Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Build a Lick Lesson

@BanjoBen has build-a-break lessons and bag-o-licks lessons and both are great, but how about a build-a-lick lesson? My biggest struggle is building licks to incorporate into flat picking songs. If anyone else has any tips they’d like to share that’s more then welcome too!


“Build a break” is simply a long “build a lick” lesson.
The same principles apply to both.

Lets take a single measure lick.

if the lick is melody oriented, we first find the melody then fill in with other notes belonging to the chord/scale it is in. (this is the most common type)

If the lick is movement oriented we find the notes that make up the movement and fill in with notes that compliment the movement.

Movement oriented licks can be of two main types
chord movement (maybe the last measure before another chord)

Position movement on neck (a linear way to get up & down the neck without crazy finger gymnastics) Many of these will incorporate open strings when changing positions or slides in the direction of the position you’re heading for…


Thanks @Fiddle_wood! I guess where I struggle is finding good sounding arrangements of filler notes from the other notes in the chord/scale. I guess that just comes with trial and error, experience, etc.



Lots of experimenting, listening, mimicking, trial & error…all those. It takes time, but like most things musical, it gets easier with experience.

You can also utilise slides, bends, hammer ons pull-offs, rests, syncopation, etc.

Never be afraid to look for your own way to get around a piece…you never know what you might figure out!


Hi @Kevin_S

Building licks starts with learning the fundamentals. @BanjoBen teaches these in the Beginner learning path. He starts out with teaching basic guitar rhythm patterns then goes on to teach slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs. these are the foundational blocks on which all licks emerge.

As you work through these lessons and all the other lessons in the beginner section you’ll be learning the skills required to create your own lick library in time. As you move into the intermediate and advance section’s you’ll discover that the bag-o-licks lessons and the build-a-break lessons helps you develop your knowledge and playing skill’s.

In short every lesson Ben teaches is in point of fact a Build-a-Lick Lesson. So before you begin to build your own licks and phrases it’s good practice to have an understanding of how the fundamentals work.

Knowing that a lick can be as small as half a measure i.e. two beats or one measure of four beats - or maybe even as large as four measures of sixteen beats provides a kind of visualisation of the lick when viewed in TAB form.

Knowing the chord the lick is played over i.e G, C, D, F etc is important. This you will quickly learn this as you work your way through Ben’s syllabus of carefully prepared lessons.

We all love to rush through the beginner track to get to the fancy stuff, So here’s my tip to you and everyone else reading this. Don’t skip through the beginner foundational lessons take your time. Stick with the programme and get this stuff right, Always make sure you have a good understanding what the lesson is teaching you before you move on.

Good luck and happy pickin


@Kevin_S, I think @Fiddle_wood is spot on and @Archie’s advice is good too. I’ll add this my unconventional method that I’m experimenting. Play a known song at 50% of the speed and try to follow the fill-ins. This way you will get several ideas. In addition to the slides, hammer ons and all the other techniques, sometime you will have to play just a couple of notes repeatedly with up and down strokes using eight or sixteenth notes to get the fill to sound nice.


Thanks all of y’all for the tips!


Like that David. And it may even sound better.


I think there’s something to “build” upon here! Thanks!

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