The Paul Gilbert Lick

Hi everyone - I have brushed up my Paul Gilbert lick.

How PG got it in his early 20’s is unfathomable.

Anyhoo - I have 2 angles of the picking for you to look at, building slowly as PG does in one of his takes.
In the 3rd section I just launch into the lick at speed. I am quite happy with how it sounds - I have tried to really focus on the accuracy.
I know there are definitely people who play it faster.

Note - I am using a smaller pick here which seems to suit the lick - less heavy lifting over the fence.

Hope you enjoy!


Hey @Interestedoz, this is pretty interesting, I think I see some finger motions but I am not sure! I also think you may be doing the upstroke-swipe like Paul does, as I thought I could hear the B string harmonic at the 12th fret occasionally. This happens often to me as well. But again - not sure!

Timing-wise, I think there is an occasional mini-pause before you go and catch the E string lone note. Can you hear this as well? Probably just knowing about it will allow you to fix it.

But I am nitpicking because this overall sounds pretty good!

Would you be able to film this with a slightly more CTC-friendly lighting, and perhaps a pick of a more visible colour (red/white)? Bonus points if you can do it with a high framerate camera (>60fps, preferably 120). The idea is to get a clear visual of both pick & strings.

I’ll post our usual reference for convenience:


This is one of the problems with fast short cyclic riffs - you can have a swipe hit and your brain very quickly filters it out so you can’t hear it.

This riff esp is a beast - I can play it at speed (13-15 notes per second) using,

starting on the highest note:

RD, RD, D, D, D, RD


HD, HD, D, D, D, HD


R, R, R, R, R, R

and none of them make the swipe easy to get rid of - sucky!

Wish there was a bomb proof easy way of playing this - without worrying about the swipe hit.

D = wrist deviation
RD = Tilt and wrist deviation
HD = Hop and wrist deviation
R = pure rotation for the hits, deviation or hop or elbow for the string change.


From my experience besides the swiping sound usually people (and me too) have sound of B string after fast pimky lifting. These two sounds are mixed and it’s hard to understand - where was the finger and where was swiping. This lick is a mess! ) …and my left hand still is the weakest link in the chain


I think the “secret” to this riff - is to hold down and mute the b string with your index finger - whilst hitting the E string. If that B string is open - the odds of hitting it are highly probable!


I guess you right. I mean that’s the basics of left hand muting. Though I can’t do it. At least not beyond some tempo (


thanks tommo for the reply! You can nit pick away! This is really helping me polish this thing.

I have done as you have said and recorded the lick again. I could’t get all you suggested - my lighting is still limited and couldn’t get the phone to play ball with the frame rate - but I was able to get a white pick and slow motion it.

some notes:
(a) slow motion recording uncovers a LOT. Oh wow - there is no where to hide!
(b) I played this version clean - no amp - and I REALLY focused on clean execution
(c ) I can play the lick a lot faster than this - but not without B string swipe noises - this is the fastest I can play it this cleanly
(d) to get it this clean I could not employ any “chunking” - I was literally focusing (as best I could ) on each note. Chunking led to string noise. I suspect this is limiting my speed - but see no way around i at this stage

here is the new video:

Thanks again!

Thanks for the great reply shabtronic! Yep, I have to focus on each note to get this clean - no chunking or I get unwanted noises. I think I am going bout 9-10 notes per second here. Anything more and sucky swipe creeps in. There is definitely some swipe in the original video at the top - I was holding the pick mega light to get flow - but got the extra noises as well.

thanks again all for replying - i’m still hoping to get some more speed without the noise.


Cool stuff - thanks for taking the time to do a slowdown video - I’ve really got to do this myself so I can see whats actually going on with this fiendish riff :slight_smile:

One thing to consider - when Paul Gilbert plays it in “Frenzy” on the first fast descending run. He swipes the hell out of it - it sounds like a engine spitting and crackling, when he hits the lower string.

Have you tried his piano riff - it’s just as evil as his classic lick :open_mouth:


I put a vid link to it

looks like he does hold down and mute the B string with his index finger!

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oh wow! Haven’t seen this one! Will now have to try the first part of that lick as well.

Another thing I have been playing around with is the pick slant. I am primarily a downward slanter. However, one thing I notice is that using DWPS it is virtually impossible to do the double take at the end of the lick (like the piano lick).


However - me clumsily trying to use up slanting and lo and behold - the lick is sloppy as heck - BUT all of a sudden the double take at the end is do-able.

Looking at what Troy does - he uses a combo 2 way slanting approach in the one lick. Starts with upward then uses downward via a roll to grab the lone note.

So the question becomes can you pull off the Gilbert lick (as PG does) without using the same mechanics i.e. partial or all upward slanting?

I would argue I have done a fairly good job using DWPS- but it’s not the same.

Another deficiency with my approach is that it is VERY hard to just launch into it if you are using DWPS. I have to really, really concentrate to execute it. PG doesn’t. He just goes BAM and is rolling off the lick with little effort at blinding speed.

Using my current approach, I would find it hard to incorporate it into a solo.

Also interestingly, in Troy’s vid on this - he says PG finds it easier to play outside than inside! I’m thinking “what the?” For me inside is WAYYY easier. Does this point to the difference in mechanics?

Anyway - me now rambling!! haha

thanks for the response!

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Just one little addendum @Interestedoz: it’s good to try and get it cleaner but at the same time don’t throw away the “swipey” version you have - if you work on the timing and fretting hand muting it’s going to sound pretty great* :slight_smile:

*=particularly when done away from the 12th fret, which has the most obvious harmonics!


Now he says its from an old Yes tune, but it just reminds me of something from an 80s tv theme… intro to Dallas??? Hehe

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it’s used in many famous tunes:

The theme from Big Country (cowboy movie)
Art of trance - Madagascar
Some Rush Tune

I’d started working on this a couple months ago. I found something interesting, regarding the swiping. Even though Paul (and I) seem to default to DSX, I actually found this to be easier to use USX and swipe. At the instant of my swipe, the underside of my fretting pinky and my fretting index are muting the high E string…so there’s no harmonic as muting a single string in 2 separate places kills harmonics almost entirely. I just couldn’t get this as clean doing DSX for that harmonic reason Tommo mentioned. Maybe I just need to practice it more, but it felt totally natural to me with USX. Hope that makes sense and maybe even helps someone else!


I think that the ease of USX + swiping may be the reason for the whole “I prefer playing outside picking licks” thing that so many people have going on. There’s a few licks that I find myself swiping sometimes and I can’t hear it at all across the entire “how much gain are you using” spectrum. I can only tell because I can kinda-sorta feel it sometimes.


yes - awesome advice. I think that is the way to go. The lick is basically there. It is going to be very difficult to remove all swipe from something like this.

Also, you may laugh, but I was wondering when working on this why I seemed to play it better on every other fret than the 12th!! Never occurred to me about the harmonics! LOL


I found this searching for isolated Paul Gilbert tracks, trying to replicate his tone. It’s a treasure trove!! He plays a variation the classic lick in there (@2:30) - in super high detail :slight_smile:


Great tone. Paul’s recorded sound is always great – just enough gain, and a nice a spread of frequencies from bass to mids without being harsh.

This sounds like it came right off the board. Was this from something Paul himself released, or did the sound guy release this on the sly? Because if so that’s probably not very cool.

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Awesome - where did you find that? It’s nicely distorted - but if you slow it down he is (as usual) nailing the notes!!

And you know I can’t let this slide by without me doing a half assed version of it like earlier in the thread! Here is me trying this version on my classical guitar!

Quick comments!

  1. On classical guitar it’s actually harder to hide the swipe!
  2. Notice how you change the timing on the double string switches - I think you are trying to micromanage the movement here which slows you down. My suggestion would be: try to just beast it with no regard for accuracy (or - make timing your priority, not clean notes)
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According to the comment on the youtube video - it’s from paul himself! There’s a intro written by paul. Don’t if that’s actually true tho!