TrueFire's Guitar Blog

Learn to Craft Licks with Robbie Calvo

Do you want to learn how to craft your own guitar licks and phrases? Robbie Calvo’s Lick Logic gives you powerful yet simple concepts for creating memorable guitar licks to bolster your vocabulary — all from chords, scales, and techniques you’re already familiar with.

In these free guitar lessons, Robbie will take you through several of these concepts, showing you how to build melodic, tasteful licks. Then, Robbie will apply them to two performance studies that show off how to use your vocabulary of licks in real playing situations. Grab your guitar and let’s get to it!

Slurs & Glissandi: Demonstration

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

It’s very important to understand that any tone in your lick can be glided into from below or above its original pitch. Sliding into tones is one of the most effective ways to enhance a lick. Slides can be half step or whole step or a whole range of tones, but think in terms of articulation when it comes to this. You may want to stay close to the original tone in order to execute cleanly and with rhythmic precision.

Triads: Demonstration

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

Three note chords can be really useful in creating simple melodic licks and phrases. Outlining the chord progression with triads is one approach, another is to let the chord tones sustain over the changes. Let’s take a look at both approaches.

Lick Border – Strings 1-3: Demonstration

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

The pentatonic minor/blues scale offers us two notes per string formats, which I believe you can use to your advantage in a lot of ways: string skipping ideas, octave approaches, and pedal tone licks. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways to expand and maximize this 5/6 note scale by really focusing on the creation of phrases that a really simple but ultimately effective soloing tools.

Here we focus on the top three strings of the guitar within the F# blues scale. We’ll start each lick moving through each of the scale tones and you’ll quickly see just how effective working like this will become to developing an untold amount of new ideas. Let’s take a listen.

Improvise Around the Melody: Overview

Play the melody line and immediately after it play a lick or phrase, almost like a fill between melody phrases. Repeat 4 times and there’s your solo!

Improvise Around the Melody: Performance

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

Improvise Around the Melody: Breakdown

Let the Chords do the Work: Overview

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

A really good example that explains the name of this section occurs in blues tunes where you’ll hear the improviser play the same lick over all three dominant chords. The underlying harmony (chord) is having a different effect over each chord because the notes will have a different relationship to the chord. This approach doesn’t have to be limited to the blues and similar genres of music; we can use this approach in any style of music and it’s an excellent way to develop motifs, memorable hooks, and even award winning melodies.

Motifs are phrases or licks that are very melodic in nature that we can repeat to establish a sense of familiarity with the listener. Motifs are often a great way to start a solo section. The motif can be referenced throughout the solo as a way of keeping the listener engaged by a musical theme. Let’s create a simple motif and see how we can use one simple idea to anchor a complete solo section.

Let the Chords do the Work: Performance

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


If you’re looking for more ways to build your own licks and phrases, make sure to check out the full course on TrueFire. There you’ll find even more interesting ways to create licks, as well as the tab, notation, and jam tracks to practice with on your own. Check it out now!