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Lyle Ronglien >> BB King style >>

In The Style oF B.B. King - part 1


Lyle: B.B. King is the King of the Blues without a doubt. The thrill is never gone when I listen to him. Listen to the Lesson Sample. You'll be learning how to play all the riffs in the sample.

Lyle: The B.B. King style is made up from blues riffs that include bends and quick vibratos. You might be good at bending notes, but you'll need to be aware of half step bends and whole step bends here in the riffs that follow. Half step means 1 fret, whole step means 2 frets. Practice bends anywhere on the neck and try it with different fingers. You don't need to use your pinky finger though; it's rarely used for bending. Play a "target" note, which is used to get a reference, and then bend up to it like in this video example of a half step bend. You can bend the string by pushing or pulling. Sometimes you'll need to use your index finger for the half step bends. Practice half step bends on different fingers, not the pinky.

half step bend ex1

Lyle: Most of the time you'll be using your 3rd finger to bend with. I suggest grabbing the string with your second finger also, to help push or pull the string. Look at these two examples of whole step bends then try to do them. Practice this type of bend everywhere on the neck.

whole step bend ex1

whole step bend ex2

Lyle: In the basic minor pentatonic pattern, there are certain notes that get bent a lot when playing blues licks. Here they are:

bend locations for the pentatonic

Lyle: Vibrato is the other key element in the B.B. King style or any blues riffs for that matter. Vibrato is the act of wiggling the string. Here's a look at the most common method for adding vibrato to a note and what it looks like in the Riff TAB. You'll wiggle the note up and down slightly as if you were applying quick little bends. The video will help show this technique.

vibrato ex 1

Lyle: The other method is what I call the "violinist's vibrato" because it's a method used on the violin since you can't bend or wiggle the string. This technique is very useful when you need to add vibrato on the 1st string since there is no room to wiggle the string without it falling off the fret board.

vibrato ex 2

Lyle: Ex. 3 can give you a good idea how to practice the vibrato. It's just the B minor pentatonic scale with vibrato on every note. Make sure you have a strong grip on the note. This helps for sustain also.

vibrato ex 3

Lyle: Take any scale you know along with this one and add vibrato to each note for a great workout.

Lyle: Now you're ready to learn some riffs using bends and vibrato. This lesson is in the key of B minor. Your best scale of choice for B.B. style riffs is the B minor pentatonic because of the simplistic nature of the scale.

Lyle: You should know this pattern; it's the most common pattern for the minor pentatonic. You used it just a few minutes ago to practice vibratos with too.

Lyle: Here's another pattern you should know. Use your 2nd or 3rd finger and slide up to the 11th fret on the G string. The root notes (B) are highlighted.

Lyle: Look at the two patterns together on the virtual neck. These patterns are where you'll be playing most of the riffs.

Lyle: Here are 3 basic riffs in the B.B. King style using sections from the B minor pentatonic scale.

riff 1

Lyle: Notice the whole step and half step bends in this riff:

riff 2

Lyle: Important: bending and vibrato is one of the key elements in blues licks and the B.B. King style, so pay attention to the sound of the lick and the notation to help you.

riff 3

Lyle: You can see that all these licks come from the B minor pentatonic patterns we went over.

Lyle: Here's a solo that combines the 3 riffs from above plus a few more.

solo 1

Lyle: Notice in this last tab, you leave spaces. You don't have to play a lick all the time and you don't have to play fast. Besides serious vibrato and cool bends, BB King has a great sense of timing for each of his licks. I think BB said he plays like he is singing the notes.

Lyle: Here's a jam track you can use to practice these riffs with:

Looping Sound Clip 1

Lyle: I'd like to show you how I use some of these riffs in the real world. This is an audio sample of me playing a solo on the album called "The Gift of Christmas" by En Vogue. This is a 12 bar blues using the same exact chord progression and key that this lesson is in but the beat is different. The solo starts and ends with a few B.B. King style riffs. Listen and see if you can recognize them.

En Vogue solo sample

solo 1

Lyle: B.B. King doesn't play chords much, if at all, but I thought you might like to learn the chords that go along with the jam track.

Lyle: The 12 bar blues is a simple chord progression used in blues, most of the time using the 1, 4, and 5 chords of the key. In the jam track there are 4 chords Bm7, Em7, Gmaj7, and F#7alt. The (alt) means altered dominant chord. This could mean several note choices to alter such as the 5th (b5 or #5) degree and the 9th (b9 or #9) degree. In this case I'll be showing you how to play F#7(#9/#5) chord. That's a mouthful! Don't worry if you don't understand, just learn the chord and memorize the names.

Lyle: Here's all 4 chords in positions I suggest using for this lesson:





Lyle: Here's the chord chart that shows you when to play the chords for the jam track:

chord chart

Lyle: Try strumming once on beat 1 of every measure like in this TAB example:

chord exercise

Lyle: That's all for this lesson. If you would like further study on this topic or any other topic, email me at for info on how you can get your own customized guitar lessons like this using Riff Interactive technology. Your private lessons can be downloaded to your pc for anytime, anywhere study. Thanks and see you at the next lesson. - Lyle

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