Borrowing licks and ideas without stealing

Here is the problem I am facing right now. I do feel some of these players in a way own certain phrases, however how much of the ownership I do not know. I mean how can someone really own a scale pattern or even a phrase? given the structure of music, there really isn’t a whole lot of permutations one can do with the notes and fingers.


Legally, they don’t own any phrases. In jazz music, many a player came up with a lick that people thought was cool, and then everybody used it in their improv–“the lick” comes to mind, same thing with that video of a kid playing a lick from Mario Kart in his improv. Using other people’s licks and making them your own is not just totally fine, it’s part of lead playing in and of itself. EVERYBODY uses the Yngwie 4s and 6s, and it doesn’t get stale because they’re being used in different contexts. That’s also the key there, and how it works in jazz. Same in metal or bluegrass or anything lead-oriented.


I mean licks from the gypsy jazz players like Stochelo. It is hard for me to really show more of what I mix together without really ripping off one of the greats. His phrasing is just that dang good. He has his own teaching realm, and I don’t dare want to rob him of students by showing his phrasing.

Trust me, you won’t. I think he’ll be just fine. Joe Stump isn’t losing any students even though he was on Cracking the Code dissecting his playing. Because there’s more to him than just his phrasing–general technique, musical sensibilities, songwriting ability, ear, etc.


Trust me I see it from both angles cause really there is only so many ways you can rearrange diminished. And I have seen a bunch.

1 Like

In the metal world, just look at death metal. It’s ALL diminished. And they’re able to sound different from each other musically. I’d just play and incorporate your other influences into what you do. That’s what will separate you from Stochelo.

Also worth mentioning pure originality doesn’t tend to be valued by the public, and that’s always been true–taking something familiar and changing something about it tends to be the modus operandi. Stuff that was totally original, like John Cage or Stravinski’s Rite of Spring tends to get either ignored or flat-out hated until time passes and people start to like it. Rite of Spring started a fight in the theater it premiered at, for example.

1 Like

I wouldn’t care one bit if they didn’t give a hoot about teaching it, but he actually has one of the best resources I have ever seen for guitar soloing.

Then in that case, I’d expect them to want people to take their licks and mess with them. Why else teach your secret sauce?


and really this is all just silly anyways cause if one really cared they have video of him playing and could just figure it out from the video. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s probably because they aren’t his 4s or 6s. :smiley:

1 Like

Hey all, I thought this conversation deserved its own thread, so here it is! Provisional title until any of us can think of a better one :slight_smile:

If somebody cites the source, it’s not stealing!

1 Like

I think it’s just like words, or rather phrases.
And it depends heavily on the context, just because you use a lick someone came up with, doesn’t mean you’re using it in the same context. We all use phrases other people made up in our speach all the time.

Thats why there is that transformative law. Though on youtube big companies abuse the system to ignore that law.

Though I’d be upset if someone too my work and took credit for it. If they took it and added to it in a good way it would be alright. It stops creativity otherwise. No one comes up with a new idea without putting other ideas together. Thats pretty much what intelligence is, putting multiple ideas and concepts together to create a greater whole.

I think Elon musk is a good example of actual thievery. He uses memes others have made and often edits out the credits from the image. And he posts them to bolster his status and make money. Doesn’t add any originality what so ever.

1 Like

All good artists “steal” bits and pieces of what they like in other’s works and use it in their own. Every single damn one. It’s a cliche to even say it, so many famous artists and musicians are quoted saying something similar. If you hear something you really like, study it and work it into what you’re writing on purpose and do it all the time. Maybe it doesn’t fit, see if you can spot a place it fits better.

Art, like every human invention, is a fundamentally social phenomenon. Some people are able to reach across vast influences and create something seemingly brand new, but that means they “stole” more creatively and widely and freely. They absorbed all the influences without inhibition and used them however they felt inspired.

If you “steal” phrasing from artist A, and then artist B, and artist C etc. over a period of time and study - in the sense that you learn to incorporate the phrases in your own playing and writing, and do so naturally - in the best case, all of those influences will shine through and develop into something greater than the the sum of the parts, in the worst case, it still sounds cool but everyone who knows anything, knows what you’re doing. That’s fine too, as long as you are creating something with your time and effort, and not just slapping your name on someone else’s entire song or something. You can even do it extremely explicitly as a nod to guitarists you respect - consider Christian Muenzner in Obscura, this song’s solo references Bark at the Moon and Vinnie Moore’s Tempest.

There isn’t a single creator who hasn’t done this liberally. Everything is built on people who came before you and none of your heroes got there in a vacuum, I feel like that mode of thinking is a huge factor in holding back a lot of people who overestimate how original they really need to be because they overestimate how original their heroes are.


Pretty cool talk here by Austin Kleon, the author of “Steal Like An Artist”.

One fun quotation he references from a writer named André Gide: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening the first time, everything must be said again.”

Edit: Oof. Though André Gide won the Nobel prize for literature in 1947, he also engaged in (and staunchly defended!) the sexual exploitation of young boys. I still like the quotation above, but… YIKES! Emphasis: That revelation is about an author quoted within the talk, not the author speaking in the video.


“If you don’t want me to steal then don’t play it” - George Benson


May have already been addressed, but: write it down and permutate it methodically. Some of the obvious ones are to displace certain notes by octaves, flatten / sharpen various notes, tweak the rhythm, etc. Save the part that moves you most for last. I say ‘write it down’ because I find that my creative / compositional mind is free when I’m away from instruments.

Also - imagine / visualize different ways you’d like to sound while playing it. Let your mind wander and eventually it just kind of takes over and does variations of what you’re thinking about.

That’s off the top of my head. I have to go to a meeting. I’ll post more later if anything comes to mind.

Not only do people use familiar phrases learned from others in their own playing (-this is a huge chunk of most great blues playing), but they also quote the melodies of familiar tunes. This is especially true in jazz. Two of the most familiar licks in jazz are the “Cry Me A River” lick and the “Honeysuckle Rose” lick. In the classic version of “April in Paris” by the Count Basie Orchestra, there is a great solo based on “Pop Goes the Weasel”. It kills. Many soloists have some familiar phrases to close out extended solos to cue the rest of the band that they’re handing if off to someone else or going back to the vocal.
The “Ellington ending” is used all the time because everyone in the band knows it and everyone in the audience hears it as an ending.


Pablo Picasso is quoted as having said “good artists copy, great artists steal.”, so this goes beyond music. I’d say it’s up to the individual where to draw the line.

Personally, whenever I hear a lick/phrase/sequence I think is cool, I try to only get the “flavor” of it, rather than learn it precisely as it was done (unless I need to learn it precisely for whatever reason). That’s pretty much how I’ve always been, and I do think it’s helped cultivate my playing identity. But maybe that isn’t even in one’s best interest… As an example, getting out of the guitar world for a moment, James Horner’s main title theme for the film Aliens features a minute or so of music directly ripped off from Aram Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet Adagio (which was used in Kubrick’s 2001). If that sort of thing is ok, then swiping licks should be no big deal at all.