blues Head­lines: sixes & sevens

Richard Bar­rett is on a mis­sion to make you a bet­ter blues player – with full audio ex­am­ples and back­ing tracks

Guitarist - - Contents - Tu­tor: Richard Bar­rett gear used: Knaggs Chop­tank, Vox AC15C1

Though The pen­ta­tonic/blues scale has been used to cre­ate some of the most mem­o­rable so­los and riffs of all time in its purest form, it would be a par­tic­u­larly in­cu­ri­ous player who didn’t drift out­side these bound­aries from time to time.

When we look back to when this type of guitar play­ing was a new and rad­i­cal idea (via the record­ings of Fred­die King, Al­bert King, BB King, and so on), we hear a sur­pris­ing amount of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion from what has be­come known as the ‘blues scale’… Some of this can be at­trib­uted to un­usual tech­ni­cal ap­proaches; for in­stance, Fred­die King played with a fin­ger and thumbpick – bound to en­cour­age dif­fer­ent phras­ing to that of a ded­i­cated al­ter­nate picker such as Steve Morse. Al­bert King used an un­usual C mi­nor open tun­ing and played ‘up­side down’ with the thinnest string where the thick­est would nor­mally be.

But there’s no need to go to these ex­tremes to come up with new solo­ing ideas. For the ex­am­ples, I’ve gone for a funky, al­most Lit­tle Feat-style back­ing and tar­geted the 6th (as we are in the key of E, this is C#) in var­i­ous ways. It’s sur­pris­ing how many of the greats start or fin­ish a phrase on the 6th. Cer­tainly Eric Clap­ton, though he may have picked this up from Fred­die King or Al­bert Collins, who also fea­tured it a lot. Some­times the 6th falls com­fort­ably within the pen­ta­tonic shapes on the fret­board, but at other times, it’s a short stretch or slide away. There’s no need to get deep into mu­sic the­ory to broaden your hori­zons – I’m pretty cer­tain many of the play­ers men­tioned here wouldn’t con­verse en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about scales, though it can’t be de­nied that a lit­tle knowl­edge can help speed up the process of dis­cov­ery. Hope you en­joy these ideas and see you next time!

Al­bert King played up­side down with the high E string at the top

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