Delta blues giant Robert Johnson is one of the most fascinating and mysterious performers in music history. He created an essential body of blues guitar music, recording 29 songs in 1936 and 1937 that would exert a powerful influence on the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Johnny Winter and many others.
In last month’s installment of Chop Shop, we looked at a classical-flavored run in E minor that incorporated arpeggios, octaves and a simple but cool-sounding octave finger tap. This month we’re going to expand upon that approach by again employing arpeggios, this time also bringing in some sweep picking, a sliding finger tap, pinch harmonics and behind-the-nut string bending.
I start this lick by ascending a two-octave Bm(add9) arpeggio [B Cs D F#]. This short run is performed legato style, in which all the notes are sounded by the fret hand alone. I don’t use the pick again until the next beat, when I begin down-picking across the D and G strings.
For this lesson, I’ve put together a series of melodic riffs that could be used for a song’s intro, verse, chorus, bridge or solo section, and that utilize an open low E-string pedal tone. A pedal tone is defined as a long held or rearticulated note around which other parts move. As applied to the guitar, a pedal tone usually represents the tonic, or root note, and is played on the lower, often open, strings.
The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” performed entirely by Paul McCartney using his Martin D-28, was released on the 1968 album The Beatles (commonly referred to as the White Album). From a guitar standpoint, the song’s roots and inspiration can be traced back to McCartney’s early experimentation with a well-known piece by J.S. Bach titled “Bourée in E Minor,” which he woodshedded in his youth.
When Les Paul passed away at the age of 94 on August 13, 2009, most obituaries overstated a few of his contributions and understated others. Some claimed he invented the electric guitar (he didn’t even invent the solidbody guitar, though he was among the first to experiment with its design) while barely mentioning his pioneering work in the development of multitrack recording. And while many articles mentioned his namesake Gibson Les Paul guitar, few discussed just how great a guitarist he was.