by Adam Levy

This guitar lesson is a preview of what’s to come in Adam Levy‘s 50 Low-Down Rhythm Licks. Stay tuned for more to come and an announcement of the full course soon. Be sure to subscribe to stay tuned!

Rolling Stone magazine rated Steve Cropper as #36 on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists. For my own personal list of all-time guitar greats, I’d rate Cropper as #2 or #3. The first time I heard him was probably on Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” or Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” (later covered by the Blues Brothers, with Cropper reprising his role). His Telecaster tones on these classic 1960s soul records were always a little gritty and very much to the point—with no effects other than the occasional thrum of amp tremolo. Everything Cropper plays grooves from the first note to the last, and he never ever gets in the way of the singer.

The rhythm lick in this lesson comes from the verse sections of Sam & Dave’s 1967 hit, “Soul Man.” It’s essentially a one-chord vamp on G major. Instead of playing a full six-note barre chord, Cropper played a stream-lined four-note version, ducking the guitar out of the way of the song’s busy bass line. He answers each short vocal line with a higher G shape (comprising only three notes this time), then uses an A minor triad as a quick passing chord on his way back to the original G shape. Ingenious, and hooky as heck.

Video Guitar Lesson

Adam LevyA longtime friend of the ‘Fire, Adam Levy has been unlocking the guitar for students of all levels and varied interests for decades. His teaching experience comprises several years with the National Guitar Workshop, the Blue Bear School in San Francisco, and private lessons for New School in New York City. He is also a talented artist and songwriter, having worked with Norah Jones, Amos Lee, and Tracy Chapman. Be sure to check out Adam’s official website, his insightful blog, and his latest album, The Heart Collector.