In my latest youtube video, I teach a basic jazz lick. This lick uses enclosures and a descending Mixolydian idea.
Here is the video:
How should you learn licks?
1)Play through the lick and memorize it
2)Analyze the lick, how is it constructed. Does it surround chord tones? Go up or down scales?
3)Play the lick in multiple keys
4)Practicing exiting the lick into a variety of other licks
5)Plug into songs, put the lick into context, modify as needed.
You not only want to play through and memorize the lick but you want to understand how it’s construction. This is where theory comes in handy. You need to know what the chord tones of each chord are, the DEGREES of them. This will allow you to assimilate and catalog the licks easier.
You are not playing by theory but more analyzing by theory. Understanding each lick on a deeper level allows you to create many more variations from a single lick. As demonstrated in the video, you can take the idea and apply it to different chords/scales and so forth.
Lastly, be sure to practice each lick in MULTIPLE KEYS. As many keys as possible if you want to learn jazz banjo. In an ideal world, you want one key to be as easy to play in as the other. This is only approached by doing over and over. Eventually playing kicks in multiple keys gets easier as you will see the chord tones and scales quicker and quicker.
Plug the lick into a number of songs, not just one song but many. The more songs you can readily apply the lick to the more you will be able to spontaneously use it. What some people call IMPROVISATION.