BB King has been playing blues for years, so suffice to say he know’s his craft dsrawkcab (backwards).
His playing is quite unique, he has a distinct vibrato and plays with what I would describe as a nice rounded soft warm tone. He is a master of note selection and placement – he may not play many notes, but he plays the right ones in the right place. If you listen to U2’s “When Love Comes To Town”, he plays a 5 note phrase 43 seconds in consisting of three notes, which in my opinion, make the entire song.
He plays a Gibson 355 guitar and typically uses Fender Twin amplification. I use a Fender strat with a Fender amp. I find using either the neck or middle pickup with the tone down part way is the nearest approximation to his sound I can get.
Obviously, there’s more to it than this, but if you are looking to develop a style based around BB King that’s simple to use and uses the notes that the man himself uses, you should take time to familiarise yourself with the box below.
This selection of notes will do it for you – use plenty of vibrato and bend the notes up and down to hit other notes too – this example is for the key of A. The box is completely moveable, so if you were wanting to play in G, you’d move it down from the 9th fret to the 7th fret.
Here’s a twelve bar blues solo that’s written in the style of BB King – click for a full size version that you can follow.
Below are two audio tracks – one of just me playing the licks, the other is with a backing track.
This audio file is just me playing the licks:
This audio file is me with a backing track:
Try and learn the solo and play along !
The transcription is taken from issue 196 of Guitar Techniques (October 2011). http://www.musicradar.com/guitartechniques