Reflex-Licks ’n‘ Riffs

(originally published:

Hi again, I hope you enjoyed my last columns and I could give you a few new perspectives on where to go with your playing. If you have any comments, suggestions or requests write to time I want to sharpen your senses on something almost everybody does, but hardly recognizes. So what the hell could I mean and what has Mr. Skywalker to do with it?

I’m talking about the „reflex-licks`n`riffs“! Most of the time they come in the flavor „Pentatonic-Blues-Penetration“ and sometimes you find „Harmonic-Minor-Noodles with Meaty Riffballs“. I guess by now you know what I mean. This lick you play while you talk to a friend, the one you play when you are totally pissed, the one you play when you just don’t pay attention to it. Not paying attention to what you play! – isn’t that frightening? Everybody has these kind of licks up their sleeve – the ones you can’t get rid of since years. Please don’t mistake them with trademark licks of YOUR style – carefully created and always there when you need them! I mean the really cheesy „everybodystyle“ licks’n’riffs.

Modify them – bring them back to life! They`ve done their job already (i.e. to help you practice 16th-notes or to get a cool rhythm feeling – now they got stuck on you). They don’t have emotional value for you, they are not special, they are not you. They are like insects which, whenever you don’t listen, take control of your fingers and play for themselves. This should not happen!

-Always be aware of what you are playing and of what comes out of your guitar, cause that is what you will be judged by!

-Only play what you really want to play not what your hands want to play (they tend to be the reflex-insects)!

This is where Luke comes in. Do you remember the Jedi training where he wears that closed helmet, standing there with the lightsaber trying to defend himself against this little flying training-ball shooting tiny lasers? He gets shot when relying on reflexes. Yoda tells him to use the force – and thats what you should do! Don’t rely on the reflexes – listen and be aware of what you are playing – that’s your force. Listen to the sounds in your head and get rid of the automatic stuff. Then you will be unique and your notes will be your words and not just old phrases.

If you have the power to say goodbye, push the refresh button and peel off the reflexes, you’ll see what’s left underneath. That can be a frustrating experience, but hey, I thought you want to be unique!?

Here are a few licks to show you how I would possibly refresh them. Do them your way – I just wanted you to think about what could help to improve your playing.

old new

old new

old new



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