Some of the best rhythm players are actually the legendary blues-rock guitarists you know and love. Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Keith Richards are excellent examples, to name a few. To become a well-rounded guitarist, you need to be able to straddle rhythm and lead playing. So, we can execute this by using fills that follow the changes.
In his course, Breakthrough Blues-Rock Rhythm Fills, Jeff McErlain delivers ‘breakthrough’ techniques for taking your rhythm skills to the next level.
Here are seven video blues rock guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Jeff McErlain’s Breakthrough Blues-Rock Rhythm Fills on TrueFire!
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Thumb’s Up – Overview
In this one, we’re going to take a look at the Jimi Hendrix style version of the Howlin’ Wolf classic “Killing Floor”. It’s cool that the tonality is fairly ambiguous as it rides the line between major and minor. This is indicative of the blues. Now, we’re going to put our thumb over the top of the neck. This is something Hendrix did quite a bit to sound a low string. It’s a little tricky and definitely requires some work. Many people think they can’t do it because they think their hands are too small, but I’m here to tell you otherwise you just need to figure out how to position your hand in a way that works for you.
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Thumb’s Up – Performance
What I’ve basically given you is a somewhat simplified version of what Jimi Hendrix played at the Monterey Pop Festival on the song “Killing Floor”. If you’re not familiar with this fantastic performance, stop everything and check it out! Hendrix had everything – he was a total package guitar hero, singer, fashion icon, songwriter, rockstar. So when I approach a song like this, I try to the best of my ability to channel what I can of this energy. The song will not sound right if you play it timidly; the technique demands that you really dig in and commit. Loud and wrong is better on this one then quiet and correct. If it’s sloppy, who cares! Just to go for it and let the chips fall where they may.
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Thumb’s Up – Breakdown
The thumb over the top technique is extremely important to get down for any rock guitar player. Remember we’re mainly just using it on the low E string, so no need to panic about fretting anything on the fifth string with your thumb. As I said before, check out videos of Hendrix playing and you can see that he does this quite a bit. He’s not alone – practically every guitar player I know uses his thumb over the top of the neck as it really facilitates songs specifically like this one. The key thing here is to experiment with what feels right for your body type to comfortably get your thumb over-the-top of the neck. We’re all built a little differently, so what works for me may not work exactly for you. I kind of envision my hand position equivalent to one that you take turning a doorknob or holding a baseball.
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Mary’s Wind – Overview
In this performance study, we’re going to take a look at something similar to what Hendrix plays on “The Wind Cries Mary”. Now, I highly recommend that you learn the original version of this song and the guitar solo! The guitar solo uses many of the ideas we’re using here. But, it also shows us the versatility of this information. “The Wind Cries Mary” is also excellent to learn as it’s not all that difficult. Also, it’s a great starting point to get into the Hendrix style of rhythm guitar playing.
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Mary’s Wind – Performance
As you may have noticed, my guitar tone is very clean. Too much overdrive distortion with this kind of approach where we’re playing lots of thirds, seconds and fourths can get really messy with too much gain. By sticking into a cleaner tone the harmony is much more pleasing. The reason for this is the harmonic overtone series that the guitar produces. When we add distortion, the harmonics tend to jump out a lot more and can create a certain rub that can be kind of ugly actually. A nice general rule that I adhere to as I’ve gotten older is try to use as clean a guitar tone as you possibly can. When I was younger, I was much more inclined to use more overdrive. Now my guitar tone, especially when I practice, is very clean.
Blues Rock Guitar Lesson – Mary’s Wind – Breakdown
Let’s talk about Hendrix little bit. Although this course is not specifically a Jimi Hendrix course, I’ve referenced him quite a bit as you’ve noticed. Much of what we’re doing here is attributed to him for good reason. We all know him as a spectacular lead guitar player, one of the best ever. But, his rhythm guitar playing is actually informed my guitar playing more than his solo playing. Ultimately, it’s much more useful in every style than his approach to soloing. Meaning, it’s really easy to steal some of his ideas and plug them into almost any genre of music then it is to emulate his soloing on something like a country tune!
Digging these free blues rock guitar lessons? Check out Jeff McErlain’s full course, Breakthrough Blues-Rock Rhythm Fills.