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B.B. King - Blues Guitar Music Legend Part 2

posted 17 Nov 2010, 19:25 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 17 Nov 2010, 19:31 ]

BB King's guitar style may seem simple, yet upon analysis it
discloses a sophisticated awareness of melody, harmony, and
rhythm. He seems to always hit the right notes, phrases like
no one else, and has a vibrato that is universally
recognized. BB approaches the guitar as if it were another
voice, not just as an instrument. He plays guitar as if he
were singing through it. When he has to take a breath, his
guitar does as well. He claims that his sound is not
something that he learned, it is just the way he asserts
himself as a person and as a guitarist.

Stylistically, what separates BB King from his peers is his
firm rooting in the jazz as well as the blues idioms. One of
BB's major influences was jazz guitarist Lonnie Johnson, who
was one of the first guitarists to visualize the guitar as a
single-line solo instrument. BB also listened extensively to
Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and to horn players such
as Lester Young, Johnny Hodges and Bobby Hackett. His blues
guitar influence comes primarily from T-Bone Walker. BB
softened Walker's somewhat strident style, adding a vibrato
that he developed while trying to copy the bottleneck slide
guitar sound of his cousin Bukka White. The rest is pure BB
King, which is a combination of elements that has produced
one of the most distinctive blues guitarists ever!

BB draws from a large pallet of harmonic and melodic
devices. Although he is primarily known as a single line
player, he does play chords - specifically triads and double
stops which he uses to punctuate his solos. Check out his
chord intro to the song "Please Love Me" and his rhythm
chord comping during the saxophone solo in the song "You
Upset Me Baby". Perhaps the most identifiable feature of BB
King's sound is his "Bee-Sting" vibrato. He does his vibrato
completely from the wrist, as he shakes his whole hand
rapidly and evenly. Even though this is a much imitated
sound, only BB can make it "sing" the way he does. BB's
knowledge of jazz harmony allows him to introduce harmonic
concepts into his soloing that are more sophisticated than
the typical pentatonic ideas used by most blues guitarists.

The most unique quality of BB King's style is his ability to
combine jazzier elements with a rock solid blues sensibility.
I was fortunate enough to hear BB King and his big band play
live at the Civic Center in Baltimore, Maryland back in
1969. The big band sounded incredible - a real wall of sound
- and BB's guitar playing just "wailed" and filled the Civic
Center with some of the most exciting blues guitar music
I've ever heard. Fortunately, for aspiring blues guitarists
there is a wealth of blues guitar tab books available as
well as an instructional DVD course taught by BB King

About the Author:

Peabody Conservatory trained guitarist Steven Herron helps
people succeed at becoming better guitar players. Find out
more about blues guitar tab books and instructional DVDs by
BB King and claim Steven's popular free monthly guitar
lesson e-course available at: =>