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.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

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!


Robin Trower shows GT what’s in his lick­bag!

Pro­col Harum and power trio gui­tar le­gend, Robin Trower



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