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Essential Guitar Licks: Stevie Ray Vaughan's "The Sky Is Crying" Bends

(Image credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

We all know a great lick when we hear one—Jimmy Page’s solo breaks in “Whole Lotta Love” and Mark Knopfler’s blistering triads in “Sultans of Swing,” for example. Moments like these grab your attention and aurally brand your ears forever.

Or, sometimes it acts more subliminally: You suddenly find yourself playing a certain lick over and over again, wondering, Where have I heard this before?

Through the years, these licks have evolved into a vocabulary for the guitar. And like great writers who are always able to find the right word to make a point, great guitarists always have that essential lick at their disposal to express, in the moment, what they’re feeling. And whereas the best writers are able to string those words together to form remarkable prose, the best guitarists link their licks to form living, breathing, musical statements.

Today, we bring you a useful, Albert King-inspired bending lick by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Origin: Elmore James may have birthed “The Sky Is Crying,” but Stevie Ray Vaughan gave it eternal life on his posthumous 1991 album by the same title. On this Texas blues lick, SRV pays tribute to James.

Theory: SRV plies this C minor pentatonic (C–Eb–F–G–Bb) lick in the blues box named for his hero, Albert King.

Playing Tip: Bend the first-string F note up to G with your fret-hand thumb wrapped over low E string for extra leverage—especially if you prefer heavy-gauge strings like SRV did.

Materials: Below, you'll find the link to a massive version of the tab for this lick (followed by an embedded 640-wide version), plus the audio (recorded by a Guitar World dude) and a video of Vaughan performing "The Sky Is Crying." Enjoy!