How to write your own licks

Lick Creation

There are parts of tunes where ii-V licks won't work.  In order to play through these sections, you need to be able to write your own licks.  Using arpeggios and digital patterns combined with bebop ornamentation will give you a good starting point for lick creation.  It helps to have a good foundation in chord spelling when dealing with these concepts.  Check out our chord page for help!!! You can also change chords by using the five rules of chord substitution.  

Digital Patterns

A digital pattern is a sequence of notes in a scale.  The first step is to find the parent scale of the chord.  D-7 is the ii in the key of C. Let's use the sequence of 1235 for this chord..  You would take the notes of the C major scale, but start counting on the root of chord resulting D E F A .  Any number combination will work for a digital pattern. Experiment with the sounds that you like.   


An arpeggio is when notes of a chord are played in order going up or down.  The notes in a chord starting on the root are: The R, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13th.  An arpeggio can start on any of these chord tones and you can use as many or as few notes as you want.    

Bebop Ornamentation

The creators of the bebop sound used different embellishments around certain notes in their licks.  Here are the four most common bebop ornamentation.  

Lick Writing

The first chord of All The Things You Are is F-7 which functions as the vi in the key of Ab.  You could turn this into a ii-V or you could write your own lick