Learning an instrument has never been easy, but there's nothing quite like a good teacher to have you going from zero to Scruggs in 60 seconds (or, more likely, 60 months). And what if you could carry that teacher around in your pocket? Enter Pocket Lick, a new app that could be your banjo Mr. Miyagi.

Bennett Sullivan, mastermind behind the Pocket Lick app, describes it as, "an iPhone/iPad app that demonstrates how to play banjo licks in three different formats -- using tablature, watching video, and listening to audio." A musician and bluegrass fan himself -- he's played banjo and guitar for 12 years and cites Béla Fleck and Tony Rice as his top two bluegrass artists -- Sullivan developed the app so that banjo players can easily up their picking games by ear, by tab, or by using a combination of different methods, all from the convenience of a smartphone. 

"We came up with Pocket Lick because we saw a need for a clean, easy-to-use, and fun learning tool for bluegrass banjo players at any skill level," Sullivan says. "Bluegrass musicians regularly use licks in improvisation and creating arrangements. Essentially, licks are a staple of any seasoned musician’s vocabulary. We wanted to give our users an opportunity to easily learn these valuable phrases so they can sound better faster."

So, for $2.99, users have a veritable banjo encyclopedia at their fingertips, one that continues to prove useful even as their playing abilities improve.

"Pocket Lick is designed with the intermediate to advanced player in mind, but I urge beginners to also try learning the licks included," Sullivan adds. "I’ve always found that I improve more when the challenge is greater, and I always encourage my students to continue to challenge themselves when they pick up the instrument. Using Pocket Lick is a fantastic way to continually challenge yourself, regardless of your skill level."

So, hey, if your New Year's resolution is to channel your inner Béla, put down the tab book and grab your phone.

Learn more about Pocket Lick (and its sibling guitar app) here.

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