Using Grace Notes to give your licks character
Adding grace notes to any lick you play can quickly transform the lick and give it a lot of character. If you have come up with a lick but it needs something extra to make it exciting, adding a few quick grace notes can change the feel completely. Grace notes are very quick slides, hammer-ons or pull-offs where the first note played is barely heard.
In the lick below, you can see three grace notes. They look like fast hammer-ons and pull-offs but it’s recommended you try to use slides as well to learn to use both. Try playing this lick using hammer-ons and pull-offs for the grace notes then play it again using slides. Decide for yourself which you prefer the sound of. When you look at the rhythm of this lick, notice that the grace notes don’t interfere with the notation. So a grace note really takes up part of the time the next note is played.
This is a very simple lick so the focus is on making it as interesting as possible using the slides, grace notes and vibrato. Play the lick without any of these techniques and you’ll see how boring it can sound. But start to add in all these extra techniques and the lick starts to become interesting. Once you learn this lick, try coming up with different phrasing and try to add more interesting sections to it. Play around with adding in staccatos and rests.
Think about which fingers you use for this lick. The lick should flow easily from one finger to the next without any awkward changes. When learning a lick like this one, the goal is to make it as interesting as possible. What if you changed the grace notes around or played grace notes at different times? Spend some time thinking about how you would change this lick to suit your personal style of playing. Thinking along these lines will help you create your own unique ‘voice’ as a guitarist. Repeat this process with any lick you learn and pretty soon you’re going to have a very distinctive sound.
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