Unless you are a freeform improviser/hardcore Jazzer – or a Guthrie Govan! – you’ll probably find you gravitate to connecting pre-learned licks and sequences together when improvising. The secret to effective soloing - particularly in the rock and metal arena – is having enough licks ‘n’ tricks, patterns and sequences ingrained into your muscle memory that you can call upon these at will when presented with your shredding spotlight.
Many renowned players, when their playing is analysed and broken down to the core elements, only have a finite amount of licks they use.
Such is the beauty of the endless variations of harmony and rhythm that even a relatively small amount of ‘signature licks’ can sound radically different depending upon the musical backdrop they are playing over. How fast/slow these are played, what the rhythmic use and emphasis is on, the way in which various phrasing elements such as bending and vibrato, slides are applied – as well as physically how they are applied (picked, legato, tapped etc) – all result in an almost endless vocabulary you can call upon when creating music.
Licks and phrases can be endlessly recycled into exciting and new variations and combinations, creating new music as a result. Both listener and player can thus be endlessly entertained…
A boring guitarist is one whose well of ideas has stagnated, and who no longer has the will to shake things up and experiment.
Being an effective guitarist does not rely on having an endless well of inspiration – but rather applying what you already have down physically well enough to let fly when the moment’s right.