Af­ter WWII a new breed of elec­tric blues­man emerged that would push the mu­sic on to new heights. Th­ese play­ers were prime in­flu­ences for Hen­drix, Clap­ton, The Stones and more. Jon Bishop goes vin­tage!

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Blues’s mod­ern ‘big guns’ may well be your gui­tar he­roes, but where did their in­spi­ra­tion come from? Meet Otis, El­more, T-Bone, Muddy & more!

In the late 1940s and early ’50s a num­ber of gui­tarists started to use newly avail­able am­pli­fi­ca­tion to aug­ment their sound. Elec­tric in­stru­ments made it pos­si­ble to play at louder vol­umes en­abling so­los to be heard over drums and other loud in­stru­ments, such as horn sec­tions. The sound of a valve amp turned up loud also fo­cused the tone and helped with sus­tain­ing long notes. Many blues play­ers would use this sus­tain to em­u­late the long, lonesome notes and vi­brato cre­ated by the har­mon­ica (known as the blues harp).

The first gui­tars to be fit­ted with pick­ups were big semi-acous­tics. Th­ese were ba­si­cally arch­top ‘jazz’ style in­stru­ments with pick­ups and suf­fered from feed­back at high vol­umes. The solid­body elec­tric was a far more man­age­able tool and many of our fea­tured play­ers quickly grad­u­ated to it - or the thin­line ‘semi-solid’ gui­tars of Gib­son, Epi­phone, Guild and oth­ers.

The goal of this fea­ture is to get you sound­ing more au­then­tic in the vin­tage blues style. To help you achieve this there’s a full back­ing track to prac­tise along with. There are 15 ex­am­ples to study and they have been split be­tween five leg­endary play­ers with three ex­am­ples per player. The ex­am­ples high­light a trio of con­cepts that you can learn and in­cor­po­rate into your play­ing. We have also tabbed a demon­stra­tion solo draw­ing from the ideas in the ex­am­ples.

The elec­tric blues rev­o­lu­tion be­gan with Muddy Wa­ters’ 1948 record­ing I Can’t Be Sat­is­fied. Muddy’s style can be viewed as Delta blues played on elec­tric gui­tar. For the Muddy ex­am­ples use an open G tun­ing - from low to high, DGDGBD. Open G has the same in­ter­val­lic struc­ture as an A-shaped Ma­jor chord only now we can play this chord with a one-fin­ger barre or in­deed the slide.

El­more James was an in­flu­en­tial slide player who of­ten used an open D tun­ing (DADF#AD) for slide. Open D lets you play the notes of a six-string Ma­jor barre chord with one fin­ger; it also has the ad­van­tage of mak­ing the clas­sic blues ac­com­pa­ni­ment riff ex­tremely easy to play with two fin­gers.

Otis Rush’s sound is typ­i­cal of West Side Chicago blues. Otis plays a right-handed gui­tar left-handed so the strings are ef­fec­tively up­side down. To bend notes, the high strings are now pulled down and the hand has a lot more power when pulling (as with Al­bert King). The re­sult is a pow­er­ful and ag­gres­sive bend­ing tech­nique.

Hubert Sum­lin is fa­mous for play­ing in both Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the 1950s. He cul­ti­vated a fin­ger­style pick­ing tech­nique that used the flesh of the fin­gers to cre­ate nu­ances in his tone and dy­nam­ics.

T-Bone Walker was one of the first elec­tric blues gui­tarists. His still mod­ern sound­ing style in­flu­enced many play­ers in­clud­ing BB King and Chuck Berry, who in turn in­flu­enced an en­tire gen­er­a­tion. T-Bone’s bend­ing style is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est and it’s amaz­ing how wide a va­ri­ety of play­ers still use T-Bone’s vo­cab­u­lary in their play­ing.

ThE goal of This fEa­TurE is To gET you sound­ing morE au­ThEn­Tic in a rangE of Vin­TagE BluEs sTylEs

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