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Learn Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram's fiery blues rhythm and lead styles

Christone Kingfish Ingram
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Already a modern blues icon at just 22 years old, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram displays a level of musical maturity far beyond his years, playing with tons of dynamics and delicious tone to boot. It’s clear that Kingfish is well studied in all the great blues players of previous generations, with a vocabulary that is rich in fundamental blues language.

But like all of the best blues players, Kingfish has a wonderful ear for melody and rhythmical phrasing. He successfully makes this blues language all his own, with a particular knack for combining Major and Minor Pentatonic phrasing in a way that sounds lyrical, vocal and natural.

Kingfish, hailing from Clarksdale, Mississippi, has already headlined two US tours off the back of his Grammy nominated, self-titled debut album. An astonishing achievement for such a young and new artist. 

As well as being an accomplished player, Kingfish is an excellent vocalist and story teller – all important parts of a successful and relatable artist. In his early years, his unusual appreciation for the tradition of early blues music and his natural musical talent led him to securing a strong local fanbase, even capturing the attention of seasoned pros like Tony Coleman (BB King).

In our two studies this month, we explore two very important aspects of Kingfish’s sound, his wonderfully mature grasp of combing Pentatonic sounds; an unusually sophisticated smoothness for a player of his age, and his fantastic control of dynamics and expression.

In Study 1 we also get a an example of his use of the Half-Diminished or m7b5 chord shape, often used by older-school bluesmen like T-Bone Walker, to bring out a Dominant 9th tonality when superimposed from the 3rd of the chord. You can hear him use this device across a wide range of his tracks and live performances. 

Get the tone

AMP SETTINGS: Gain 7, Bass 4, Middle 7, Treble 5, Reverb 4

Kingfish can be seen using a few different guitars, and equally switches between Strats and LP style. Kingfish also favours heavy gauge strings, using 11-49s in standard tuning, to help give him a wider range of dynamics and a thick, warm tone. He likes clean amps, using higher-gain overdrive pedals for his drive sound. Push the mids and keep the gain relatively high for this month’s solos.

Example 1: Study 1

This study features Kingfish’s hotter, higher-gain blues tone. The tempo is very steady, so be careful not to rush the opening riff, but get it feeling really solid. 

It’s counter-intuitive, but playing faster lines or riffs is often when guitarists tend to rush – it’s a fault that’s prevalent in many of us, and one we’d do well to overcome.

Example 2: Study 2

This study is all about dynamics and touch. Play this study with a mostly clean or ‘on the edge of break-up’ tone. Rolling down the volume control on an overdriven sound will get you in the right ball park – it’s a great approach generally, and players from Clapton, to Gary Moore and SRV have all used it brilliantly.

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