Eric Clapton – Slowhand

Eric Clapton is one of those guitarists who appears as though he isn’t doing an awful lot, hence the nickname ‘slowhand’. But contrary to appearances, his style is anything but easy. The most surprising thing about his playing, is the almost non existent use of his pinky finger when doing lead soloing. Next time you see a close up, watch and see how many times he uses it. He tends to stretch finger number 3 for most of the notes a ‘normal’ guitarist would use their little finger. The effect seems to be a more sliding effect where the finger pushes up the fret board, and the sound is such a smooth flowing one that he books his place in my blues gods list.

Although he very often plays non blues related guitaring, it’s his blues songs that I love the most. Crossroads is my favourite album, and has all the hallmarks of a true classic.  His main guitar these days is a Fender Stratocaster custom built, but not surprisingly his early days were dominated with the Gibson Les Paul. Both guitars sound completely different, but there are guitarists using both these well known makes in the blues style.

To me, the thing that makes Clapton such an outstanding blues guitarist is the  sheer feel he has in his playing. Recently he was voted in the top 5 all time. I’m not sure that I would personally put him as high as that, especially with all the old time greats brought into the equation, but that doesn’t matter really.

I found this quote that says everything about the man…..‘Nothing but my soul to save, from the cradle to the grave’…It was one of those things, you wake up in the middle of the night, run downstairs and write it down. What it means, I think, is that the music I’m making here has been my motivation. It’s the thing I’ve turned to, the thing that has given me inspiration and relief, in all the trials and tribulations in my life.”
With everything that has gone on in this man’s life, I truly find his music an inspiration!

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Learning to play the blues yourself?

If you want to you have probably been putting it off for a while!
Whether its  ,  or it’s never too late to start.
There are many sites that offer reasonably priced options, plus quite a large number that have free lessons. Personally I like the you can find on Youtube. There are so many people posting videos of their playing, it is very useful to pick up songs and scales.
This may sound a sweeping statement, but everybody wants to when they learn the guitar.
I know some of the great blues players would maybe put some people off learning guitar, but to me, it just inspires me to emulate them.
I’ve got some more coming up soon, so watch this space.

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Micky Moody

Ok, admit it, most of you haven’t heard of this guy have you?

Micky Moody was the lead guitarist on the original Whitesnake lineup. He has his own website if you want to delve into his career (just google his name). His style during his years with David Coverdale, was a kind of Rock orientated blues. One of my best memories was seeing his solo during one of their gigs (on dvd). It was not the conventional ‘balls-up look at me I’m great’ solos. It was such a revelation to watch a lead guitar player kicking out some chunky blues licks instead of speed guitar that often bores the pants off me.

So, why is Micky on my worship list? He started doing local gigs around the London area a few years back with another UK favourite of mine Papa George Youtube Vid!!

Now these two guys were just SO good together. They have different styles of playing blues but as a combo, it was awesome. My favourite song they did was Moon Dance by Van Morrison. If you heard their version you wouldn’t want to hear any other!  Moody’s solo was on an acoustic guitar with very tricky hammer ons and pull offs….and up and down pentatonic blues scales.  Very melodic. At home later, I tried playing a bit of it and had to give up….too damn difficult!

Have you ever tried to play slide guitar. For some it’s easy, others not. For Moody, he makes it look incredibly easy. As a guitarist I watched him do incredible things with the slide that I didn’t think were possible. While sliding with third finger, lifting slide to play notes behind with fingers 1 and 2, then sliding again without any noticeable ‘banging’ when the slide went back on the strings. Try it….it takes hours and hours just to get the balance right so you don’t push down too hard. Now I’m not talking about a few notes here and there, which a reasonably accomplished guitarist could manage. Lots of intricate runs between slide trems, right hand playing behind left hand. Just really fantastic to watch. 

Check out youtube for some early Whitesnake stuff and you will get a flavour of what I’m talking about. I can totally recommend any of Moody’s solo album for blues enthusiasts. 

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Gary Moore is back in town

Many years ago, I saw one of my guitar heroes….Mr Gary Moore. It was one of those balmy sunny days in the UK, and along with my friends we were frazzled and quite noticeably drunk. Donington Park Monsters of Rock….yeehah.

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This was my first big gig, and I had been told that Gary Moore was ‘quite’ entertaining. I was looking forward to watching him close up (we had staggered to the front – which is kind of a mistake when you have copious amounts of fluid inside!) as another quote was ‘fast fingers’. They weren’t wrong! He made such an impression on me that day that shortly afterwards I went out and bought his entire back catalog.

I was pleasantly surprised when he completely changed his style a decade ago, and began playing blues. It must have been difficult, as purists described his style as ‘rock blues’. Playing blues guitar is an art form in itself. Less is more (or moore), so Gary for me started out playing a bit hectic. It was still fantastic entertainment, but was as they said a kind of rock blues.

Recently though Gary has been playing a more traditional style, deft touches, quieter runs, less distortion, and has made the transition into a true blues god!

So it is with great anticipation that I and my friends look forward to this summer when he plays The Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. We haven’t got tickets, but who cares, touts do have their uses occasionally. Haven’t seen him for 3 years now, and he always captures that magic associated with a truly great guitar player.

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