Lick of the Week – Number 6: Tapping Arpeggios With A Pentatonic

Welcome to another lick of the week. This week’s lick is a bit of shred using right hand tapping. As soon as you talk about tapping, you immediately think “Van Halen” but this lick has it’s origins in a solo played by Nuno Bettencourt on a track called “Get The Funk Out”. Back in the early 90s when this song was getting a lot of airplay, the band I was in decided to cover it. I got most of the solo down except the arpeggio tapping bit which my fingers resolutely refused to co-operate with… at least in time for the first gig that this song would be getting played at. I needed a “stopgap” solution – a lick which would sound enough like the original to get by with until I had the “proper” version nailed.

I came up with a technique where I would keep my left hand walking up & down a basic scale pattern – something easy I could do on auto-pilot, and would fit the overall tonality of the track, whilst my right hand tapped out the necessary arpeggios. The irony was that when we first played the song – with my “fake” Nuno lick, a punter (UK slang for audience member/member of the public) came up to me afterwards and told me he’d seen another band the weekend before playing this song, but the guitar player didn’t “play the lead break properly, but you really got it spot on!”

This isn’t the first time I’d fooled the audience with a little bit of slight of hand in this way, and it gave me the confidence to develop the way I played based on what I was good at – not what someone else’s strengths may be. I never did replace the lick with the “real” version. Is that lazy or just a case of playing in your own style? For a long time I beat myself up for being lazy, but nowadays, I’m more relaxed about it. Interviews with many iconic players reveal that some of their signature licks were developed as a result of trying to get close to someone else’s sound and finding their own ways of doing it – BB King (R.I.P.) couldn’t play slide so he developed his vibrato & bending to sound like his hero, Bukka White, for example.

Anyway… enough of this waffle. Here’s the lick:


I hope you found this useful & don’t forget, if you live on Teesside, you can book some one-to-one tailored tuition with me by getting in touch via my tuition site (see link below).

Until next time… Have Fun!


John Robson Guitar Tuition

John Robson… Guitarist


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