10 Killer Rock Solo Licks (w/Tabs)
Rock guitar soloing contains a lot of riffs that are well known by players of the genre. While some of these are overused, that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn them. So with that in mind, here are 10 rock licks that sound great no matter who’s playing them. To keep things simple, I’ve put all the tabs in the key of E minor, but you should practice these in all keys!
Lick 1 –
This first lick is a fairly straight forward run down the pentatonic scale. There is a motif here of backtracking a note – a fairly common practice in rock soloing. Make sure you are doing pull-offs where indicated on the tab to make your life easier. Also, alternate picking is recommended for playing at faster speeds. While this riff could fit anywhere, it is particularly fitting to conclude a solo with.
Lick 2 –
Just like lick number 1, this is a descending series of notes right from the Em pentatonic scale. However, this is not triplets and is a bit more versatile. In order to play this the easiest way, make sure you are barring the high e and B strings with your pointer finger. For the picking, you can do it all down and up, however most people who want to play this fast should try a different approach. Picking 2 up strokes (1 for the high e string and one for the pull-off on the B string) and 1 down for the last note of the G string is what I would recommend.
Lick 3 –
The is a rather iconic rock soloing technique that can be heard in countless recordings. A simple bend on the 14th fret G string followed by 12-15-12 on the B string sounds awesome when played fast. In the tab I have you picking each not individually, however some choose to hammer-on/pull-off the B string notes. While this alternative method is slightly easier, picking each note is the preferred way for most people.
Lick 4 –
Who says simple can't sound awesome? This 2-note riff is so easy to execute and sounds phenomenal when played at the right time. The main part to getting the tone right for this riff is quite obviously the bend. The most important part with this bend, and any other for that matter, is making sure to listen/feel for when you’ve gone far enough. Bending is one of those things that takes a long time to do really well and this riff is perfect for practicing.
Lick 5 –
This triplet lick has been heard so many times it is really becoming overplayed to many guitarists. But there’s always a reason when you have a riff being overused, and it’s usually not because it sucks. When you’re playing this make sure you are doing the pull-off each time, because in this case it not only is easier, but it actually won’t sound right without doing it.
Lick 6 –
Here we have yet another triplet lick, but this one is quite a bit different from those we’ve had before. We start the triplet with that classic 1/2 note bend on the 14th of the G string and then do the -pl-et with a double stop on the 12th fret of the B and high e strings. The important part in this is to make sure you are not bringing the bend back down; it should be muted once reaching its peak. This lick when played in the context of a fast rock song is sort of like a modern take on Chuck Berry’s style of riffage.
Lick 7 –
This lick is the first one on the list where we start to break out of the 1st position minor pentatonic. The shift in note selection also gives this one a unique sound compared to some of the others on this list. Make sure that you are getting your pinky involved with this one, seeing as it will make the half step difference a lot simpler to pull-off at higher tempos. Also, in 4/4 this won't line up exactly with beat 1 every time, so you’ll see that I outlined where the main riff is that you will repeat in the tab.
Lick 8 –
If you struggle with pull-offs this riff is going to challenge you with some great practice. While only containing 3 notes, there sounds like a lot going on here. Broken down, this is just 14 on the D string to 12 on the G string followed by a pair of 14-12 pull-offs on the G string again. If you're playing it fast enough this can sound very energetic and lively.
Lick 9 –
Here again we have a lick that, while all pentatonic, extends to two positions. This one is triplets being hammered-on then pulled-off. Again, if you are not well versed in these techniques, this will give you something to work on. Additionally, the stretch from frets 12 to 17 is a little longer then what some folks may be accustomed to, but with a little practice anyone can get this.
Lick 10 –
Compared to the others on this list, our final lick is just a little bit more involved. There are a couple pull-offs, a hammer-on and a slide down throughout these notes. The slide down is particularly cool because it’s a half step blues note (or passing tone) that throws a little color in the mix. Take this one slow at first, make certain you have it down, then speed it up gradually until you’ve got it where you want it.