5 Songwriter Sideman Guitar Licks You MUST Know

5 Songwriter Sideman Guitar Licks You MUST Know

Supporting a songwriter as the sideman in a duo or band situation is an artful skill that can be very challenging. Usually, there’s a rhythm guitarist — perhaps the singer — playing fairly simple chords and rhythms. Your job as the sideman is to color and embellish the performance of the song without distracting the audience’s attention. These 5 free guitar lessons from Adam Levy’s full collection of 30 Songwriter Sideman Guitar Licks You MUST Know are a great start to an essential, versatile vocabulary of rhythm parts, fills, and single-note lines for anyone performing or recording in a sideman capacity.

Lick 1: Cascade

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this sideman guitar lick on TrueFire.

Capoing halfway up the fretboard is a great way to get up and out of the way of another guitarist (the singer/songwriter, for example) who’s strumming chords in open position. That’s the primary tactic here. Remember, Capo VII means the chord shapes seem to be in the key of G but you’re actually in the key of D, a fifth higher. Also, this lick is spacious — leaving plenty of room for other elements in an arrangement (voice, bass, drums, and so on).

Lick 3: Busy Body

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this sideman guitar lick on TrueFire.

Sometimes the job of a side-person is to add energy to the overall groove. If someone is already holding down the basic chords with a steady pulse, a rhythmic second part like this one can keep things moving. Utilizing 2 and 3-part voicings — in the middle or upper-middle register — can keep the harmony from becoming cluttered.

Lick 8: Wide Angle

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this sideman guitar lick on TrueFire.

Unlike the previous lick, which features closed position triads and other tightly clustered voicings, the chord shapes here are spread wide. The effect is more orchestral than guitaristic. You can make it sound even more so by using a volume pedal (or the volume control on your guitar) to swell into each chord.

Lick 10: All of the Above

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this sideman guitar lick on TrueFire.

As the name of this lick implies, it’s a hodgepodge — featuring many of the techniques you’ve already seen in this course. Inverted triads? Check. Chiming upper register voicings? Yep. Hammered triad? Well, just one.

Lick 18: Boom Chang-a-Lang

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this sideman guitar lick on TrueFire.

Like our “Streamlined” lick, the harmony here is spartan. The chord changes are implicit, not explicit. Also note an A note that is the top note of every chord in measures 1–7. This sort of common note is called a “pedal tone”. It may be the uppermost voice, the bottom, or even in the middle. You can see this in measure 8: The top note of each chord is descending while the bottom note is a static A.


Dig these free guitar lessons? Check out the full course for more: 30 Songwriter Sideman Guitar Licks You MUST Know