AcOUS­TIc

This month, Stu­art Ryan takes a stroll down to the cross­roads to un­cover the more sen­si­tive acous­tic side of blues and rock leg­end Eric Clap­ton.

Guitar Techniques - - NEWS -

Stu­art Ryan looks at the acous­tic side of a blues and rock icon – the one and only Eric Clap­ton.

pic­ture eric clap­ton and the first im­ages that come to mind are prob­a­bly the long-haired, 335 tot­ing blues-rocker of the Cream days. Or the be-suited blues trou­ba­dour cradling Blackie, his fa­mous Strat, in one of the leg­endary 24 Nights at the Al­bert Hall. As we all know, how­ever, he is a multi-faceted player who is equally adept on acous­tic and elec­tric guitar. As his ca­reer has pro­gressed the steel strung flat-top has in­creas­ingly come to the fore – for an en­tire gen­er­a­tion his 1992 MTV Un­plugged live al­bum with its heart-rend­ing ver­sion of Tears In Heaven was their first in­tro­duc­tion to this blues leg­end. Some would even go so far as to say they pre­fer his acous­tic style to elec­tric.

It shouldn’t come as any sur­prise that acous­tic guitar is at the heart of Clap­ton’s style – it is the in­stru­ment that gave birth to the blues and he would have heard some of his ear­li­est he­roes us­ing steel-strung flat-top gui­tars to ac­com­pany them­selves. Although we of­ten as­so­ciate him with the elec­tric blues of the three great Kings (Fred­die, Al­bert, BB) and Buddy Guy, it’s ac­tu­ally an acous­tic blues leg­end that he cites as his main in­flu­ence, Robert John­son. In fact, the John­son in­flu­ence was so strong that many years af­ter Cream and Derek And The Domi­nos he would ex­plore his acous­tic roots with an al­bum cov­er­ing John­son songs: Me & Mr John­son (2004), which was swiftly fol­lowed by another re­lease, Ses­sions For Robert J (2004).

For this study I’ve elected to look at Clap­ton’s mod­ern bluesy style rather than his rawer, Robert John­son-style lean­ings. To this end we’ll find a sparse fin­ger­pick­ing part fol­lowed by a melodic blues-based Clap­ton lead line. In essence, we are deal­ing with a more de­vel­oped ver­sion of the clas­sic 12-bar riff that has been used by ev­ery great blues­man over the last 70 years. This riff is also in­ter­spersed with per­cus­sive slaps on the pick­ing hand which all help to drive the mu­sic along. The solo starts in the open po­si­tion and is based around the E mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scale with some Clap­ton-es­que nods to the ma­jor 3rd (G#) as well. In­ci­den­tally, if you are an acous­tic blues player then knowl­edge of the open po­si­tion is es­sen­tial. As many great so­los start off down here to ex­ploit the power and vol­ume that the open po­si­tion can give be­fore trav­el­ling to the higher frets as we do here. Given his in­cred­i­ble ca­reer, just one col­umn on Eric Clap­ton can only scratch the sur­face of what he has achieved on acous­tic guitar. Hope­fully this study will help you as a start­ing point for learn­ing more.

Given his in­cred­i­ble ca­reer, just one col­umn on clap­ton can only scratch the sur­face of what he has achieved on acous­tic guitar.

Eric Clap­ton in acous­tic mode on a Martin 000-28

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