them, find effective metal guitar lessons and work with an experienced teacher to learn more about it), BUT these licks alone are enough to create massive amounts of creative soloing ideas…especially once you integrate them together with these concepts:

How You Can Use Guitar Phrasing To Make These (And Any) Guitar Licks Sound Awesome

Use these guitar phrasing approaches to transform any guitar lick into a great lick (while also making it sound more exotic and creative):

1. Using Guitar Phrases That Have A “Singing” Quality: Nearly all of the best guitar solos contain a main melody, with ornaments that bring it out to help the listener hear an easily recognizable pattern. You can do this easily by using a similar approach to how singers create great melodies: By letting specific pitches ring out longer than others (having them be the main body of the lick or idea) and filling in the space between these notes with faster fills. Check out this video on how to write creative guitar solos to learn more.

2. Using Bends The Begin On A Note Outside Of The Scale: Instead of beginning every one of your bends on a pitch of the scale (and leading it to the next scale degree above), begin your bend on a non-scale note in between these notes. This produces a highly exotic sound.

Here are two ways to do this:

*In the first example lick above, bend up from the seventeenth fret on the E string to reach the eighteenth fret. Hear It

*Additionally (using this same lick), fret the seventeenth fret, but pre-bending the note to where it matches with the pitch of the eighteenth fret (bend the string BEFORE you strike it). After you pick the string, release the bend down until it is just barely above the pitch of the seventeenth fret. Just before the string matches the pitch of the seventeenth fret, immediately play the sixteenth fret. Hear It

My Advice: When you slowly release the bend, it generates more tension (this sounds totally badass – check out the video above again to see exactly how I do this). Also, this guitar phrasing style is very reminiscent of the sound of a singer's voice. Watch this creative guitar soloing video to see how you can use this approach in your guitar playing right now.

Important: This particular approach to guitar phrasing is a great example of using “contained dissonance” – a concept I show to every one of my students who sign up for metal guitar lessons with me. By understanding how to generate tension in your lead guitar soloing (in an intentional manner such as this), you can play highly emotional licks anytime you want. This will set you apart from the overwhelming majority of guitarists who simply play a note and hope for the best (rather than knowing how it will sound ahead of time).

3. Implementing Vibrato In A Creative Manner: Using awesome vibrato technique is the cornerstone to playing incredible lead guitar licks and solos. Apply these creative phrasing methods together with the guitar licks in the tablature at the start of this article (or any other licks you may create):

*Play with different vibrato styles within the same lick. For instance, in a single lick try to think of ways you can use the following types of vibrato: thin (less than a 1/2 step), heavy (1/2 step) or very heavy (1 whole step).

*Apply vibrato in two ways: as soon as you play a note and moments after a note has been played (meaning you let the note ring out momentarily before applying vibrato to it). When you delay your vibrato, it creates tons of anticipation for whoever is listening to you play. As a result, once you decide to finally apply the vibrato, it makes the note and lick as a whole feel intense and very expressive. Find out more on the topic of using vibrato creatively by reading this article on playing guitar solos.

4. Using Slides To Build Intensity: When it comes to slide technique - you can do so much more than merely slide from one note to the next! There are countless ideas you can come up with in your guitar licks by playing slides in uncommon ways. Learn how to do this by reading this column on how to play creative guitar licks.

5. Integrating Many Guitar Phrasing Approaches At Once: To really make your lead guitar playing sound awesome, you need to creatively combine several phrasing techniques together throughout every lick. Use these steps to improve your ability at integrating several phrasing techniques together:

Step One – Pick any of the licks I already talked about at the start of this article (or write your own).

Step Two – Use any of the four phrasing techniques above to play through this lick 12-15 times (creating many variations in the process). Challenge yourself to play each variation as expressively as possible.

Step Three – Combine the guitar phrasing method used from step 2 together with any other method in this article. Then repeat step 2. For ideas on how to combine different phrasing approaches, watch the video above once again.

Utilize the ideas of this article and you'll see all of your boring, conventional licks transform into badass, exotic ones. However, understand that there is so much more to learn before you can become a truly great lead guitarist. Get started now with online metal guitar lessons and become a world class lead guitarist.

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional musician, composer, and highly successful guitar instructor who trains and mentors guitarists with online guitar tuition. Visit tomhess.net to get free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

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