Charlie Christian is often considered the grandfather of the electric jazz guitar which is why I decided to write a study of 5 signature Charlie Christian licks that can take your jazz guitar improvisation to the next level.

Many standards around that time period feature fast tempo cycling dominant 7th chord progressions which Charlie was a master at improvising over, so each of this licks is over a 7th or 6th chord.

Remember to take each of these Charlie Christian licks at a slow tempo at first, and try to work on really learning one at a time instead of applying them all at once.

One key element to Charlie Christian’s guitar playing is the swing, articulation and accents so listening to the man himself is very important.

For a detailed break down of Charlie Christian’s style, check out my Play Like the Greats Article.



Charlie Christian Licks 1


The first example in this set of Charlie Christian licks is a funky pedal lick.

Two key aspect of Charlie’s style that are shown in this lick are syncopation and accenting notes that are on the off beat of the bar.

The 3rd of the chord, which in this example is G, is placed on 2 and. Strong chord tones are usually played on the down beats of the bar, but having a chromatically rising melody line on the off beats sounds particularly effective in this example.

For visual purposes I like to think of this lick as been based of the relative minor root position triad.


Charlie Christian Licks

Charlie Christian Licks 1


YouTube Preview Image



Charlie Christian Licks 2


This next Charlie Christian lick has become popular with not only jazz guitarists, but jump blues guitarists too.

Charlie Christian often based his static swing based licks off root position triads, and this example comes from using a root position Ab triad with a minor third as a passing note.

Notice how the lick starts and finishes on an off beat which shows another way in which Charlie Christian used syncopation.


Charlie Christian Licks

 Charlie Christian Licks 2


YouTube Preview Image



Charlie Christian Licks 3


This next Charlie Christian Licks example starts with some G Mixolydian based movement and finishes with an idea based off intervals.

Starting on a chord tone such as the 3rd works well here and the slide in from the minor 3rd a fret below embellishes it even more.

This line is easier to play when you think of it as being two small licks, with the second one starting on the and of 4 in the first bar.


Charlie Christian LicksCharlie Christian Licks 3

Charlie Christian Licks 4


The use of chord tones are apparent in Charlie Christian Licks 4 because the line starts and finishes on the 3rd of the chord which in this example is E.

Note the desending 3-9 arpeggio in the first bar which is then followed by a nice chromatic run taking us into the next bar.


Charlie Christian LicksCharlie Christian Licks 4


Charlie Christian Licks 5


To finish off here’s another great syncopated Charlie Christian pedal lick.

Just like the first pedal like we have a note that is rising chromatically which is the 3rd again.

Pay close attention to which eigth notes are synocpated here as this can be confusing at first, but its really what make the lick.

Because of this its quite easier to adapt the line rhythmically and make it your own.


Charlie Christian Licks

Charlie Christian Licks 5


I hope that you have enjoyed playing through each of these Charlie Christian licks.

Charlie Christian remains one of my favorite all time jazz guitarists and I hope these licks give you an insight into his style.

What do you think of these Charlie Christian licks? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Be Sociable, Share!

Jamie Holroyd Guitar Frequently Asked Questions

Check out any link below for the answers to my top 10 most frequently asked questions that I am asked by students, teachers, readers, and subscribers.