John Wheatcroft takes a look at the in­cen­di­ary syle of Amer­i­can blues gi­ant Wal­ter Trout, who is thank­fully on the mend af­ter a se­ri­ous ill­ness.

Guitar Techniques - - Learning Zone -

John Wheatcroft of­fers in­sight into the tasty, fier y blues tech­nique of Wal­ter Trout.


[Bars 1- 4] We be­gin with some Dom­i­nant 7th phrases in E that could be con­sid­ered to be a com­bi­na­tion of Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic (R b3 4 5 b7), plus ma­jor 3rd (G#) and then Mi­nor 6th Pen­ta­tonic (R b3 4 5 6). The rep­e­ti­tious ham­meron and pull- off phrase in bar 3 is a par tic­u­lar Trout spe­cialit y, and you can hear sim­i­lar ideas in the play­ing of the late blues-rock ace, Gar y Moore. [Bars 5-8] We tran­si­tion to A7 here by se­lect­ing notes that out­line an A9 arpeg­gio (A C# E G B), be­fore mov­ing to some E Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic ideas over A. The open-string Blues scale ideas in bars 7-8 (R b3 4 b5 5 b7) are rem­i­nis­cent of Hen­drix, Ste­vie Ray Vaughan or brother Jim­mie. [Bars 9-12] You’d be wrong to think that it is only jaz z play­ers that out­line the changes with their melodic choices, as these Wal­ter-st yle turn­around bars ably il­lus­trate. We’re fram­ing in both B7 (B D# F# A) and A7 (A C# E G) chords with their ap­pro­pri­ate chord tones and some choice em­bel­lish­ments typ­i­cal of Trout. Even the D in bar 12 could be con­sid­ered as the en­har­monic equiv­a­lent of B7’s #9 (of­fi­cially a Cx, where x = ##). The low E (which is of course the root of the Dom­i­nant or V chord) that ends this chorus is no doubt an in­di­ca­tion that we’ve not yet fin­ished and we’re go­ing around the block, back to the I chord at least one more time.

[Bars 13-16] Wal­ter’s broom gets a bit of dust­ing here as he gives us ‘the’ El­more James lick, although this time in stan­dard tun­ing and with no slide. The sec­ond an­swer­ing half of this phrase sounds rather Chuck Berr y-like, with a com­bi­na­tion of dou­ble-stops and bends. A char­ac­ter­is­tic of Wal­ter’s E-form box-po­si­tion Pen­ta­tonic phras­ing is his fond­ness for in­cor­po­rat­ing a high dou­ble-stop on both first and sec­ond strings while adding legato em­bel­lish­ments such as in bar 16 and… [Bars 17-20] …ex­actly like we see here in bar 18. Make sure you ap­proach your vi­brato with in­ten­sit y and width dur­ing this solo. Wal­ter’s is ver y wide for a blues player, and is a fair bit slower than many imag­ine, giv­ing grav­i­tas and au­thor­ity to his long, held notes, whereas the shal­low and speedy va­riet y can sound ner vous and a lit­tle weak. Wal­ter’s play­ing of ten bridges this gap be­tween blues and rock, to cre­ate a st yle of hy­brid mu­sic he jok­ingly refers to as ‘Fred’.

[Bars 21-24] Wal­ter uses dou­ble-stops to out­line the move from B7 to A7 here, with a brief chro­matic de­scent at the end of bar 21 be­fore spell­ing out A7 with E Mi­nor 6/A9 Pen­ta­tonic (E G A B C#) and we re­turn to a vari­a­tion on our ham­mer-on, pull-off pat­tern in bar 23 that we en­coun­tered back in bar 3. Some of this is prett y speedy so, if you’re strug­gling, break the lick s down into much smaller chunks and learn them slowly. Speed will come nat­u­rally.

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