The Lick

This folk melody was performed by my friend while we ate dinner at a dining hall. He is a jazz major. The Lick is a short melody, popular in jazz improvisations, and is often treated as a joke when performed during a song. Short jazz melodies are often called licks, so this one’s name of ‘the Lick’ implies that it is somehow a more important lick than the others.


The friend sang this melody, using the scat-style lyrics:

“Babadooba ya boo da”

The melody follows this solfege:

Do re me fa re   te do


After he performed the Lick, I asked where he thought it came from.

“These are like, Charlie Parker licks, a lot of the time. Uh, there’s other famous ones, like: [vocalizes a different jazz lick]. Uh, [vocalizes The Lick] is probably Charlie Parker.”

I then asked when it evolved into the joke it often is now.

“It became a joke when it just kept happening. I still hear people play that. Unironically, yeah. Like I hear very legit people play that. And it’s like, it’s still cool if you mean it. But if you’re just playing it…that’s, that’s where the joke came from, is like, people would just play it. Like, you were like, ‘insert Lick here.’”

He added:

“There’s so many instances of that happening, so it’s like, it’s not a joke in its existence. But it’s more of, like, a comment on, like, people trying to turn jazz into math. Where it’s like, you play this, then you play a two-five-one [vocalizes another jazz lick].”

Two-five-one is a popular jazz chord progression that finishes a section or phrase.

Here is a popular mash-up of different uses of the Lick throughout the years: