More Gristly Chicken-Pickin’ Licks

It’s one of the tastiest pentatonic riffs in the history of rock and roll and a real Jimi-ism of doom—the Hendrix-y blues maneuver in Ex. 1.
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But, believe it or not, as meaty as it already is, this lick can be made even more gristly. Add some chicken-pickin’ flourishes and other greasy little nuances (including the pulling off of fretted notes to open strings and the cramming of as many as five sixteenth-notes into the space of two) and you might come up with the mutated interpretation shown in Ex. 2. For maximum gristle, try using a hybrid picking/plucking approach, where some notes are picked and others are snapped with your middle or ring finger. By “snapped” I mean they are sounded by yanking the string away from the guitar and releasing it so that, like a rubber band, it slaps against the fretboard for that satisfyingly clangorous metal-on-metal tone.

You can also, of course, gristle-ize just about any other kind of rock lick, including licks based in the major pentatonic scale, such as the Dickey Betts-inspired passage in Ex. 3. Its mutated version could be something like Ex. 4. The “x” notes in this and the second example are muted notes played with true chicken-pickin’ technique, where, as I explained more thoroughly in my last lesson [see “Rock Guru” in the June 2005 GP], you get a satisfying thud by muting a string solidly with one of your picking-hand fingers and then striking it forcefully with your pick—or your thumb if you’re going bareback (i.e. sans pick). Applying these sorts of inflections to your playing is a great way to make dry, run-of-the-mill licks suddenly sound sultry and succulent while still staying in pretty much the same doggone shape.