Get Off YouTube And Create Your Own Guitar Licks!

Almost every single guitar student I know suffers from mindless lick searching on YouTube, meaning that instead of thinking up cool new ways to play ideas they already know on the guitar, they let the Internet do the work for them.
Unfortunately, none of your favourite guitar players do this. Except John 5. But even he takes the ideas he learns there and twists them into his own crazy creations. So today, we’re going to take a simple Yngwie Malmsteen idea (a descending F# Harmonic Minor scale), and begin creating our own variations of the phrase.
I’m going to do the work for you at first. I’m going to give you a fish, but then I’m going to expect you to do some fishing of your own after you’ve internalized these ideas (or at least until you understand the concept and can begin making your own).
Example 1 provides us with our parent idea. This would be our lick we just found on YouTube, in a book, figured out by ear, or learned from a friend.

Example 1- Eric Bourassa articleNow, instead of mastering this lick and then going back to the web for more, let’s have some fun with it. Example 2 has us employing hybrid picking (using a hybrid of downstrokes and middle finger plucks on the picking hand) that has the phrase descending with a few bumps back up along the way rather than just descending through the notes only. This is similar to how Greg Howe might approach an idea like this (and by the way, Greg learned to play guitar by figuring out songs from records and then making them his own— go figure!).

Example 3 is a repeated pattern that retains that Greg Howe feel with a little hybrid picking (you can also use alternate picking or directional picking, but I think hybrid picking is actually easiest). In Example 4, we’re playing six notes but it’s like it’s only 3 because we replace every other note with a bend below it back up to the original pitch. I love this sound!

Example 3 and 4 for Eric Bourassa articleFinally, Example 5 is a string skipping pattern reminiscent of Slash’s iconic guitar part in Guns N Roses’ classic song, “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” A really fun way to create new ideas is to take an existing idea and ask, “How would (insert any guitarist’s name here) play this?” Great exercise!

Example 5 for Eric Bourassa youtube article

I created these ideas and variations after maybe ten minutes of playing around. I could easily create hundreds more, and I likely will as I continue to practice this. Instead of looking for new licks the rest of this week, I’m going to keep creating new variations of this theme so that I start sounding more and more like me rather than Yngwie (not that I could sound like him anyway!).

So embrace who you are and get to work creating your own ideas and avoid being like the rest of the clones who just copy songs and solos note for note. Be you.


About the Author: Eric “Steal My Ideas!” Bourassa resides in Fort Worth, Texas, where his guitar lessons give students the opportunity to develop as musicians and artists instead of becoming clones and mindless guitar monkeys. He specializes in shred guitar, rock guitar, improvisation, and songwriting.