One of the licks that Tommy uses very often and in variety of situations is a roll that consists of four groups – three 8ht notes each, followed by one or two notes completing the second bar of the lick. Here is an example from a song The Bug:
Each group is executed by thumb, 1st and 2nd finger. The notes are usually played so quickly that they blend into one another. At the end there are two (sometimes one) longer notes completing the bar. In some variations the lick starts over at this point (possibly with the change of left hand shape.
There are couple of things that I’d like to point out in this lick. If this pattern is totally new for you start slow on any three strings (for example first group of above lick) and loop it. Search for position of your hand where all three digits are comfortable. Once you can play it slowly you’ll have to change your thinking a little bit. Instead of thinking of every particular note, think about all three notes as one impulse. This shift in thinking is required if you want to play it at full speed. At some point you just have to forget about individual notes, you have to think about whole groups. That way for example, even if during performing one finger slips you still can finish current group and continue with the next. Last thing about the left hand. If it’s possible try to get whole the shape in one go. Try to avoid switching fingers between two positions one by one.
Now think: what other uses can it have? If you’re familiar with Tommy Emmanuel’s compositions, you have surely heard some of this lick versions a few times. Let me give you couple of examples:
These aren’t all the instances that Tommy uses this lick. You can hunt for other cases and share them here. I could give you at least two other examples off the top of my head (one played with a flat pick) so there must be more than that. And that’s what’s amazing about those things. Such a basic vehicle can give you so many different effects depending on harmony, tempo and licks surroundings. Who knows, maybe you’ll use the idea in one of your compositions?