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E Blues Scale Guitar Licks

 

E Blues Scale Guitar Licks in 12th and 10th Position

Here is a guitar lick you can play in 12th position over a blues in the key of E.

If you don't know the E blues scale in 12th position you can learn it from the E Blues Scale page.

Lick 1 in 12th position:
E|-------------------------------------------
B|-------------------------------------------
G|----------------12--14--15--14--12-----
D|-------12--14------------------------14--
A|--14--------------------------------------
E|-------------------------------------------

ok - we're going to completely break down the above lick and learn how we can make it sound more bluesy, using the exact same notes as above.

First of all lets make sure you are playing the lick in the correct position.

Your index finger should be resting on/around the 12th fret. i.e. you are in 12th position.

The first note you play is B which is located on the A string at the 14th fret. You play this note with your ring finger. B is the 5th of the E blues scale.

Aside: the 6 notes in the E blues scale are as follows: E, G, A, Bb, B, D. The scale position of these notes relative to the E Major scale we number as follows:

E: Root (or 1)
G: b3rd (flat third)
A: 4th (fourth)
Bb: b5th (flat fifth)
B: 5th (fifth)
D: b7th (flat seventh)

If you want to understand how/why we number notes you should read and study Modes, Pentatonic and Blues Scales.

Going back to our lick:

The 5th is a nice starting point for a guitar lick. The obvious choice to start a guitar lick on is the Root note of the scale you are using. There is nothing wrong with starting on the Root note but you'll find if you start on other notes in the scale you'll get different flavors of sounds which will help you come up with some nice sounding phrases.

The second note we are playing is the D at the 12th fret with our index finger.

Then up to the Root note E with our ring finger.

At the 12th fret of the G string we are playing G which is the b3rd of the E blues scale with our index finger.

Note that if you play the low E string you are playing the note E. The 12th fret is one octave above the open string. So on the 12th fret of the low E string you are playing the note E one octave higher than the open string. The 12th fret of the A (or 5th string) is the note A one octave higher than the open string and so on. This is pretty obvious but it's important to keep it in mind. Between the open string and the 12th fret you have EVERY note available to you, within one octave, in western music. That's all we're dealing with here - 12 notes. So don't get too scared or caught up in music theory - we're just dealing with 12 notes and working out which ones sound good and which ones don't sound so good (over certain chords and chord progressions).

At the 14th fret of the G string we are playing the note A with our ring finger. A is the 4th note of the E blues scale.

And then we hit the 'blues note' at the 15th fret of the G (or 3rd) string. Play this with your little finger. We are going to use another way to play this note below using a little guitar trick.

The blues note is the b5th (flat fifth) note of any blues scale. The b5th really helps give the blues scale it's bluesy sound. Basically, it's our magic note. If Harry Potter did music at school they'd spend most of their time in class learning about the b5th - it's THAT magical!

After playing the blues note we are going back down the scale playing the 4th again with our ring finger on the 3rd string. Followed by the b3rd with our index finger on the G string (ie the 3rd string/same string as the 4th) and then we are ending the lick with our ring finger on the 14th fret of the D string. This is the Root note of the E blues scale: E. Ending the lick on the Root note of our scale is a nice way to finish the lick after starting it on the 5th degree of the scale.

So that's our blues lick using the E blues scale in 12th position.

You should play around with it and get used to the notes. You should also vary the lick and come up with your own guitar licks. Use other notes from the E blues scale and make it sound better. You can play the lick above using many different rhythms. You can vary the length of each note and play it fast going up to the b5th and then slow coming back down to the Root. Hang on some notes longer than others. Mix it all up. If you do this you'll be taking the above a whole lot further and the lick will go from being what is written above to something you've created. i.e. you'll make it your own.

This is what you should always do with your guitar playing when learning music from books, records and from other guitarists. Learn what they've done, play around with it, understand it and then come up with your own way of playing it. Change the notes, extend the notes, add notes, take notes away and so on. This is how you will develop your own sound and become your own musician.

How can we make this lick sound better?

Instead of just playing the above notes as written - we can add more feel to the music if we change the way we are phrasing and playing the notes. We're going to play the same notes as above but slide up to the first note we play in our guitar lick and we are also going to bend the 4th note up to the b5th to give it more of a bluesy sound.

Lick 1 in 12th position using slide and bending the blues note:
E|---------------------------------------------------
B|---------------------------------------------------
G|-------------------12--(14-b-15-r-14)--12------
D|----------12--14-----------------------------14--
A|--12/14-------------------------------------------
E|---------------------------------------------------

The notes above are the same as we first encountered. We are just making two subtle changes.

Firstly - to start the lick, instead of playing the 5th note at the 14th fret with your ring finger what you want to do is slide up to the 5th at the 14th fret from the 12th fret. To do this put your ring finger on the 12th fret of the A (or 5th) string. Play the note and immediately slide your ring finger from the 12th fret up to the 14th fret. You want to slide your finger as soon as you play the note. So we aren't really playing the note at the 12th fet - we're just using that to create a bit of an effect with our fingers to play the B on the 14th fret.

To show that you are sliding from one fret to another on the Tab it's notated as 12/14.

This notation might mean play the 12th fret, hold the note and then slide up to the 14th fret but we are aiming to really just hear the note on the 14th fret. Sliding up to the note like this will give you a bit more feel to the lick.

Secondly - when we get to the 14th fret of the 3rd (or G) string, we are playing the A note with our ring finger. The first time we played the lick we used our little finger to play the b5th at the 15th fret. Instead of doing this, we are going to bend the note up from the 4th to the b5th. What you need to do is play the 4th (or A) on the 14th fret with your ring finger and then bend the string up (towards your face) using your ring finger. You want to hit the same note/sound that you'd get if you were playing the b5th on the 15th fret. You are playing the same note except you are playing it from the 14th fret and using the bend to make the note sound one fret higher.

After you've bent the note up to the b5th, release the note. This means that you let your ring finger release (or bend) the string back down the original position that you start from on the 3rd string. So you will be again sounding the note A on the 14th fret. When you do this you should be able to hear a more bluesy sound coming from your guitar then when you played the b5th with your little finger.

Bending the 4th note of the blue scale to the b5th is one of the key elements that will give your guitar licks more life. They will help make your solos sound more soulful than if you just played the notes straight. It is something that will give you your own sound. One of the reasons for this is that everyone bends notes a bit differently - it's not an exact note you are playing - it'll be close but a bit different each time. This is how you start to get your own signature sound to your guitar playing.

As always - play around with the above ideas. Use different notes, slide into different notes, bend different notes and play the guitar licks you come up with the jam tracks. You can try out the licks above with any jam tracks in the key of E. Just start varying the lick as the track progresses and find your own sounds.

Jam on!

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