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!

Advertisements

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

 

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 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.

FK LICK

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!

The Minor Blues Scale

The minor blues scale is one of the most important tools available to a blues musician. Material derived from this scale appears all over the place, and you can find it used by every major blues guitarist.

This scale is based on the minor pentatonic scale, with an additional note, the “blue” note.  The blue note can refer to a few different notes depending on the context, but it’s most common use is the note between the 4th and 5th scale degree.

First, start with the E minor pentatonic scale, which contains the notes E, G, A, B & D.

epent1

e minor pentatonic

Once you are comfortable with that, add the blue note (A# or Bb).

eblues1

E Blues Scale

You should become so comfortable with this scale that you can play it without thinking about it.

notes on e stringOnce you can play it in E, practice moving it around. You play the scale in different keys by shifting the entire pattern up or down the fretboard. On the right side of this page is a diagram with all of the natural notes (up to the 15th fret) on the low E string.The scale is identified by paying attention to what note the root is on. In this case, the root is the lowest note of this scale. You will move this around the exact same way you move a bar chord.

To change from the E minor blues to F minor blues, you shift everything up one fret so that the root is on the first fret of the low E string, or F, instead of the open string itself. If you wanted to play a G minor blues scale, you would start the scale on the third fret; C minor blues would start on the eighth fret, etc.  Attached is a PDF with the minor blues scales in the natural keys (A, B, C, etc.) Remember, while you start in a different place each time, the shape of the scale is always the same! You should develop the dexterity to use all four fingers on your fretting hand, however you will see many great guitarists ignore the pinky. Make sure you can use it, but remember that sometimes you will need to stretch your ring finger and forget about your pinky. Minor Blues Scale Reference PDF

Once you’re comfortable with the shape referenced above, I recommend moving the second note of the scale to the next string and then shifting up.

For example, here is how you played an A minor blues scale without shifting.

A Blues No ShiftHere is how you would play it with a shift.

A Blues with Shift

Why would you want to add the shift? Realistically, if you’re play licks on the 5th and 6th strings, you’re going to want to use your ring finger to play the root so that your index finger can play the next note, making it easier to bend, because bending with your pinky is difficult. This does not work if the root of the scale is lower than G (unless you are past the 12th fret).

What fingers should you use to do the shift? First, start with your ring finger, then play the next note with your index finger. The next few notes depend on context. You will either jump your index finger up to the 5th fret, and proceed to play 6 with your middle and 7 with your ring OR play 5 with ring and slide it up (6 and 7 with ring). See what is easiest for you, and remember, context is extremely important. We have also attached a reference sheet for the scale with a shift on the 5th string. Minor Blues Scale with shift on 5th String Reference PDF

Have fun!