Thrill Is Gone

I apologize for the delay in posting this, life has kept us busy!

Today, we finish up B.B. with the intro lick to Thrill Is Gone. It is in B minor and uses the B minor pentatonic scale. Instead of playing the first note on the 7th fret of the first string, we move it up to the 12th fret of the second string. The notes are identical, but will have a slightly different tone.

Here is the original.

Here is the tab

BB THrill

And now, watch Joe play it.

Have fun!


Using the Box

Today’s blog is a little different than what we normally do. We wanted to show you an example of Joe using the BB King box in one of his own tunes. Below is the song so you can give it a listen. The solo is about a third of the way in.

Joe is using BB’s box in the key of G. Notice how he stays primarily in the box, however at one point he hops up and hits G on the 15th fret of the high E string. After that, he finishes the solo with the G minor blues scale. Notice how that changes the color and darkens up the end of the solo. Enjoy!

BB King – Everyday I Have The Blues Opening

Today we will go over the intro lick (:28 in) to the opening tune of BB King’s iconic album Live at the Regal, “Every Day I Have the Blues”. First off, I should mention this is probably my (Brendan) favorite blues album. I can listen to this over and over, and this lick is vintage BB. It is simple, yet elegant, and really captures the mood.

We will do something a little different with the video, Joe is going to play both BB’s intro, and a variation multiple times. Notice that each one is just a little bit different. It is subtle differences between each lick that make the blues sound, for lack of a better word, bluesy. You’ll notice that BB does a very quick slide. In fact, I thought it was a bend at first until I really listened to it. Try each way, really absorb the idea, and implement it in as many ways as you can think of. This lick is simple, yet immediately recognizable. How many guitarists can you hear play such a short phrase and immediately say, “That’s BB”?

Here is the tab

BB 1

Here is the video

Enjoy! Next week, Joe will show you a solo he used in one of his own tunes that was heavily influenced by BB. After that, the intro to Thrill is Gone

B.B’s Box

If you want to learn how to play like BB King, there are a few things you need to master. Last week, Joe mentioned vibrato and today we will talk about his box. If you play this over a blues tune, it is impossible to get away from sounding a little like BB. The scale is a very distinct part of his sound and style. The lick we will do next week (the opening of Everyday I Have The Blues), will come straight out of this first exercise.

We are going to focus on the top three strings as they will be the most useful. Later on we can expand outside of those. The scale is similar to a major pentatonic, but it is slightly different. You will be playing the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th of the major scale.

To begin, we will just use three notes. The 6, the root (the red dot), and the 2. In my opinion, this is the core of the box. When you get to the 2, the highest of the three notes, bend it up a whole step, to the 3rd.

1 box

Now, add the notes on the first string.

2 box

Once you’ve played around with it, play over a backing track. The way to figure out what key you were in is where the red dot falls. Below is a chart with all of the notes on the second string. A is the 10th fret, E is the 5th fret, etc.

B String

That is a good place to start. If you’re feeling adventurous, add this note (blue/teal color) when you land on the four chord. It will sound nice and bluesy. You can also bend to that note instead of fretting it.

3 box


B.B. King

B.B. King. What has not been said about this man? What could I add? I don’t think I need to give him any introduction. If you are on this page looking for tips about playing the blues, I am certain you know of and understand this man’s impact on the genre. For he is the King of the Blues. No other guitarist has impacted my playing more, with the exception of Stevie Ray Vaughan. In my house growing up one of the constants was a bargain bin compilation titled Why I Sing the Blues. To this day I highly recommend it, I don’t think there is a more complete essentials record for B.B. out there. I sit here listening to it over the 30+ records of B.B.’s that I own. The man was larger than life. That big gorgeous 355, slick suits, big rings, and sharp band was both intimidating and mesmerizing. There is no way around him, he affects everything in the genre. He is the high water mark of what one could achieve. He worked his butt off too, for decades playing over 300 dates a year.

What puts B.B. in a class of his own is his vibrato. That sweet, fast, stinging vibrato. If you take away anything about playing, have it be to not skimp on your vibrato technique. That will be a lesson later on, as it truly defines and separates the good and the great. It IS your voice. You know B.B. from one note. I look at vibrato in the terms of the 10,000 hours rule. If you practice something for 10,000 hours you will master it, inside and out. Sit and play one note for a whole practice session. Try pushing up against the string with vibrato. Pulling down against, fast, slow, medium, a little, a lot, every which way. It will pay off, it did for B.B. We will post some videos of me running through B.B. licks, and you should pay attention to the vibrato. Go out and scour Youtube for clips of him playing. There is no shortage.

It is not often that the passing of an artist stops me dead in my tracks and takes my breath away. News of B.B.’s passing did just that. I never imagined a world without him, it didn’t seem possible. He was SO important to the world. Not only musically, but the things he had seen, passed our ways. I uncontrollably wept that morning. There are very few individuals that you can say there was before and then there was after. Enjoy the lesson, I hope you find your favorite tunes and albums. I hope it allows you to unlock new joy with the instrument and find a voice all your own. It was invaluable to me as a beginning guitarist to dive head first into his style and catalog, sustaining a 20+  year love affair that burns as brightly now as it did then.

B.B. used a Gibson ES 355’s named Lucille, and to my recollection played through Fender Super Reverbs and Twins . I am sure people could dig up other amps he used, but to me a Gibson 355 and a Fender clean amp is the B.B. sound. My absolute favorite album (that is not a compilation) is Lucille Talks. Not the widely available compilation, but a little known, panned record from the mid 70’s. It showed a very laid back B.B. He even used some wah wah on that record! Very cool record, and with a little digging you can find it. Other classics are Live at the Regal (Brendan’s favorite), Cook County Jail, and another highlight is Indianola Mississippi Seeds, a record featuring Joe Walsh and Leon Russell. Go forth. Play blues, wrangle your soul out through those strings with everything you have in you. Sustain them every which way but broken, and even that is ok! Find your voice and use B.B. as a road map and you can do no wrong. Remember, practice that vibrato 10,000 times, until your fingers blister and there is no two buts about it. You have your voice and a vibrato that will stun a listener from a hundred yards, making them sit up and pay attention. If you can do that, you can reach deep into someone and hit them the way B.B. did, every time he hit a note. – Joe

I’m Tore Down – Intro

This is our final post on Freddie King (for a while), the intro lick to I’m Tore Down. This uses the dorian scale we talked about last week. As a bonus, we will also show you how to give the lick an even stronger dorian flavor.

Here is the tune in case you need to refresh your memory.

A few things to notice before you get started: the third note, E, is the 9 of the Dorian scale, but you are bending it up to the same pitch that you would play in them minor blues scale (F). The thing that makes this lick sound distinctly Dorian is when you play B halfway through the third measure, because it is the 6th scale degree, or modal note, of dorian.


Listen carefully to the phrasing and the rhythm in the tune. This is a distinctly Freddie King lick, and a great one to add to your vocabulary. Pay attention to the phrasing he uses in measures 3 and 4.

Here is the lick played slowly.

Here is the lick played at tempo.

You should also listen to how Clapton phrases this, or one of the many other versions of this tune.

Below, Joe changed the beginning of the lick, having it start on B. He is immediately establishing this is using dorian, giving it a stronger modal sound. In Freddie’s version, it is not clear that it is dorian until he hits the B halfway through the lick, giving it some ambiguity as to whether it’s dorian or the minor blues scale (the 9th is bent quickly enough that it could be considered an embellishment). Which version is better? That depends on your taste

Here is the tab for the more dorian version.


When you watch the video, notice how he does something different the second time he strikes the 13th fret (F) of the high E string (no bend). When he plays it faster, he gives that note vibrato. That is the beauty of blues, you can change things. Sometimes you use vibrato, sometimes you add an extra bend here or there, trust your ears and go with what sounds good!

Enjoy, next week we begin discussing B.B. King.


Before we can work on the intro lick to I’m Tore Down, we have to talk about the dorian scale. Dorian is what is called a mode (a type of scale with specific melodic behaviors). We will go more in depth on modes at a later date. For the purposes of this tune, we are going to relate the dorian scale to the minor pentatonic scale. When we turned the minor pentatonic scale into the minor blues scale, one note (the blue note) was added. In this case, you will add two notes, which will be referred to as the 2nd and the 6th (or 9th and 13th, depending on the context). The 2nd is used in the minor scale as well, so what makes dorian unique is the 6th. In minor, the 6th is lowered. The 6th maybe referred to as a modal note, because it is what establishes this scale as the dorian mode.

The scale we used for last weeks lick on I’m Tore Down contained the notes D F G (G#/Ab) A and C. To turn this scale into dorian, you will take the blue note (G#/Ab) out of the scale, and add E and B. The resulting scale is D E F G A B C. If you count up the scale, D=1, E=2, F=3, etc.

Below is an image of the minor pentatonic scale (left) and dorian (right). The notes added to the minor pentatonic scale to make it dorian are red. To play these in D, you will need the root to be on the 10th fret.

Minor Pent - Dorian

About 99% of the time it is ok to use dorian instead of the minor blues scale, it just has a different color or flavor. I personally like using dorian over the IV chord. Experiment, and have fun. Next week you’ll learn the intro lick to I’m Tore Down, which will give a great example of the dorian scale.

Freddie King – I’m Tore Down Lick

This week’s lesson comes from the famous tune “I’m Tore Down”, appearing on Freddy King Sings (he changed the spelling to Freddie later in his career) and written by Sonny Thompson.

Now that you have had a chance to listen to the song, we’ll look at the lick about 18 seconds in. Next week, you can tackle the run at the beginning of the tune. This is a pretty straight forward lick using the D Minor Blues Scale. First, bend the note F (13th fret, 1st string) up a whole step. Next, release the bend and do a run down the scale until you hit the F an octave lower than your starting note, and bend this note. After the bend, you will end the run on D, the 12th fret of the 4th string. FK Tore Down 18

Here is the lick slowed down (the lick is played twice in the video).

Here is the lick sped up.

Your goal should be to execute the lick with Freddie’s recording. Can you play it so in sync with the recording that you cover him up? Try using the lick in a different key, change the rhythm, repeat something, etc. Combine this with the lick you did last week and see what happens. Ideally, you will begin to interpret it your own way, and you will start to sound like you interpreting Freddie, then eventually just sound like you. Listen to how Clapton interprets this lick, about :20 in to his recording.

Now get to practicing and have some fun!

Freddie King

Freddie King, who along with Albert & B.B. were known as the “Three Kings of Electric Blues”. He was born in 1934 and is one of the great blues guitarists to come out of Texas. Best known for playing a Gibson 345 or 355 slung over his right shoulder, he played with a metal thumb pick and a metal finger pick on his index finger. This allowed him to attack the strings using either a down or up motion and gave his playing a distinct, bright sound whenever he played a lick. Combine this with a Fender Quadverb and it makes for a killer combo. Unfortunately, Freddie died in 1976 at the age of 42. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll hall of fame in 2012.

Some of his signature tunes include:


The Stumble

I’m Tore Down

Going Down

Joe’s Recommendation: Key to the Highway from 1971’s Getting Ready. “This is my favorite take of that blues standard.” It is a funky one that really lets Freddie shine on guitar and vocals. Getting Ready was released on Shelter Records, Leon Russell’s label. Leon helped put the funk into Freddie’s sound, and it is a high point in his stellar career.

This version of Key to the Highway was recently featured on Eric Clapton’s 2007 tour featuring Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks. From day one of Eric’s career he leaned heavily on Freddie’s influence  and in 1966, he would often cover Hideaway with the Bluesbreakers. Over the next 5 decades, Clapton would draw liberally from Freddie’s catalogue, even performing a Freddie King tribute in the mid 90’s.

Brendan’s Recommendation: Check out the album “Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King”. This album of instrumentals is full of fantastic guitar playing. We could do a years worth of lessons on the material  from this album alone. Honestly, I usually don’t go for instrumental blues tunes but this album is definitely worth a listen. My favorite track is Sen-Sa-Shun.

Freddie King Lick from “If You Believe In What You Do”

Now that we have the basics out-of-the-way, it’s time to start learning some blues. The first lesson we will post on this blog is from Freddie King‘s tune “If You Believe (In What You Do)” You will be studying the first lick in the tune.

This is a very simple lick, using the F minor blues scale. The bend on Ab (1st fret of the 3rd string) is important. The lick won’t sound the same without it. Here is the tab.


It is written in 12/8 and the lick starts on the 3rd beat. I love this lick because of the way Freddie uses quintuplets (fitting 5 notes into one beat).

Here is the lick slowed down.

Joe doesn’t use his pinky when he plays this, but you could if you wanted to on the 4th fret of the 2nd string(Brendan usually does). However, you need to be able to get your ring finger to that note in the blues scale if you want to bend it. Your choices are either use both fingers, or use your ring finger all the time. Do what feels most natural and comfortable to you. Most of the great blues guitarists rarely (if ever) use their pinky when they play lead.

Here is the lick at full speed

Now, you need to practice playing it with the Freddie King recording. As soon as you are comfortable doing that, begin working it into your own solos. Base a solo around this idea, using it verbatim and then add to it. Change the rhythm, repeat some notes, experiment, but mostly have fun and make music!