Cracking Carl Verheyen's "Lick Book"

L.A.-based guitarist Carl Verheyen is known for keeping a journal of musical lines and ideas that he calls his “lick book.”
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L.A.-based guitarist Carl Verheyen is known for keeping a journal of musical lines and ideas that he calls his “lick book.” Comprising several volumes, Carl’s lick book has provided a constant source of inspiration throughout his career. On his new recording, Mustang Run, Verheyen demonstrates improvising concepts developed from many hours of practicing and documenting his own lines. In this lesson, we’ll examine some musical excerpts from the new album as well as the lick book entries that inspired them.

Let’s begin with some dominant 7th or Mixolydian ideas. Ex. 1 is in the key of B Mixolydian and is taken from “Riding the Bean.” This example sets up a repeating motif that begins at the 7th fret before sliding up two frets and ascending across the strings in consecutive fourths to get to the B string. The lick ends with a string skipping pentatonic idea at the 14th fret.

Ex. 2 from Carl’s lick book is another example of a dominant 7th idea that uses consecutive fourth intervals. Notice how the first two phrases are unified by the same intervals (two fourths followed by a major third) and how this lick climbs vertically using wide intervals.

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Taken from the B section of the melody to “Fourth Door,” Ex. 3 is played over an Eb9 and uses the notes for an Eb9(11) arpeggio. The first bar of this example sets up the groove with a riff while the second half demonstrates an ascending idea that shifts positions with strategically placed slides.

Next, let’s look at an intervallic idea based on the frequent use of a perfect fifth. Check out Ex. 4 for what Carl calls his “stair step” idea. It begins with two ascending fifth intervals on adjacent strings followed by two more fifths that skip strings.

The following examples are blues based and utilize both the blues scale as well as the major and minor pentatonic scales.

Ex. 5 is a G minor pentatonic figure that starts at the 3rd fret and shifts several positions before landing at the tenth position. This is a great example of how to smoothly move up the neck in the pentatonic scale by using slides to shift one position at a time. Also notice the use of wide intervals created by the use of string skipping.

Another example of interval leaps and position shifts in a blues context can be found in Ex. 6 from the tune “Fusioneer’s Disease.” This idea uses string skipping within a D minor pentatonic tonality and ends on an FmMaj7 arpeggio. In Ex. 7 Carl creates wide intervals by using string skipping to create an interesting line with the F minor pentatonic scale. Ex. 8 uses the same concept as the previous two examples but with a major pentatonic scale.

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A common practice when playing blues is to combine the major and minor 3rd along with the b5 blue note. When manipulated correctly this can create a bebop type sound, especially when played with a strong swing feel. A good example of this can be found in Ex. 9, which is from the tune “Fourth Door.” The lick is based on Eb Mixolydian but the addition of the other notes evokes a jazzy type of chromaticism.

The next few examples illustrate Carl’s use of the Dorian mode in various contexts. Ex. 10 is directly from the melody to “Fourth Door” and uses the notes from the C Dorian mode. It begins with consecutive fourth intervals over the Eb dominant chord, outlines an F13 sound on the F7 and resolves to C Dorian on the Cm7 chord in the last bar.

Take a look at Ex. 11, again taken from Carl’s lick book. This example uses the F Dorian mode and begins by climbing up the E and A strings before making a leap of a perfect fifth to the G string. The lick concludes with an Abmaj7 arpeggio into an F blues scale idea that uses string skips to create wide intervals.

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Ex. 12 is in F minor and mostly uses the F blues scale. It begins at the 13th fret and jumps intervals of a sixth and even a tenth before it returns to the 13th fret with a string skipping idea that leads to a long slide all the way down to the first position.

The last two examples are ideas that can be used on the turnaround in a 12 bar blues. Ex. 13 is from “Taylor’s Blues” and illustrates the use of scale degrees b5, 5, 6, and 7 in combination with the Mixolydian mode. The turnaround chords are G7, F7, and C7 and Carl addresses each chord with a Mixolydian scale with the same root as the chord. Notice how on the G7, Carl adds the b9 and natural 7 for a bebop type sound.

Experiment with your own interval based lines and consider writing down your ideas in a lick book of your own. It’s surprising what you’ll find when you look back and it’s a great way to organize your thoughts and concepts.