How to use “The Lick”


We all know what “The Lick” is. But are we aware of all the applications that we can use to play it in the most effective way? In this blog post be showing you some different ways that you can use the lick!

What is the lick?

Image result for the lick

The Lick is known to be the most played lick in jazz history. If you want to get into playing bebop or other styles of jazz, learning the lick is highly recommended. All the greats have been known to use “The Lick”. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:

So what is the lick? The lick is based of of a minor scale and goes scale degree 1 2 3 4 2 7 1. It works well over minor chords, minor 7th chords, and is also known to work very well over II V I progressions. 

The lick is not just limited to being used over minor chords though. It could be uses over the relative major chords, triad extensions and pluralities, dominant 7th chords from the II it’s coming from, and even more. For instance, if you play “The lick” starting from and A, it could be used over an A-7, Cmaj7, D7, Em11, and F#minor7b5. The opportunities are really endless. Someone went above and beyond and super imposed “The Lick” over trane changes. Check out the video below if you want to see for yourself.

The best way to get used to using the lick and to get it in your head it to play it over and over just like any other piece of jazz language you are trying to use. I recommend practicing it in all 12 keys going through the circle of 5ths pattern, and once you get through it, reversing the order.

The origins of “The Lick” are unknown, but many people believe that it comes from Stravinsky’s “Firebird” (1910). Some people say that it was used in much earlier music and great composers such as Bach have even used it.

So many people have used “The Lick” in the past that there has been a community that has been built on finding people who have used it while improvising. Finding applications and seeing how other people have used it is one of the best ways to see how you could use it yourself. There is a facebook page dedicated to “The Lick” and people use it to post places they have heard it.

Once you get “The Lick” down, it is time to explore other variations on it, such as “The Lydian Lick”, “The Phrygian Lick”, and “The Locrian Lick”

Well it’s time to start using “The Lick”! Play it as much as you can and make it a game during a session to see who can use “The Lick” the most. The more you get used to using the lick, the more you can make the joke of playing it that only you and other jazz musicians will understand. If you talk to anyone else that is not a musician about “The Lick”, beware to quickly get into a conversation about puppies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *