Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues

29th Aug 2011 | 09:01

Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Blues licks with a reggae beat
Many of Peter Tosh's solos have a Clapton-esque vibe

I expect a lot of blues fans out there will loathe reggae with a passion. I’m not sure why this is, since the people that play it share their roots with Robert Johnson, Son House, BB King et al. And, most importantly in terms of this column, blues licks just love it.

If you think you hate reggae, try this month’s examples and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it! Think of Bob Marley tracks such as No Woman No Cry and Waiting In Vain; they both have great Peter Tosh solos that could just as easily have been played by Clapton (who strangely resisted the temptation to ‘wail’ on his cover of Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff).

In fact, over this month’s track not only can you use all your Eric, Peter, BB, Freddie and Albert licks, you can also go a little bit leftfield, as I did on occasion.

It’s such a malleable format – especially in this lovely, languid A minor to D minor sequence. There’s a lot of space, too, so it gives you ample opportunity to pace yourself – lots of slow bends, repetitive or geometric figures can give way to quicker passages that sit just as happily in the format.

Scale-wise it’s good old A minor pentatonic to D minor pentatonic (A C D E G to D F G A C) over the Am – although feel free to add in the sixth (F# and Bb ) and ninth (B and E) for a more Dorian feel. Or why not try A natural minor (A B C D E F G), which contains F – the b3 of D minor – so you can do some timely chord targeting too.

Click onwards for the free tab, examples and backing track.

Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Lick one

If you look at this lick on the fretboard you’ll see that it closely maps out the shape of a simple D minor chord, but up at the 13th fret instead of down at the first.

The chromatic run goes F-F#-G. Notice that the F# – although it’s the major third, which should jar badly over a minor chord – sounds okay, as it’s just there as a passing tone between the b3 and fourth.


Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Lick two

Most of this lick is over the D minor chord, but it’s all A minor pentatonic. This gives a slightly spooky, disjointed sound that I like.

The E within A minor pentatonic is the ninth of D minor, so lends it an ethereal pleasantness.


Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Lick three

This is just one of those licks that sometimes happens! There’s so much space within the track that you can try these ‘geometric’ licks.

We call them that because they’re more to do with the shapes that the guitar frets and strings throw under your fi ngers than the notes themselves. This is very BB King meets Wailers guitarist Peter Tosh.


Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Lick four

When I’d played this lick I couldn’t think what it reminded me of. Then I realised it’s a George Harrison repetitive and syncopated idea that he used in the outro to Ringo’s Octopus’s Garden on Abbey Road.

See, you can cram almost anything into a reggae tune!


Blues Guitar Lessons: Reggae blues
Lick five

I shamelessly adapted the great climax lick from Waiting In Vain to create this one.

But I deliberately configured it in position five of A minor pentatonic, too, because it allows for a nice third finger semitone bend and let-down on the first string, 12th fret.

It’s alternate picking throughout, beginning on a down stroke.


Backing track:


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