What are your “secret weapon” licks?

Many players who are able to play at higher speeds (say 16ths at 140bpm-200bpm) rely on certain favorite fingerings, “signature licks” and patterns in order to be able to play consistently and relatively effortlessly at those speeds.

Whenever I find such a lick/pattern that I can play at “infinite” tempo with low effort, it gives me a tremendous feeling of excitement, just like the moment Troy demystified EJs and YJMs patterns for me. Before CTC it was the moment I found out how Marty Friedman uses mini sweeps to play the Tornado of Souls arpeggios (which I always had tried with alternate picking)

I was wondering if we can create a library with some of our “Secret Weapon” licks, because those are the patterns that unlock the ability to play at (super) high speeds without much effort and I am very curious to see what other players have found to be effortless but cool-sounding at the same time.

Some of the “criteria” a “Secret Weapon” lick should meet for me are:

You could play it consistently at high tempos with minimal warmup

The lick sounds very “impressive” or “complicated”, but actually is pretty straightforward to play

It is not gimmicky, but actually musically interesting

Here is one of mine:

I think it is from the ending of the High Speed Dirt solo and I have been playing this lick for the past 15 years or so.

The picking is a bit strange but this is the picking that I use. I can play this lick at 160bpm, but it sounds good also at slower tempos.

I also put the fingerings in; I know that for this lick the fingerings are pretty straight forward, but I hate it when they are not present in complicated solos. For example, figuring out EJ solos without picking and fingering indications drives me crazy and it so happens that these are almost never present in most tabs, especially fingerings.

I hope you like the lick, please tell me what you think of it and looking forward to other licks.

Cheers :+1:t3:


Great thread and post.

I find it’s relevant because lately I’ve been going through a phase of discarding any sequences, licks, etc. from my repertoire that I can’t play effortlessly. I alternate pick everything but a huge sticking point for me was whole-tone stretches in 3 nps sequences. My hand would always pull the first note of the pattern sharp (Example 8-10-12 on any string would become 9-10-12).

I just don’t have the necessary hand width to pull them off, so I’m looking into shorter scale length guitars right now.

So essentially my “secret weapon” licks are based around 1-2-4- or 1-2-3 or 1-3-4 fingerings with alternate picking in the one finger per fret position with position shifts where necessary. To that end I really like the Pop Tarts Lick and any of the Speed Kills 1991 exercises and MAB’s Dorian scale in five positions, which he claims is specifically based off one finger per fret.


That’s a great point you are making, GE. Guthrie Govan said somewhere that before you try to take a lick at it’s maximum tempo (for you), you should first try to play it as effortlessly and musically as possible before upping the tempo.

I noticed that when I do that with certain licks, when playing them at a comfortable speed (where I have complete control) I start varying the amount of swing or the dynamics or the length of the notes which gives you many different phrasings out of one lick.

Then it’s a matter of taking that effortlessness to higher tempos which is easier said than done.

I like it when players don’t sound like they are playing exercises at higher tempos but sound like they have complete melodic control at high tempos and not just mechanical control. My two faves are Marty Friedman and Eric Johnson in that department.

They have their favorite patterns as well, it’s just that they are so adaptable that you don’t get the feeling that you are listening to the same lick all the time, while mechanically you actually are :stuck_out_tongue: Those are the licks I am most interested in. Both Friedman and Johnson are masters of that.

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