Schoolhouse

Lesson 2: Intro Rhythm Licks

Posted August 31 2007

"Kick it off!" comes the call. You're in a jam with a group of pickers, and it's your turn to launch a song.

You focus within to remember the feel of the rhythm. You lock it in physically, and as your right hand hovers over 5 strings, your foot taps out 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 ... Blam! You tear into an intro rhythm lick to pull the group together on the beat. Four measures and it's happening. Then you power into your solo.

Chances are your intro lick is one of the four below or a similar variant. An intro lick is any one or two measure figure which drones away on the tonic chord, sets the pace of the rhythm, and leads into the solo.  For the group, the intro lick brings the rhythm of all players into focus.  It sets the feel of the song.  Same for you playing alone on your own porch. 

Here's the basic idea: A good driving rhythm that is EASY to play.  On this one, the 4 to 5 slide reinforces the G sound.  Easy enough?  The slow audio is way down at 80 beats per minute in case the lick is new to you.  The fast audio is 100 beats in cut time, more than twice as fast, well into the real world of performance.

Slow

Fast

A slight variation here:  We accent that third beat with a double finger, M and I because thumb is right before it on the 5th string.  I use this one a lot.  It first appears in the Level Two book on Old Joe Clark.

Slow

Fast

Here we use a pick-pinch and double thumb roll with a hammer and a slide.  A good one for medium tempo, especially when the solo uses the double thumb pattern.  This intro gives a good banjo feel when the song goes into a vocal first.

Slow

Fast

Hey, no left hand fingering at all.  A chord rhythm and a forward roll, all open strings.  I use this a lot when raw speed is the goal.  Be careful, though, it's easy to get too excited and set a tempo that you can't hold for the solo! 

Slow

Fast

These four examples of intro licks are a good start.  The possibilities for variations are large, but remember that you don't need lots of them, just a few that work.  One important point I have not addressed in these examples:  When your solo has a pickup lick before the first measure, that phrase is part of the intro.  Thus you have to shorten or maybe omit the last intro measure so to make room for the pickup lick.

In the next lesson, we will go to the other end of the song and look at endings and tag licks.  Endless fun with that! 

Edward T Wing

Pick'n'Grin, Knoxville, Tennessee