Thoughts on learning licks:

I always get a little uncomfortable when people start talking about learning a whole bunch of licks in all keys all over the fingerboard. I'd agree that it's probably necessary to have a few "beef stew" licks (and probably impossible to avoid completely) to get through spots where inspiration is lacking for one reason or another. But for the most part, especially in jazz music, I've always thought that the idea is to try to create something, not just regurgitate a bunch of licks.

Other styles such as blues and country have a traditionally much smaller pallet of acceptable sounds, and the "art" seems to be more in finding creative ways of stringing a lot of licks together. In jazz, on the other hand, I think the tradition seems to dictate that the performer come up with a more personal vocabulary. There are certainly respected jazz guitarists who tend to use the "stringing a bunch of licks together" idea, but I think that the most revered players tend to be the ones who have only a few "stock licks" that they resort to sort of as "treading water" while thinking of the next idea, or to get them out of a tight spot.

I've also always found that if I AM going to try to copy someone, I get much more out of learning and internalizing a whole solo than in intentionally choosing one or two licks to "plug in" on my own solos. If I really spend a lot of time "living" with the solo and sort of get inside the mind of the player so to speak, I find that some of the ideas come out naturally in my own playing eventually (including such elusive elements as "phrasing")without being a literal copy of the original.


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