In Deep: Tribute to the Musical Genius and Signature Lead Guitar Style of Duane Allman
Lesson with tab and video: Tribute to the signature lead guitar style of Duane Allman.
A true original, the late, great virtuoso guitarist Duane Allman led the Allman Brothers Band into rock history with his ferocious, deeply expressive and trailblazing guitar work.
Rounder Records offers ample testimony to the beauty as well as the breadth of Duane’s recorded work in the new, beautifully compiled box set Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective. In this edition of In Deep, we will examine some of the key elements of Duane’s signature style as a lead guitarist.
One of the best examples of the genius of Duane Allman can be found on the timeless, classic live album, At Fillmore East (1971), which captures the Allman Brothers Band live in concert at the peak of their powers.
Duane’s razor-sharp articulation and masterful touch abound, starting with the slide guitar tour de force “Statesboro Blues,” through the smoldering slow blues “Stormy Monday” and continuing through the fiery, aggressive solos performed on “Whipping Post,” “You Don’t Love Me” and other great tracks.
Duane’s rich, warm tone was achieved via his main ax, a 1958 tobacco sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard, played through Marshall
“Plexi” 50- and 100-watt heads, usually running two 4x12 Marshall bottoms. For additional distortion, he very occasionally used a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, usually in the studio.
A key to Duane’s virtuosity was the fact that, like Jimi Hendrix, he had extensive experience as a session guitarist, working closely alongside R&B greats like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and King Curtis. Through his studio work, Duane had developed a great sense of rhythm as well as a keen understanding of economy, in terms of phrasing.
This understanding resulted in improvised solos that remained cohesive and conversational no matter how long they stretched out or how far they roamed from the original starting point. For this column, let’s use two of Duane’s signature songs, “Stormy Monday” and “Whipping Post,” as our points of focus.
“Stormy Monday,” written and originally recorded by blues great T-Bone Walker, is played in the key of G. For soloing, Duane relied primarily on a few standard “bluesapproved” scales. FIGURE 1 illustrates a scale most guitar players are well familiar with, G minor pentatonic (G Bf C D F), as played in third position. FIGURE 2 illustrates the G blues scale, which is the same as G minor pentatonic but additionally includes the flatted fifth (f5), Df.
Most blues players move alternately between minor and major pentatonic scales based on the same root note. Eric Clapton and B.B. King are two great examples of guitarists whose solos are almost always based on a combination of these two scales. FIGURE 3 illustrates the G major pentatonic scale (G A B D E) in an extended pattern that diagonally traverses the fretboard from third to 12th positions.
Duane often used a soloing device that can be traced to B.B. King, one of his biggest influences. King’s signature soloing approach combines the notes of minor and major pentatonic scales in a very specific fretboard pattern, or “shape.” The pattern, known as “B.B.’s box,” is illustrated in FIGURE 4.
This small handful of notes can be ordered and phrased in nearly an infinite number of ways, resulting in many great blues licks. FIGURES 5–8 offer four different ways in which Duane would use this shape as a jumping off point to improvised solo ideas.
PART ONE OF THREE
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