10 Essential G Licks for the Bluegrass Banjo
G lick 1
Great licks combine different fretting‐hand techniques in small musical spaces. This lick joins an alternating thumb roll pattern to slides, pull‐offs, and hammer‐ons to create a phrase that’s often used in the second half of Cripple Creek.
G lick 2
By slightly altering a roll pattern or by using a different fretting‐hand technique, you can dramatically alter the sound of a lick. Lick 2 adds a third‐string pull‐off to the mix to create a phrase that’s used in Shucking the Corn and Doing My Time.
G lick 3
Lick 3 is two separate licks combined. The forward‐reverse lick in the first measure is used in a long list of songs, from Flint Hill Special to Long Journey Home. When combined with the forward roll‐based lick in the second measure, you’re playing a phrase that captures the first part of the melody of Your Love Is Like a Flower.
G lick 4
This lick is used frequently in Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms and is a combination of three separate licks. If you have any trouble playing through the tricky second measure, isolate the picking‐hand pattern without fretting to play the roll pattern with a steady rhythm. Then move on to add the fretting‐hand pull‐off and slide.
G lick 5
When you need to emphasize an important melody note, be sure to include it in the roll pattern you’re choosing for the lick. Lick 5 comes in handy for songs like Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Fireball Mail when you’re directing attention to the third‐string G note. Note how the forward roll extends beyond the first measure to create a driving sound. This phrase is also used in down‐the‐neck backup.
G lick 6
Here’s an interesting variation of lick 5 where you delay the fourth‐string slide for a few notes to add a bit of rhythmic interest and even more drive to the lick.
G lick 7
Lick 7 puts the focus on the first‐string D note, again calling upon a forward roll that extends into a second measure. This phrase is a familiar one from the classic instrumental Earl’s Breakdown.
G lick 8
A variation of lick 7 that adds a first string, second fret to the mix, this lick can be played at the beginning of Sitting on Top of the World.
G lick 9
Here are the first three measures to one of the all‐time classic bluegrass banjo instrumentals, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Note that in measure three, you’ll be using the same order of picking fingers as in measures one and two, but moving over to the third string to play a 3–2 pull‐off.
G lick 10
This four‐measure lick fills up all sorts of vast G spaces. Be careful with the picking‐hand fingering of the Foggy Mountain roll in measure two. You’ll want to begin the roll with the picking‐hand index finger but then follow it with the thumb picking the second string.