I've been progressing on my little side project of universalizing the keyed licks in my Lil Rev book and I am finding it very rewarding. I know a lot of people spend their whole musical life engaged in mimesis and trying to perfect copying the sound they see in their tablatures. That even seems to be the definition of being a musician. Just talk to any young guitar player and, to them, what it means to play guitar is being able to play the songs from their favorite bands.

I'm not going to denigrate that; let's just say it isn't my cup of tea.

My current little project moves beyond mimesis and it has been very eye-opening. It is a perfect illustration of the value of music theory.

For example, the first lick in the book showed a little lick in which you bend the tenth fret on the E and then play the seventh fret of the A. You can spend time and perfect that formation and you can even move it up or down the neck. But that's it. However, once you analyze the lick and see that you are bending the third degree of the pentatonic scale and then playing the fourth, then a lot of possibilities arise.

First of all, my instruments are have by design 19 frets. I have been studying the key of E and at least in that key I can squeeze in 7 pentatonic shapes (all five of the shapes, plus an extra tonic shape really high on the neck and an extra dominant shape really low). I haven't investigated other keys so that I don't know if 7 shapes is the rule for all keys. Anyway...I have seven shapes, each of them with a third and fourth degree, and now I can play the riff in many places and not in the solitary way that the tablature demonstrated.

An added bonus is that this riff now can serve as the all-important linkage between pentatonic shapes. The key for me is to be able to transition from one shape to the next. Otherwise it sounds rather scale-like and not so musical. That's where this riff comes in. To illustrate with one example: the dominant shape has a third degree on the C string and the subtonic shape has a fourth degree on the C string. It is possible to play around with the dominant shape, then start the riff by bending the third, then slide up to the subtonic shape and play the fourth, and then continue noodling around in that shape. Of course, I would have to experiment because I might jump up an octave and that might possibly have an adverse effect on the riff.

And that's just one example restricting the transition to the C string. Other strings would have different possibilities and then there's the possibility of not restricting the transition to a single string but moving between two strings.

That's why this process has been very illuminating for me. I have gone from a single tablature to many, many possibilities. Instead of having a riff, I now have a methodology.