Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Learn 5 Essential BB King Licks Today

Learn 5 Essential BB King Licks Today

BB King licks are an essential part of developing a well rounded blues language.

In this article I have written out 5 BB King licks that showcase BB’s signature slow blues guitar style by demonstrating the techniques he’s known for such as raking, vibrato, the BB box and jazz guitar arpeggios.

Each of these licks is in the key of G and comes with an audio example to play along with.

The key to really nailing these licks and BB King’s style in general is to listen to his playing as much as possible.

Reading the tab and notation alone will not make you sound like BB because so much of his sound comes from phrasing, attack and feel.




BB King Licks 1: Classic Slow Blues Intro


To start things off, here’s a classic blues intro that has been used by countless guitar players over the years.

While most blues guitarists favour the minor pentatonic scale, BB favours the major pentatonic which produces a bright and warm sound.

Make sure that the bend in the first bar is a full tone bend and goes all the up to the major 3rd (B) before playing the last note. Bend with the 3rd finger and use the 1st and 2nd fingers for additional strength.


BB King Licks Example 1

BB King Lick 1


Check out the full video lesson for this lick below



BB King Licks 2: 16th Note Triplet Idea


The next lick features a 16th note triplet rhythm which is commonly used by BB in both fast and slow tempo solos.

Like the first lick, this line features the major pentatonic and finishes on the root of the chord.


BB King Licks Example 2

BB King Lick 2



BB King Licks 3: Build Up Lick


The next line is a great way to build up a blues solo. BB probably would not start slow blues solos with this lick, but he will throw it into the beginning of the 2nd or 3rd chorus.

It should be notated that this a common piece of blues language that is frequently used in backing parts, blues riffs, acoustic blues, and blues guitar solos.

Note that this lick is a variation of this classic jazz blues lick too.


BB King Licks Example 3 BB King Lick 3


BB King Licks 4: Box Lick


No study of BB King Licks would be complete without something from the BB box.

This lick starts with a descending 5th interval and bends up the 3rd of a chord twice before finishing on the root.

I have also included a signature BB King phrase on the 3rd beat at the 2nd bar which he does to “wake people up”.

You can add this little track to the end of any of the licks in this article.


BB King Licks Example 4

BB King Lick 4


Check out the video lesson below which explains how to get 3 BB King Licks from using the box shape



BB King Licks 5: Jazzy Lick


BB King’s guitar style incorporates a lot of jazz and changes based playing, so to complete this study of BB King licks here’s a Charlie Christian esc lick done BB King style.

This lick starts with a descending major 6th arpeggio finishing on the 6th of the chord  which is more common in jazz guitar playing, but works well in blues.

To make this lick sound like BB king, rake to the first note (G), and apply some vibrato as demonstrated in the audio clip.


BB King Licks Example 5 BB King Lick 5


I hope that these BB King licks have helped you gain some insight into his playing. BB has been my favorite jazz guitar player for a number of years.

I may follow up this lesson with 5 faster BB swing blues licks. What do you think of these licks? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Here’s my favorite YouTube BB King video to finish off this lesson.




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Randall Lowe

Very well put-classic licks. Keep up the good work! Thank you! r.Lowe

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks, glad you enjoyed them!

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Randall Lowe

Addendum: I grew playing Rock, some blues, melodic in mid 70's, late 70,s. Now Live in Butler ,mo (near Kansas city). USA

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Hello Jamie
I loved this lesson but I am disappointed ... how to make it sound a little more "jazz" Pentas the major scales, minor or blues?
Thank you again and soon.

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Glenn Hazelhurst

Thanks for these licks Jamie, learnt a lot. What a great artist he was, very influential to countless others. What a legacy to leave.
Great lessons, much appreciated.
Glenn West Yorks

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thanks for breaking in down enjoyed

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Thanks Jamie,
I liked the way you transposed the box to G, I learned it in A and the variety is nice. Thanks for the different lick - much appreciated .

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Doc dillon

Some players can teach. Wow

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