To be able to play blues licks is a great skill to have as a piano player. Or even better, to be able to come up with original licks on the spot. The blues scale is quite simple to learn, and is a great scale to use for improvisation and soloing. Even more so, because it can be applied in many musical styles apart from the blues, such as rock, pop, funk, jazz or soul.
Playing solos with blues licks
Blues licks are a great way to get started with soloing. They are short musical phrases, which can be combined into solos or melodies and which can give you an idea of different ways of using the blues scale. If you have some licks in your repertoire, you can always include them in your solos, change them, or use them as a point of reference.
Just as you use words and sentences to tell a story, any piano solo is composed of smaller phrases and elements. The more of these phrases or licks you have in your repertoire, the more possibilities you have to create interesting solo lines.
Here are two blues licks in the key of F. Both are using notes of the F blues scale.
The F Blues Scale
Lick 1 starts with triplets and ends with swinging eighth notes that finish on the root note F.
Blues Lick 1
Lick 2 consists of several double stops (two notes played at the same time) and ends in a similar way to Lick 1.
Blues Lick 2
Soloing over the blues progression
If you combine these two licks and play them over the 12 bar blues progression with a simple bassline, you will get a melodic blues with a call and response pattern.
To learn more blues licks, check out the Playing Piano with Chords book, which contains 12 cool blues licks with ways to apply them.