Mastering the Pentatonic Article 3 – BB King 6th and the BB Box
The Pentatonic Scale is the holy grail for guitarists. It’s easy to play and it sounds amazing.
This series will show you how to get the most out of our favourite scale, and how making small modifications will get you sounding like the pros and their signature sound.
In this article we will look at BB King’s unique note choice when soloing, and articulation techniques synonymous with the blues legend. Below is the A minor pentatonic scale.
Here are the notes and intervals of the scale:
A(root) C(m3) D(4) E(5) G(m7)
BB King 6th and the BB Box
BB played these notes to great effect. But he also added different ones and incorporated them into an incredibly user-friendly “box” to solo over dominant blues progressions. It’s called the “BB Box” (see below).
On the B & E strings, you can see familiar Minor Pentatonic notes (plus the 2nd). What gives this box the specific BB “flavour” is the use of the 6th on the G string, a note not found in the Minor Pentatonic. This box is also very versatile as you can play the Major 3rd as well with just a small half bend on fret 13. The blue note (b5) can also be added in between fret 10 and 12 on the E string.
This box will give you a brand new set of licks, as this formation of notes isn’t found in your usual pentatonic shapes.
On the right is a BB styled lick using the “BB Box” in A.
BB had his own way of bending notes and using vibrato. His vibrato is incredibly fast and achieved by almost hanging your whole hand off the neck. BB would also make these huge leaps up to the tonic note of the key. These ideas are demonstrated below.
These ideas can also be seen in the opening lick of “Lucille”.
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TRUCKS TEDESCHI BAND
Live at Indigo2, 7 Nov 2015
Last night was exciting well before anyone walked onstage: three guitar amps, three mics for backing vocals and three for the wind section, full analogue keys corner (with a traverse flute hidden underneath), bass and TWO full drum kits welcomed us as we walked in to the Indigo2.
The venue was perfect for the night, brand new in every practical way (space-age sound desk, perfect lighting and contactless payment at the bar) but legitimately “old school” in spirit with equally priced floor tickets only differentiated by how keen the holders were to push to the front and how little deodorant they chose to wear; we got to the third row but still used binoculars to get full fretboard-level detail.
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedesch
We could spend all night debating who was the best musician in the band but, while all are virtuosos in their own right, each of them had plenty of space to perform (and wail), not an easy task with twelve musicians of that skill on stage. The sax solos did stand out though (particularly as I am not a fan of wind instruments) and were like nothing I’ve heard in terms of dynamic range, note choice and tone which ranged from a raspy early bluesman close to losing his voice to an electric violin played through David Gilmour’s guitar pedal board, but better.
Derek Trucks was transcendent while retaining the rawness you might expect from a 1970’s Allmans Brothers show. His rig, like his stage presence, was as stripped down as it gets with a single 60’s Gibson SG in open tuning played fingerstyle throughout the whole show, its volume knob the only effect. His solos soared and reminded me of early Clapton but as he was just as happy supporting the band with grooving rhythm for most of the show with his wife Susan who also took a few blistering solos.
The setlist ranged from the bands’ rocking blues opening numbers to the beautiful ballad “Midnight in Harlem” to a “Stax” flavoured second half (it was a proper gig with a break in the middle long enough for a beer and walk outside the venue). The covers included some BB King (Rock Me Baby) and Hendrix (Third Stone from The Sun) but this was miles away from a nostalgia show, the musicianship was as good and as informed about the past as it gets, while pushing the envelope in the most satisfying way for the audience.
I’m glad I was there, this was a show that I will remember for a long time, not just to say that I was there but because it proves that, while we can still worship heroes of the past and wish we had seen Hendrix at Woodstock, there is music out there that is just as good, edgy and innovative yet steeped in tradition, and fun to listen to – today!
Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time (previously ranked No. 3 in the 2003 edition of the same list), and he was ranked No. 17 in Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. According to Edward M. Komara, King “introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed.” King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, because of this he is often nicknamed ‘The King of Blues’.BB also has an powerful soulful singing voice that has proved a powerful foil for his beautiful guitar playing.
B.B. King wrote a song called “Lucille” where he talks about his guitar and how it got that name. The song was first released as part of Lucille and it is included on the B. B. King Anthology 1962–1998 album.
“It seems that it loves to be petted and played with. There’s also a certain way you hold it, the certain noises it makes, the way it excites me … and Lucille don’t want to play anything but the blues … Lucille is real, when I play her it’s almost like hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries.” — B.B. King, liner notes from the album, Lucille, 1968
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