The Lick

In jazz, The Lick is a lick (stock musical phrase[1]) regarded as "the most famous jazz cliché ever".[lower-alpha 1][3][4] It has been popularised as it is easily adaptable into all keys and modes and is heard in many famous pieces, including many non-jazz pieces.[5][6][2] It has been seen in adverts, such as in an "Injury Lawyers for You" advert and in the music on TV programmes, such as The Late Show. The Lick is now usually used for comedic effect,[lower-alpha 2] as it has become such a cliche that musicians tend to only see it as an inside joke, so unironic performances are rare.[lower-alpha 3] The Lick is usually played over a ii°-V-i (minor-key) chord progression.[10][3]


  1. The Lick was not first seen in jazz, as examples of classical music include variations of the modern version of The Lick,[2] but it has been primarily known as a jazz lick for the attention it has received from being commonly used in jazz improvisations.[3]
  2. An example of this comedic effect is Adam Neely's "I play the lick for 5 hours straight".[7]
  3. An example of a serious musical piece involving the Lick is David Bruce's "The Lick Quartet".[8][9]


  1. Middleton, Richard (1990), Studying Popular Music, Philadelphia: Open University Press (published 2002), p. 137, ISBN 0-335-15275-9
  2. "An Awesome Compilation of the Most Used Jazz Lick Ever". September 14, 2015. Archived from the original on 2018-05-25. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  3. Laukens, Dirk (24 December 2013). ""The Lick" - The Most Famous Jazz Cliche Ever (Video & Tabs)". Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  4. Hein, Ethan (November 17, 2011). "The Lick". The Ethan Hein Blog. Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  5. Heitlinger, Alex. "The Lick". Archived from the original on 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2018-04-25 via YouTube.
  6. Jones, Josh (21 September 2015). "A Great Compilation of "The Lick" Found in Music Everywhere: From Coltrane & Stravinsky, to Christina Aguilera". Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  7. Neely, Adam. "I play the lick for 5 hours straight" via YouTube.
  8. Bruce, David (21 October 2019). "The Lick Quartet". Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  9. Bruce, David (21 November 2019). "Taking The Licc Seriously - Converting a Meme for String Quartet" via YouTube.
  10. Coker, Jerry (1984). Jerry Coker's Jazz Keyboard, p.23. ISBN 0-7692-3323-6.
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