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