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44 Blues

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Advanced

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The video with un-blurred virtual fretboard can be downloaded from a link at the top of the TAB



I heard this years ago on a Little Feat album (great version, too!) and the minute I did I thought to myself "One day I'll come up with a fingerstyle arrangement that merges that bass line with the melody". I finally did it and decided I'd make a lesson of it. It really is fun to play once you get it down, but it's not easy. This is only for those who enjoy a challenge ... and love the Blues.

It's in Dropped D. I tried in Standard but the stretches were too extreme and there were no good pull-offs. There are so many things to consider when coming up with these arrangements that it takes quite a while to settle on the best tuning, positions, etc. I think I've come up with the most effective way of expressing it with this one.

So, first off, drop that bass string down a whole step to D.

I started this off with the bass line playing all alone so you can really hear it before going on. I added some little chops, couldn't resist embellishing it a bit, but the main thing to absorb is the classic bass line. It will be continuing under the 'lick', so try and really get it engrained into your auditory canals.

The 'lick' -- we'll call it a lick -- jumps in when the bass line resolves back to D at bar 21. This is where it gets tricky. You need to keep that bass line going as smoothly as possible while playing the fiddly bits on the thinner strings. That means letting the notes of the bass line ring as they did in the intro. That's what I found the most difficult part. The tendency is to choke them off once those lick notes come into play, but resist that urge. Concentrate on letting that bass line ring out unhindered, as if it's another player playing another guitar.

The lick itself is pretty straight forward. You need to get that little pull-off each time, the timing is a little tricky, just work on it until you get it. What is critical is what fingers to use. You'll see what I do in the video and I think you'll find that the most efficient way of doing it, but we're all different ... you might come up with a way that's better for you and that's fine.

I found that the best way to mentally fuse those two elements together -- the bass line and lick -- was to concentrate on those bits where the two lines come together as a double stop. This is definitely what I was doing when figuring it all out. So, for example, you'll see the first one of these at the end of the first bar of 'lick', measure 21. Right at the end of that measure there's a A note (3rd string) and F# (bass string) note played together. Log that mentally. That's a 'fusion point'. The next is in the following measure near the end where a F# note (4th string) and a B note (5th string) are played together. There are two more in the next two measures in the same beats. So there are 4 in all for the whole lick. Get them firmly fixed in your mind/ear/muscle and the rest will fall into place ... after much practice and hair pulling. Believe it or not, though, after lots of practice, you can play it on autopilot.

The 'verse' bit, where it moves up to the IV chord (the G) is much the same process. You need to concentrate on where the melody line crosses over the bass line and lock those in. I was a little looser on these bits as I have a tendency to play repeat sections a little differently each time. It makes for a more interesting part, but it's probably not the best for a lesson. Pick one or the other or come up with your own. The Blues is very forgiving. Same with the couple of measures of V chord, the A bit.

There are some great versions of this tune out there. Little Feat, Howlin' Wolf (who made this famous back in the 50s), Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks Band ... the list goes on. Have a listen to as many as you can and see if you can't inject a bit of those into your version. Most are in F, so just capo up to the third fret and play along in Dropped D.

As always, though, make it a fun thing. There's no point of putting in the time required if it's not fun.