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.
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.
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:
I’m Tore 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.
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!