ROBIN TROWER Video Masterclass
Want some soulful new phrasing in your lickbag? Then let power trio superstar Robin Trower show you his ‘fave five’. Jon Bishop is your guide.
The former Procol Harum six-stringer and guitar legend reveals the ‘fave five’ in his lickbag. A rare treat! Jon Bishop joins him.
We were lucky to grab some time to sit down with guitar legend Robin Trower. Among other things, he was kind enough to share five signature licks with GT. Robin first came to prominence in Procol Harum, a band famous for such classics as Conquistador and A Whiter Shade Of Pale. He has been involved in other side projects with Cream’s Jack Bruce (BLT) and his own power trio (The Robin Trower Band).
For his early work Robin played mostly Gibson guitars but shifted his allegiance to the Fender Stratocaster following a chance encounter with one during a Jethro Tull soundcheck. Robin has his own Custom Shop signature Strat featuring a C-shaped maple neck and old school ‘big’ headstock as pictured on the video.
You may notice that when you first have a play along to the video that Robin is downtuned a tone on all the strings. This full step down-tuning provides the following tuning notes from low to high (D-G-C-F-A-D). Downtuning is pretty much standard practice by blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and no doubt was inspired by Jimi Hendrix who
Eb. used to down-tune a semitone to The many benefits of down-tuning include a fatter tone, reduced string tension and it also makes the classic guitar keys of E A and D easier to sing over. Due to the reduced string tension, heavier gauge strings can be fitted, which is said to further bolster the tone and feel.
We’ve transcribed the five examples at concert pitch and tabbed them in the positions seen in the video to reflect the down-tuning of the strings. Obviously, if you work from the notation in standard tuning you will be in tune with the video but your fingers will be two frets down from where Robin’s are. If you play from the tab you will need to down-tune by a tone on each string for it to sound the same as Robin’s video performance. As these licks were performed free time with no pulse we have approximated the rhythms and simplified them to make the digestive process easier. In reality you will most probably take the core concepts here and make them your own when playing with your band or over a backing track.
The main scale in use here is the Minor Pentatonic scale and Robin’s licks will work equally well over a minor 7 chord or a 7#9 (Hendrix chord). To help out we have included a couple of scales boxes so you can see how the lines are constructed. The first diagram, (Figure 1) outlines a classic minor Pentatonic fingering for this style. The root note fits neatly on the sixth string and you can simply shift this around the fretboard to the desired key as Robin does in the video.
The second diagram (Figure 2) adds in some flavour tones such as the diminished (b5)
or major 6th that Robin uses in the licks. Using the Minor Pentatonic as a foundation and then adding in target tones is a sound and popular strategy and one that frees up creativity while retaining musicality.
So tune down that guitar and get cracking, five-signature licks coming up!
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN THE FIRST TO ADMIT THAT JIMI WAS A VERY BIG INFLUENCE ON MY EARLY STUFF” Robin Trower
Robin Trower shows GT what’s in his lickbag!
Procol Harum and power trio guitar legend, Robin Trower
DIAGRAM1 MINOR PENTATONIC
DIAGRAM2 MINOR PENTATONIC wITh ADDED b5 & 6