"The Lick" is a lick, or stock musical phrase.[1] The phrase has been used on numerous jazz and pop records and is part of several classical compositions, to the point that it has been described as "the most famous jazz cliché ever".[2] In recent years, it has become an internet meme and is sometimes used for comedic effect.[3][4]

"The Lick" in E minor written in modern staff notation (top) and tabulature (bottom)
"The Lick" in E minor played on the guitar, with the grace note on the fifth note

Musical structureEdit

"The Lick" consists of seven notes, using five steps on a diatonic scale. The interval pattern is 1 (unison) – 2 (major second) – 3 (minor third) – 4 (perfect fourth) – 2 (major second) – 7 (lower seventh) – 1 (unison). In jazz, it is played swung, sometimes including a glissando or grace note before the fifth note.


The term "The Lick" was coined by an eponymous Facebook group in the 2010s and popularized by a YouTube video assembled from clips from the group by professor Alex Heitlinger in 2011.[5]

"The Lick" was not first seen in jazz, as examples of classical music include tonal sequences similar to "The Lick", but it has been primarily known as a jazz lick for the attention it has received from being commonly used in jazz improvisations.

In 2019, composer David Bruce used the lick as a basis for a string quartet titled The Lick Quartet.[6][7]


  1. ^ Stover, Chris (April 1, 2021). "Dig That Lick (DTL): Analyzing Large-Scale Data for Melodic Patterns in Jazz Performances". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 74 (1): 195–214. doi:10.1525/jams.2021.74.1.195. ISSN 0003-0139.
  2. ^ Laukens, Dirk (December 24, 2013). ""The Lick" - The Most Famous Jazz Cliche Ever". Jazz Guitar Online. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  3. ^ Goldsby, John (November 2012). ""The Lick," Part 2". Bass Player. 23 (11): 72–73. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  4. ^ Golding, Dan (2018). "How a jazz lick took over the music world". YouTube (video). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  5. ^ Durkin, Andrew (2014). Decomposition: A Music Manifesto (First ed.). New York: Knopf Doubleday. p. 256. ISBN 9780307911766. OCLC 1240167147.
  6. ^ Bruce, David (2019). "Taking The Licc Seriously - Converting a Meme for String Quartet". YouTube (video).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Cantrell, Scott (October 23, 2019). "Dallas Chamber Symphony and Dover Quartet open two concert series". Dallas News. Archived from the original on August 4, 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.