What Are Rock Cliches?

Let musician Alex Skolnick teach you about rock cliches in this heavy metal guitar lesson from Howcast.


I'd like to talk a little bit about rock cliches. There are so many of them. I've chosen just a few to focus on. To start with, let's take a loot at this little pattern popularized by Chuck Berry. All I'm doing is taking my first finger, playing up the fourth fret, or wherever you want to play it, and just slide up one fret. Alright, it's two strings. I put them together and repeat pick, and I get this. Another Chuck Berry inspired cliche is the bending of the third string and playing the second string, trading off. There's also the Dick Dale style surf slide, which is like this. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't use cliches. You can do your own things with them. They're actually quite handy. In fact, the Beatles used the Chuck Berry lick, this one. It's the intro to a famous tune. Here's another lick that became a bit of a cliche, and it's a little bit of a combination of those two Chuck Berry licks. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin used to use this a lot, where he would bend the third string and do that lick, and then combine these two notes, and that gives you this great little cliche lick. You can descend the pentatonic scale with that. So that gives you a five note pattern, which is a great cliche.

Another thing is to bend that third string and pull it off into the fourth string, also popularized by Jimmy Page. Again, I'm not saying don't play them. Do your own thing with them. Lenny Kravitz wrote a hit song based on that lick. You can guess which one it is. Finally, I want to look at Eddie Van Halen, somebody more modern. Now he created the three finger righthanded tapping lick, all over the first Van Halen albums, especially in the guitar solo of Eruption, but anytime you play that lick, it's going to be so closely identified with Van Halen, so you have to be careful. But, you should know how to play the lick because it's a cool lick and you can have fun with it, and you may be able to come up with your own thing with it. So here it is, the Van Halen cliche. I hope you've enjoyed this lesson on rock cliches.

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