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Golden Age of Guitar Instrumentals - Tuesday, Week 1

The Roots
Charlie Christian (1916-1942) was the first great electric guitar instrumentalist. During his brief but highly influential career (1939-1942) he laid down the ground rules for the way an electric guitar would be used in a variety of styles to follow. These included jazz, blues, bebop, and Western Swing. Charlie's licks were also absorbed by the first generation of rock guitarists such as Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore. Christian's early pioneering in the swing jazz genre directly and indirectly affected everyone picking up the instrument after 1939. As the father of the electric guitar his music established the roots which gave rise to the golden age of guitar instrumentals of the 1950s and 1960s.

Our first lick is a classic Charlie Christian-style phrase. It is in D flat and has a riff-based question-and-answer structure. The lick is played uptempo with a swing feel and employs several noteworthy elements. Check out the quarter-step string bends, use of the sixth scale degree (Bb), and a mixture of minor and major third (F flat and F natural) tones within the lick. This mixing of modes and the downward tritone leap (B flat to F flat) are staples of swing and blues styles. As you play this lick you will realize that it sits nicely in the familiar "blues box" shape at the ninth fret, known by most rock, pop and blues guitarists. As such, it can be easily incorporated into your existing pool of knowledge and will greatly expand your musical palette.

Learn this lick and practice with this jam track
Skill Level: guitar pick onguitar pick onguitar pick offguitar pick off
Key: Db


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