Welcome to our B.B.King player study! Let’s get started by learning a BB style solo in the key of B minor. This is a great place to start as, theory wise, we are simply using very basic pentatonic shapes in the key of B minor. This allows us to really focus in on his phrasing, vibrato and incredible tone. Check out the first video to get started and click here to check out the Materials Section below to access backing tracks and interactive tab!
Before we dive into each lick, it is important to learn, or refresh, the pentatonic shapes we will be using for this solo. This is a gentle start to the course, so we’ll only need the first and second pentatonic positions in the key of B minor. These shapes are outlined here. Remember to pay close attention to where those root notes are (look out for the “B” on the diagrams).
The first lick is all about getting the most out of very little. This is a major part of his style, and something we can learn a lot from. The first part of the lick is an insight into how subtle and effective a simple change of string can be. We play the same root note (B), but first on the E string, then the B string. Be sure to apply your vibrato, and really work on getting that sound even.
The second part of the lick utilises the “B.B.Box”, which is the top half of pentatonic box 2. As well as those basic pentatonic notes, we are using bending to find the other notes within the box and outside of it. Take your time to nail every single bend here and get this lick sounding perfect.
These two licks kick off with the classic B.B.King “play the root note of the key as high up as you can, and slide off!”. It’s so unique to the great man that we had to throw it in there. Once you’ve done that, you are straight back into your two pentatonic shapes. Notice that in the backing track we have now moved to the next chord, which is the E minor chord. We’re still playing using the overall key of B minor though, thinking about those same pentatonic boxes.
The only extra thing to consider here is that you need to bring the style! Notice how we really attack that opening pull off in lick 3. It’s supposed to sound a little aggressive and stand out as a point, which is then resolved with a quick run down the pentatonic scale. In the blues world, this is known as “call and response”, and is crucial if you want to master the sound.
These two licks are another master-class in phrasing. They are relatively simple licks, but they are played incredibly well, and when combined with the space around them, make for beautiful, melodic blues playing! The only final thing to consider theory-wise, is that hammer on at the start of Lick 5. Hammering from the 7th fret to the 9th fret on the E string takes us outside the pentatonic shape. This is a great introduction into using the full minor scale shape, which is pictured below.
It can be overwhelming to expand the pentatonic with huge new shapes, but if you just take this new note to start with and add it to your playing in a minor key, then gradually fill out the rest of the shape, you’ll soon work out how it can be used effectively!
We’re now ready to start putting the whole solo together. There are a couple of really importantthings to remember when piecing an entire solo together. Here’s a checklist for you: