If you play in a singer / songwriter’s ensemble, you are one of two things: the singer or an auxiliary player. If your ensemble is a duo, and you are not the singer, you are the sideman. And, as a sideman, your job is a tricky one. A good sideman’s duty is to embellish on, and add new life to the performance of the songwriter. You need to be able to add flavor without distracting from the main attraction.
In his course, 30 Songwriter Sideman Licks You MUST Know, Adam Levy helps you expand your toolbox of useful licks for this purpose.
Here are 5 free songwriter sideman licks from the course. For the full course, check out 30 Songwriter Sideman Licks You MUST Know on TrueFire!
Lick #1 Cascade
Capoing halfway up the fretboard is a great way to get up and out of the way of another guitarist (the singer/songwriter, for example) who’s strumming chords in open position. That’s the primary tactic here. Remember, Capo VII means the chord shapes seem to be in the key of G but you’re actually in the key of D, a fifth higher. Also, this lick is spacious — leaving plenty of room for other elements in an arrangement (voice, bass, drums, and so on).
Lick #3 Busy Body
Sometimes the job of a side-person is to add energy to the overall groove. If someone is already holding down the basic chords with a steady pulse, a rhythmic second part like this one can keep things moving. Utilizing 2 and 3-part voicings — in the middle or upper-middle register — can keep the harmony from becoming cluttered.
Lick #8 Wide Angle
Unlike the previous lick, which features closed position triads and other tightly clustered voicings, the chord shapes here are spread wide. The effect is more orchestral than guitaristic. You can make it sound even more so by using a volume pedal (or the volume control on your guitar) to swell into each chord.
Lick #10 All of The Above
As the name of this lick implies, it’s a hodgepodge — featuring many of the techniques you’ve already seen in this course. Inverted triads? Check. Chiming upper register voicings? Yep. Hammered triad? Well, just one.
Lick #18 Boom Chang-a-Lang
Like our “Streamlined” lick, the harmony here is spartan. The chord changes are implicit, not explicit. Also note an A note that is the top note of every chord in measures 1–7. This sort of common note is called a “pedal tone”. It may be the uppermost voice, the bottom, or even in the middle. You can see this in measure 8: The top note of each chord is descending while the bottom note is a static A.
Digging these free songwriter sideman licks from Adam Levy? Check out 30 Songwriter Sideman Licks You MUST Know.