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Talkin’ Blues with Keith Wyatt: How to Use Slapping and Raking in Blues Guitar

For guitarists accustomed to channel switching and distortion pedals, the thought of being forced to plug straight into a clean amp can be a nightmare. But the big, bad guitar sounds of classic blues are all “straight in,” so how do players turn this apparent handicap to an advantage? The secret is to attack.

Lesson: The Power of Thirds

In past lessons we’ve spruced up rhythm patterns by adding extra notes to chords, and by inserting bass lines and scale runs. This time around the subject is intervals, specifically thirds. Here we give you some practical examples of how to put thirds to work for you. In fact, thirds in particular are real workhorses, frequently used by guitarist, R&B, rock, country and blues.

Talkin’ Blues Lesson: A Tribute to Cliff Gallup’s Legendary Flash — with Tab and Audio

Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps epitomized rockabilly’s iconic image, with their leather jackets, ducktail hairstyles and kick-ass-and-take-names personae. The band also introduced one of the most adept, versatile and influential electric guitarists of his generation: Cliff Gallup.

Lesson: Harmonizing With Fourths

As the interval between the fifth scale degree and the octave, the fourth is basic to the structure of most chords. When used melodically, however, fourths are not nearly as versatile as thirds and sixths. As you’ll see, though, fourths have found a home within, of all places, R&B, soul, and funk. Check out this lesson with audio and tab...

Lesson: Using Broken Chords to Add a Little Drama

The full-chord strum is only one way to skin the rhythm cat. A subtler but no less effective approach is playing broken chords, which involves successively picking the individual notes of a chord in a following pattern. An arpeggiated, or “broken,” chord simultaneously outlines the harmony, meter and rhythm.

Lesson: Country-Funk - What Hank Williams and James Brown have in Common

Most of you are probably familiar with the two-beat “boom-chick” style of rhythm playing so prevalent in classic country music. You may be surprised to learn that the groove that drives, say, Hank Williams’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is not that far removed from the one that drives a funk song like the James Brown instrumental “Night Train.”

Fill ‘Er Up: Creating Guitar Melodies Between Vocal Lines

Fills, those brief instrumental runs that occupy the spaces between vocal lines, no doubt have their origin in the call-and-response vocal tradition associated with country blues, gospel, work songs and field hollers. On records, guitar fills can be overdubbed, but you can enhance both your rhythm playing and soloing by learning to alternate seamlessly between steady chord patterns and well-placed melodic phrases.

Lesson: Creating Harmonies Within the Major Scale

Certain memorable themes, like those of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me” and Gustavo Santaolalla’s "Brokeback Mountain," to name just two, artfully derive melodies and chordal accompaniment from an extraordinarily useful system called scale harmony.

Talkin’ Blues with Keith Wyatt: Cliff Gallup’s Smooth, Lyrical Ballad-Playing Style

Last month, we examined the high-energy style of Cliff Gallup, whose innovative solos with rockabilly icons Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps set a new standard for sound, technique and imagination. This month, we’ll look at how Gallup explored the opposite end of the musical universe—romantic ballads—with an equally successful balance of skill and attitude.

Talkin’ Blues with Keith Wyatt: Electric Soul — Snooks Eaglin, Part 2

Last month, we examined the acoustic mastery of New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin, which was captured on the acclaimed 1959 album New Orleans Street Singer.

Ironically, solo acoustic performance was only a sideline for Eaglin, who mainly played electric guitar and sang with full bands. Between 1960 and 1963, a series of Dave Bartholomew–produced contemporary New Orleans–style R&B recordings for Imperial Records explored that aspect of his talent.