Inspiration / 28 May 2019

Leo Goh Breaks Down His Top 5 R&B Licks

Leo Goh may seem like a relatively new face in Singapore’s music scene, but that’s only because the Musicians Institute graduate has been in LA for the past 6 years — first as a student and then a working musician. The young producer and guitar extraordinaire has been keeping himself busy since his return to Singapore last year. Leo runs his own studio, Soul Dot, joined funk outfit fingerfunk who took part in this year’s edition of the Noise Music Mentorship, and most recently became a member of the TENG Ensemble.

We sit down with Leo to learn a thing or two about R&B-style licks and phrasing. Not surprisingly, we get schooled.


This one’s mostly inspired by this sick guitarist Kaspar Jalily — check him out on Instagram! It starts off with Dmi7 and Gmi9 chords, but played with hammer-ons and pull-offs on the flat 7 and 9 respectively. Gives it the sparkly feel! It then goes down the G minor pentatonic before sliding back into the Ebmaj9 chord with a hammer-on on the 13.

Most of the lick is in 16th note triplets starting on beat 2, which makes for a very pretty pick up and you can actually break it apart and use it in smaller phrases too.


This second lick starts off with a D7alt chord (or you can think of it as just a Bb augmented triad). Then I kind of jump between diminished inversions starting with Adim7. There’s a slide into each inversion which makes this rhythmic.

This idea came from Todd Pritch. I first knew him as a fingerstyle guy, but he’s pretty much good at everything! The lick ends off with a Gmi7 chord with the hammer-ons like before. Then it moves to a Gmi9 higher up and back into Gmi.

It’s a fun lick to use especially if you are comping and want to emphasize a chord. Jumping between different inversions instead of droning on the same chord shape makes your playing more funky. You can also use it on everything — triads, major chords, minor chords etc.


The 3rd lick is basically Double-Stop City. I start with fourths, move to thirds and go back to fourths again. This was inspired by Korean guitarist Kay Brown along with Isaiah Sharkey. Both are really killer players that you’ll have to check out if you are into R&B/Soul style of playing. I start from the 3rd shape of the minor pentatonic before using thirds to transition up to the 4th shape. From there, it’s fourths with chromatic movement up to C and then to Eb before finally hitting the high bend on the G to get that 9th feel. Then it’s just G minor blues to end it.

Double-stop movement is something that piano players use a lot of and borrowing this for the guitar allows us to fill up a bit more space and emulate their playing.


This one is a short filler lick that I use pretty often. I believe I first heard it from a friend, Billy Lebua, who played it on bass a long time ago and it just got stuck in my head ever since. You should also check out his group BnB Grooves too. Crazy stuff!

This lick starts off with thirds, C and Eb, and slides up and back down before a hammer-on back into that C and Eb. I’ve heard this movement a lot from Mateus Asato and it definitely sounds sweet with the double stops.

The lick continues down the scale with a phrase that moves from the Eb to D (or the 3rd and 4th degrees of the Bb major scale). The Eb provides tension before resolving on the D. Finally, it ends with a quick slide down. This lick is literally an earworm.


Another lick that’s easy to grasp is this II V lick that I like to use particularly in these minor progressions.

So over here, I’m implying a II V (Fmi7 to Bb7) over the Gmi chord before the Ebmaj — even though the II V is not there in the track. You hear this progression a lot in R&B and even Chinese ballad progressions. This is also Hisham’s (rapper and bandleader of fingerfunk) favourite progression — almost all of the songs he listens to follow this!

The lick starts with a Fmi9 with a pentatonic run before going down the Bb altered scale or super locrian. It starts with Db and runs down before resolving on Bb which is the fifth of Ebmaj. This lick is something you can use over any II V situation and is easily applicable.

If this track inspired you as much as it did us, check out Leo’s BandLab profile to get access to a forkable version that allows you to write, record or simply jam over Leo’s lines. You can even use the metronome tool to slow down the track to hear every detail while keeping the notes pristine and clear.

Gear used:
D’Angelico Excel SS Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar, Grey Black
Fender Blues Junior IV Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier

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