Make your solos sing with this lesson on Susan Tedeschi's lyrical blues stylings

Susan Tedeschi
(Image credit: Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)

Susan Tedeschi is one of the finest examples of why blues will continue to captivate audiences for decades to come. A modern icon, Tedeschi is perhaps one of the most successful and influential blues artists of our time.

Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Susan was inspired by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King and many others. The blend of singer-songwriter with folk sensibilities, and the channeling of her blues heroes, makes for a compelling recipe.

Susan put her first band together in the early ’90s, releasing Just Won’t Burn in 1998. By the turn of the millennium the album achieved Gold status of 500,000 sales in the US, a rare achievement for blues records. This earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

From here she went from strength to strength, touring and opening for the likes of BB King, Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. In the noughties she supported The Rolling Stones, which increased her fan base and national recognition.

In the last decade, she is perhaps more widely known for her success with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, formed with her husband Derek Trucks in 2010. They met in 1999, when Derek was playing with the Allman Brothers. Prior to officially creating the Tedeschi Trucks band in 2010, they toured together as Soul Stew Revival, a side project to their individual solo bands.

The TTB is one of the most successful blues-roots outfits of all time. Boasting a full time 12-piece touring outfit, their sound is rich, diverse, original and creative.

Susan’s guitar style is rich with traditional vocabulary, and a wonderfully lyrical approach to her phrasing. The phrases are simple, yet wonderfully musical. She particular favours the use of trills, a series of fast hammer-ons and pull-offs, and we’ll see these in use in our two studies this month. Enjoy!

Get the tone

Amp settings: Gain 3, Bass 5, Middle 5, Treble 5, Reverb 4

Susan is pictured playing a variety of guitars, but most commonly with her trusted Fender Telecaster. She also favours a Strat and at a times a D’Angelico Deluxe SS. Her lead sound is wonderfully earthy and rich. On the edge of breakup, there’s a good amount of grit while retaining a mostly clean tone. Go for a clean or just breaking up tone, then add live sounding ambience with reverb or delay.

Study 1

This study is extremely dynamic, using a very clean tone. Susan favours thumb and fingers over a pick much of the time. This helps aid the warm, full tone and dynamic control. Experiment between this approach and using a pick to hear the difference in the dynamics and overall sound. Which do you prefer?

Study 2

This study leans heavily on Susan’s love of trills. Notice how these are used to help break up the melodic lines and add interest to the shape of the phrases. Again there’s not very much overdrive in use here at all, so an authoritative and accurate fretting hand is required to let the notes sing out clearly.

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Phil Short

Phil Short is a sought-after guitarist from the UK. A stadium player, Phil is well known for his technically accomplished guitar style and has showcased his talent touring with Irish boyband Westlife. As well as touring, Phil has been a visiting lecturer at BIMM London since 2017, teaching performance, technique and improvisational skills to the next generation of guitarists. Phil is a monthly contributor for Guitar Techniques magazine, writing the blues column as well as video features on iconic rock legends.