B.B. King appeared on PBS TV in 1968, holding his
trademark Gibson ES 355 - Lucille, hair slicked back, sweating
profusely, singing and playin the blues. As a kid I remember people talking about B.B. King. They said, "Well you know, B.B. King, he's not really a good guitar player, all he can play is the blues." Twenty, thirty years later, I'm still trying to learn to play blues guitar like B.B. King!
B.B. King was the featured guest artist and spoke to the
interviewer with a guarded tone to his voice and in humble way.
The contrast between B.B. King's soft spoken words and wailin' guitar
made a deep impression on me. I remember trying to catch the beat
and couldn't because most of B.B. King's guitar licks started off the beat. Off the beat? Now there's a concept I'd never encountered as a
fifteen year old guitar player.
It was also the first time I heard anyone bend guitar
strings... and what B.B. King called "those funny little
sounds that please me" - sounded out of tune to me! Yet
something caught my ear and I was determined to try and figure
out the secret to play like B.B. King. And twenty, ok, thirty years
later, I'm still trying to figure out how to play the blues guitar like B.B. King!
B.B. King projects tremendous presence on the stage singing,
playing guitar or just standing around. His style, developed in
the Big Band Era, is similar to T-Bone Walker, playing off the
riffs of the horn section versus blowing over the top. Many of
B.B. King's licks come out of nowhere at the end of the horn parts. Other times you can hear B.B. 'comping' simple licks to the groove of
the horn section.
Talk about the pentatonic scale, the blues scale ... forget
it. Talk about the BB King Scale ... B.B. King just plays what he
hears and often plays major thirds & major sevenths as well
as wierd bends (flat 2nd up to minor third) that can't be
Another unique aspect to B.B. King 's guitar style is his vibrato and the way he mixes phrases that start on the beat with licks that start off the beat. There are few guitar players that do
this today ... just listen to a few BB King solos, count out the rhythm and see for yourself.
Sound wise, B.B. King's guitar is usually in the mix, not
blowing out the band. Many of B.B. King's best records like crackle a soulful mix of B.B.'s vocals, blues guitar licks and audience reaction. I don't know about you, but I'v got a strong urge to hear a BB King CD!
By Johnny Mayer.
B.B. King Guitar TAB
Here are some cool books with B.B. King guitar tab. It's amazing when
you actually get a few B.B. Kings licks under your fingers. It's best to learn to play by ear and these B.B. King guitar tablature books will help you play the blues from the heart - just like BB King.