Joe Bonamassa Best Blues Licks – Guitar Tabs

Article from the magazine “GUITARIST” – ISSUE 384

Want to cop Joe’s best blues licks? Who better to teach you how to play them right than the man himself?

After we chatted with Joe about his forthcoming album, he talked us through some of the go-to licks that define his hot, high- energy style of blues guitar. He didn’t have any of his touring electrics with him, but a gorgeous Gibson Collector’s Choice ’57 Goldtop Les Paul, kindly provided by Peach Guitars in Essex, saved the day. It sounded stunning through the Lazy J combo we borrowed from John Henry’s for the occasion. Also joining the fun was Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake, who brought some of his stunning collection of vintage guitars along, too. Talk about choice! Once Joe was plugged in and warmed up, he explained some of his best blues moves for us, lick by lick. We’ve transcribed those lessons below for you to learn, and you can follow every note of each lesson with the accompanying video. Hopefully, they’ll help you explore some Different Shades Of Blue…

Epic Double Stop Bend

THIS IS a great way to start a blues if you’re with your jamming buddies, and maybe they say, ‘Hey, you kick it off’. Try this little lick out for size – it’s great for starting a blues because you get these ominous kinds of half-bends within the chord. It’s a lot of fun if you can get your hands trained to anticipate the changes and bend down. And the real trick with that is making sure that the intonation’s right because if you don’t get that right it just sounds like you’re making a lot of mistakes!”

Exercise. 1a

JOE DEMONSTRATES a cool way of adding thickness to bluesy double stops by using a wider interval. The minor 3rd (top note) is pushed up to the major 3rd, creating a partial major chord, and the rest of the lick uses a G blues scale (G Bb C Db D F). This would work well on the last four bars of a 12-bar blues.

Exercise. 1b

IN THIS example, Joe applies the same double stop technique to all three chords from the I-IV-V progression. Also, note the Eb chord leading down into the D at the end and the Ab chord at the start… the neighbouring chromatic chord is used for temporary tension.

Cascading Blues Licks

ONE OF the most commonly asked questions is how you get from point A to point B when you’re soloing, such as when you’re starting high [among the upper frets] and you want to go lower down on the fretboard. So I think about the fretboard in terms of blocks. So if you want to do a cascading lick down the neck, you pull [blocks of notes] from every one of these areas. That also helps you in mid-solo to just look down and then if you’re in danger of getting stuck [for where to go next], you can kind of right the ship once it starts listing.”

Exercise. 2a

THIS LESSON is about the importance of learning notes all over the fretboard, so you’re not restricted to single-box positions. Joe plays some descending E minor pentatonic lines in various positions, sneaking in a C# note from the Dorian mode (E F# G A B C# D) in bar four.

Exercise. 2b

ANOTHER DORIAN note (F#) creeps in here and adds melodic interest. This is the simplest form of what Joe is demonstrating here, but don’t just play complete descending scales in your own solos; there’s a whole lot more you can do besides…

Exercise. 2c

FOR A start, you can add little ‘kinks’ in the melodic contour, so the notes don’t just go straight down or up. If you’re a feel player, this might seem a deliberate, studied way of working, but the more ideas you feed into your brain during practice sessions, the more variety you can call on when you’re really playing.

Exercise. 2d

NOW JOE opens up, adding more position shifts and those ‘kinks’ within each melodic contour. You might not think that a single position shift would do much to your playing, but just applying comfortable patterns to a different part of a scale can create melodies you wouldn’t normally play.

Super-Heavy Chord Inversions

I USE a lot of these low chord inversions that make it sound almost as if the guitar’s tuned down. I’m not a fan of tuning the guitar down, because the guitar sounds brighter, more powerful and heavier in A440. Natural E, natural A. These days, guitars get tuned down not only to D but down to B and A, and I’ve even heard of people tuning down to F#. So, in that case, you either have a baritone octave guitar, or you have a bass! So, how do you get the heaviness without having to tune your guitar down? Well, try this. It’s nice to throw this kind of lick in during the course of a blues or something up-tempo.”

Exercise. 3a

IN THIS lesson, Joe shows how a knowledge of chord inversions can help you get thick, meaty sounds, even when the current chord’s root note isn’t particularly low on the guitar. When the chord moves from G to C (bar 3), he plays a 2nd inversion C chord (with G, the 5th, at the bottom), keeping things low and pungent!

Exercise. 3b

HERE, JOE isolates the I-V-IV chords, using chromatic neighbouring chords to lead into each one.

Exercise. 3c

NOW JOE uses the inverted chords within the context of a full 12-bar progression in G. As well as using the inversions to mark the main chord changes, he’s using them to create nice chromatic double stop lines.

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Video Transcription

“Here’s what I got for you today kids. Some fun little blues tricks I’ve been getting into this riff very simple from the key of E or it’s more fun in the key of G. Actually sounds more proper British to me. So you bend this. Just B flat up so you make the major third. Then you move it up. So a great way to start a blues, If you really want to have some fun with your blues jamming buddies. Hey, you kick it off. You try this little guitar lick on for size and you end up going to the five and then it comes back around. So watch.
And it’s a fun little trick it’s a great way to start a blues because you kind of get this like ominous sound at the beginning with this little kind of half bends within the chord.
So it’s a lot of fun, you know, if you can kind of get your hands trained to anticipate the changes and then bend down and the real trick with that is making sure the intonation is right because if you don’t get the intonation quite right it just sounds like, you’re kind of making a lot of mistakes at once so it’s a fun way to get people’s attention in both positive and negative way. Okay, one of the most commonly asked questions is how do you get from point A to point B so if you’re starting high you want to go low. We’re in the key of E by the way. So I think about all these frets as blocks so if you’re in the key of E pentatonic.
So if you want to do a cascading riff all the way down the neck you pull from the key of E in every one of these little areas I got. That’s an E too. So you start building these. You don’t have to use the whole riff. You can just piecemeal a mat so if you go.
Before you know you get a lot of these little things that makes sense and it also helps you in the mid solo to just with your eyes look down and if you’re starting to get a little bit off the deep end you can kind of write the ship once it starts listing you know. Like in here if I find myself here on the seventh fret
I know that if I find myself on the tenth fret I go all the way up you know by the way the mistakes are free of charge. But that’s you know when you see it in those terms and making little blocks out of the fingerboard it’s really easy to kind of do these long cascading you know riffs down there. That’s something I pretty much ripped off verbatim from a guitar player that we all know and love named Erik Johnson.
Trick number three in my bag of tricks. I use a lot of these low chord low five inversions I just think it sounds almost sounds like the guitar is tuned down. Now as a caveat I’m not a fan of tuning the guitar down I believe the car guitar sounds brighter more powerful heavier, for you kids are in the heavy metal, in a 440. There’s your hey you know but natural E natural A. I think this guitar especially when tuned past the D now they’re getting down to B now they’re getting down to A I’ve even heard them down to F sharp so in that case, you either have a baritone octave guitar or you have a bass. So with that said how do you get the heaviness without having the tune the guitar down so if you’re in the key of G.
Your five if you are in G, your C you know you can play this is F this A flat just those two notes and move it down to half step and that’ll so if your rhythm section play
then if you want to go back up to the one.
and it’s nice to throw them in you know during the course of a blues or something up-tempo
and it’s really something a lot of fun and it again it just sometimes to the listener you even. What is that cord? you know and it’s a lot simpler than it looks but it also just gives the guitar a nice harmonic range that is not normally done with just a standard tuning guitar”

Written by Alex Bonanno