Eric Gales Blues mas­ter­class

Since his en­trance onto the blues-rock scene as a teenage prodigy in the ’90s, Eric Gales has built a rep­u­ta­tion for his ex­plo­sive style. Get a taste of it here with Adrian Clark as your guide.

Guitar Techniques - - ERIC GALES | STYLE STUDY -

Ten­nessee born and bred, Eric Gales was by all ac­counts a child prodigy. Start­ing on the gui­tar in 1979 aged just four, and with the help and en­cour­age­ment of older brothers Eu­gene and Manuel he lis­tened to all the blues and rock greats, but was most taken with Jimi Hen­drix’s flam­boy­ant play­ing style and on-stage per­sonna.

With Hu­bert Craw­ford on drums and brother Eu­gene on bass he formed The Eric Gales band, re­leas­ing their epony­mous de­but al­bum in 1991 and gar­ner­ing him­self the ac­co­lade of Gui­tar World’s ‘best new tal­ent’ of that year. With a string of al­bums to his name in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with both sib­lings as The Gales Brothers Band, con­tribut­ing May This Be Love to the Hen­drix trib­ute al­bum Power Of Soul, plus ap­pear­ing along­side San­tana at Wood­stock ’94 and tour­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence Hen­drix along­side Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Eric John­son, Doyle Bramhall II and oth­ers, his life has been a roller­coaster ride of ca­reer ups and downs. Gales has spent much of his life shrug­ging off the Hen­drix com­par­isons, but in re­al­ity his style is far broader than that and in fact his fret skills and pick­ing tech­nique are daz­zling; he can be har­mon­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated, too, as demon­strated in this video les­son.

His in­flu­ences range far and wide, as you would have read in our in­ter­view, and he mixes them up in what he calls his ‘gumbo’ of styles that’s im­mensely pow­er­ful and in­stantly recog­nis­able as his own.

True, he ex­ists at the Hen­drix end of the blues-rock spec­trum, but in this les­son you’ll see how Eric ap­proaches rhythm and lead play­ing from as much of a coun­try or gospel per­spec­tive as with his par­tic­u­lar take on clas­sic Pen­ta­tonic or Blues scale lines.

A most im­por­tant part of Eric’s play­ing is of course the way he plays left-handed but with­out re­vers­ing the strings. This means the sixth string is phys­i­cally clos­est to his feet, like other great blues men in­clud­ing Al­bert King and the re­cently de­parted Otis Rush who both adopted the same ap­proach. While this doesn’t im­pact too much on chord shapes or fin­ger­ing pat­terns (with a cou­ple of cru­cial ex­cep­tions, as you’ll see), it has a much more no­tice­able ef­fect on fin­ger­style or hy­brid pick­ing (us­ing pick and fin­gers). Ev­ery­thing we know is sud­denly mean­ing­less… you’re now us­ing your fin­gers to play bass notes, rather than your thumb or pick.

Eric’s style is full of in­ten­sity, heart and soul, the man hav­ing lived a life that would de­feat many of us. As he says, “There’s a lot of pas­sion that I in­cor­po­rate into my play­ing and as much as I try to say I can help it, I can’t help it be­cause it’s just part of the make-up for me. I play from some pain, some hap­pi­ness, you know, and it comes out in the play­ing. There’s a lot of grat­i­tude, some de­spair; just things in life.“

The mix of gospel and blues is im­por­tant to Eric and even now in­forms his ap­proach. As he says, “Mu­sic-wise, it’s the same thing; the only dif­fer­ence is that one has Chris­tian words and the other has sec­u­lar words, but mu­si­cally, it’s the same thing. There’s a lot of kin­ship be­tween dif­fer­ent styles of mu­sic, it just all de­pends on your in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

The good news to­day is that you can play all of th­ese ex­am­ples pretty well with stan­dard string align­ment, and even though they won’t sound quite the same, you’ll gain some in­sight into the unique melodic and har­monic de­tails that Eric has dis­cov­ered through his non­stan­dard tech­nique.


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