JOE BONAMASSA

Welcome to the Joe Bonamassa player study! In this course we will be taking you on an epic journey of hyper fast licks, awesome blues, chunky riffs and detailed theory. Bonamassa is one of the most technically gifted guitar players in the world today, so we have a lot to cover! In this unit we start with a classic upbeat blues rock solo that will help you join your pentatonic shapes across the neck, expand your blues vocabulary, and help you decipher what is happening in those epically fast pentatonic scale runs. Check out the first video to get started and click here to check out the Materials Section below to access the full solo tabbed out in our interactive tab player so you can slow it down (you might need to for this one!)

Lesson 1: Theory & Lick 1

Let’s get started with the first two licks of the track. Just to put you guys in the right area, we are working in the key of E minor and ‘basically’ using the E minor pentatonic boxes. The reason we say basically is because, every now and again, we dip into various other notes, borrowed from Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian scales, not forgetting the inevitable blues note every now and again. To quote Dion, when it comes to how to think of these notes:

“Be sure you know your 5 pentatonic shapes inside out, and reference those shapes with each lick. From there, learn where you can add in these “extra” notes that bring more colour and flair to the sound”

So there you have it. Don’t over-think those out notes. It’s good to know where they come from, and we will be delving into that, but keep your pentatonic shapes as the focus and add the extras from there. With that in mind, here are the 5 pentatonic shapes in E minor. If you don’t know these, this is your first job!

So our first lick uses the box 1 shape on the 12th fret, and utilises some incredible subtlety to make it work. Note how we use dynamics to bring the lick to life, as well as subtle ¼ bends to get the most out of, what is essentially, 3 notes. This is Bonamassa all over, and just goes to show how much you can get from so little.

Lesson 2: Lick 2

For lick 2 we utilise the blues scale notes, as well as the 2nd shape of the pentatonic. It’s a really cool, and very common way, to jump between the two shapes and uses some cool grace note sliding to move between the shapes. It’s much like a lot of Bonamassa’s blues playing - Heavily influenced by the great electric blues players, but with his own, perfect little twist!

Lesson 3: Lick 3

For lesson 3 we continue to our next lick, which is again short but very sweet! Our favourite part of this lick is the super cool trail off that Dion plays at the end of the lick. This little flurry of notes is essentially a way to end a phrase, instead of the classic “land on the root, 3rd or 5th note”. It’s a popular technique in blues especially, and you simply throw your fingers down the notes as quickly as you can. Once again, Dion explains in great detail during the video!

The first “out” note.

This lick also sees the introduction of a note not within the pentatonic or blues scale we have been using. It is the 14th fret on the B string, and we could consider this a number of things. First up, you could say it is a note from the E Dorian scale, which is a well used scale for Joe Bonamassa, and gives a slightly darker sound. However, the way Dion really thinks of it is that the note targets the major 3rd of the A chord, which we have just shifted to in the backing track. Up to that point it’s been all E7, so now with the introduction of the A7 chord, we can start to target those chord tones. practice, this lick is therefore great to use over the 4 chord in any 12 bar blues. Well worth knowing!

Lesson 4: Lick 4

It’s now time for “that” lick! The mega lick that you hear Bonamassa doing all the time. The one where you just go “how on earth does he do that?!”. Well, let’s try and break it down.

Important There is no fast tracking the speed here. You simply have to put in the time and repetition and you’ll see results.

In terms of the notes, we are using the E minor pentatonic combined with the E Dorian scale. Once again, you could think in so many ways here, about those “out” notes from the pentatonic, but this seems to be the most simple, and most practical when it comes to using the lick by yourself. We are using the E minor pentatonic shapes 1 - 5 as framework, and then utilising the two Dorian shapes below:

At one point within the solo, it also looks as though Dion breaks into pentatonic box 1 in B minor, which he sort of does, but these notes still fit neatly into the above scales. It’s a cool trick none-the-less!

Lesson 5: Lick 4 & 5

Now we have the notes down, lets talk technique and rhythm. Dion walks you through the exact way he picks this lick in the lesson, and it does get a little complicated. The main thing to remember here is that you should go with what feels comfortable to you as you are practicing. We know that Bonamassa may well choose to pick most of these notes, whereas Dion preferred a more legato based approach. You may prefer to hybrid pick it, alternate pick the lot, or use a combination of all of those ideas. Whatever it is, the key is that you slow it down and really gradually drill it into your fingers. There is no shortcut when developing speed like this.

Lesson 6: Application

As this is a more advanced course, we will assume you understand how to take a lick, change the key, and try to add it to your playing. If you’re unsure about that, we have plenty of great intermediate courses talking about it in depth. Just get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction! For now, Dion wants to discuss the quintuplet lick, and how to get that into your playing.

“this lick is a real statement”

Dion skillfully walks you through how to get this into your day-to-day playing, by adding it to box 1 and box 5 of the pentatonic scale. He also shows you how to break it up into smaller segments, which really helps get it more casually into your playing. However, if you are going to play the whole sequence, it is a real statement, and just sounds epic every time! It’s great fun to use and will add some serious fire to your playing!

Materials: Interactive Tab & Backing Tracks

Below are the materials for this group of lessons. Click on the tab icon to open our super cool interactive tab player (this will allow you to slow down the tab and play along with the video). Alternatively, jump straight in with the backing tracks below. Good luck!


Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Talkin' Tenths

In our second unit we have another Bonamassa style solo for you, but this time we dial in on the Eric Johnson influenced licks that Bonamassa has absorbed so beautifully into his playing, in particular using 10ths.