How To Keep a Lick Book

This blog post is dedicated to two incredible musicians who each helped me get to this place in my own growth and playing, in their own unique ways: Ben Wendel and Frank Rosaly. Thank you both for your guidance and friendship!

Note: I consider a Lick to be a piece of jazz language. So, I use them as such. For me, licks serve a number of purposes including, but not limited to learning the jazz language, working on technique, ear training, working through chord changes, flexibility, range, etc. I also make sure that I add some of my own creativity to the licks after I have learned them – altering them as desired (rhythm, adding or taking away notes, mixing and matching different licks, altering chord quality, etc.)

My ideas on keeping a lick book:

First, keep a book of some sort. Something that you can easily carry with you. Use your phone. Sing licks into a recorder. Get creative and do what works for you. I use a Moleskine Notebook Music Journal.

Second, keep track of licks YOU like. The ones that interest you, make you stop and wonder what they are, the ones that get you excited. Those are the ones you need to learn to be your own unique player. Licks can be any length and can be over any changes.

Get licks from the following sources:

  • Licks you read (in books, online, etc)
  • Licks you transcribe (from solos, melodies, backgrounds, etc)
  • Licks you hear (on the bandstand, jam sessions, rehearsals, etc)
  • Licks you create

Work them out in at a few different tempos and learn them in all 12 keys!

Lick Book pic

Next to each lick I put 4 squares. I put a check mark in each box using the following key:

  1. Can play as written in the original key
  2. Can play in all 12 keys
  3. Can play in all 12 keys full range (on any instrument I play)
  4. Have incorporated the lick into my playing

I always try to learn the licks by memory and work them out in the different keys by ear. It takes more time, but it’s work it. For me a lick is truly learned when I can pick up any instrument cold and play the lick without making any mistakes. But after that, as a general rule, I don’t worry about playing them “perfectly correct” after they have been incorporated into my playing and I don’t review ones I previously learned.

Check out this video of “The Lick” – apparently one of the more popular and universal licks. 🙂


What is one of your favorite licks? Share in the comments below!

One thought on “How To Keep a Lick Book

  1. Pingback: Daily Practice Tips – Weekly Recap | Jazz Journey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *