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MESSAGE FROM GOD


Eric Clapton in the Sixties

By andy aledort FIGURE 1a G minor pentatonic, FIGURE 1b Slow blues q = 126


third position G1 1 1 1 1/2
1/2

F
or most of the past five de- 3 6

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cades, British guitarist Eric Clap- 3 5
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ton has been at the forefront of 6
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blues/rock guitar playing. Though he has
incorporated many different stylistic ele-
ments into his music during his long and FIGURE 1c G minor pentatonic, extended position FIGURE 2
very successful career, Claptons legacy G7

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was forged long ago on his brilliance as 6 8 6
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a virtuoso soloist, and he will long be re- 3 5 5 5 5 3 5 3
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membered as one of the most important 1 3 3 3
and influential guitarists ever. 3 3
This month well examine that magical

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period from 1966 to 1968, when Clapton
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established the standard for modern blues 3 5 7 7 7 5 3 3
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and rock guitar with his incendiary work
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with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers and
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Creamback when he was commonly 3 3 5 3 3 3 3


referred to by the modest nickname God. FIGURE 3a G minor pentatonic, 10th position FIGURE 3b

Though Clapton initially gained 1/2 1 1/2 1/4



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recognition with the Yardbirds, with

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whom he played from October 1963 10 12
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through March of 1965, his work with 10 13
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the Bluesbreakers established him as
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one of the best guitarists of the day. His *repeat previous beat
inspired performance on the 1966 classic
Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton is also 11 1013
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1/2

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noteworthy for introducing a mind- 1012 12 12 12 12
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blowing guitar sound. Armed with his
1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard, plugged
into a 45-watt model 1962 Marshall 2x12 3 3 3 3 3

combo amplifier, Clapton forged a thick, FIGURE 4 G minor pentatonic, extended position FIGURE 5a G minor pentatonic, 12th/13th position
overdriven sound with tremendous
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sustain. He routinely turned the amp full

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10 12 12 15
up, as he liked to say, till it was about to 8 10 12 12 15
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burst. In those days Clapton used light- 10 15
gauge Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings FIGURE 5b
(.009.042). G7
Lets first look at the scales Clapton 1 1/2

1
1/2
relies on primarily for soloing. Following 12

12 15 12 12 12 15 15 15 12 12 12 15 12 12 12 12 12 15 15 15 12 15 12
the lead of two of his greatest influences 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
B.B. King and Buddy GuyClapton often
alternated between minor and major 3 3
pentatonic scales in his solos. FIGURE 1a
FIGURE 6a G minor pentatonic, 15th position FIGURE 6b G minor pentatonic, extended position
illustrates one of the most commonly used
scale positions for G minor pentatonic (B 15 18 18 20 22

15 18 13 15
15 18 18 20
Bf C D F). FIGURE 1b shows a signature 15 17
15 17
15 17
15 17 19
Clapton lick based on this scale in this 15 17 13 15 17
position: it begins with a repeated unison
bend type lick, as C is bent up one whole FIGURE 7a G minor pentatonic FIGURE 7b G minor pentatonic, extended position
step to D on the G string, followed by a
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fretted D on the B string. The phrase ends


3 5 8 10 12
0 2 4 7 9
with hammer-ons and pull-offs played in 0 2 5 7 9
0 2 5 7
16th notes, ending with a pair of minor 3 3 5 7
thirds, Bf, which are bent up one half step
FIGURE 7c

to the major third, B. Subtle use of minor- 1/2
1 1

third-to-major-third bends is a standard G

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stylistic element of Claptons soloing.


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FIGURE 1c illustrates an extended
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5 5 7 9 9
3 5 7
90 gu i ta r wor l d

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10 12 10
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8 10 12 12 12 1210 8 9
10 8
9 7
9 7 5 7 5 5 7 5 7 5

7 7 5 7 7
FIGURE 7c
1
1/2
1

G

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8 10 10 10
7 9 7 7 9 7 8 9
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7 9 9 9 9 7 5
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7
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5 5 7 9 9

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10 12 10

position of G minor pentatonic, and 8 8 10 12 12 12 1210 8 10 8
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FIGURE 2 offers an example of how 9 7 5
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Clapton moves smoothly between

=
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fretboard positions in the creation of


improvised melodic phrases. FIGURE
FIGURE 8 G major pentatonic, extended position FIGURE 9 Fast shuffle q = 184 Triplet feel
3a shows a fingering for the scale in 10th
position, followed in FIGURE 3b with
G7
let ring 1/2
Clapton-esque phrases that utilize this 15 17 19

7 7 7
5

10
15 17
fretboard pattern. 12 14
12 14 16 5 7 7 5 5 7 3
5 3


10 12 14 5 3 1 3
Additional scale fingerings for G 12 3
minor pentatonic are shown in FIGURES
4, 5a, 6a and 6b. FIGURE 5b offers an C7 G7
example of how Clapton might use the 1/4 1 1/2 1/4


scale position shown in FIGURE 5a in his
improvised solos. 5 5 3 5 3 3 5 3

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As mentioned, Clapton often

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3 3 1 3 3 1
alternates between minor and major 3
pentatonic scales in his solos. FIGURES

D7 C7 G7 G7

7a and 7b illustrate two standard scale 1/2
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1/2 1/2 1/2 1/4
positions for G major pentatonic (G A B

3 3 6
3 3 6 3 8 6 5
D E). In studying both minor and major 3 5 3 3 5 3 3 4 5 5 3 5 3 3 4
5 5 5 3 5 5 5 5

pentatonic, remember that the intervallic
structure of minor pentatonic is 1 f3 4 5
f7 (in G: G Bf C D F), and the intervallic


structure of major pentatonic is 1 2 3 5 6

FIGURE 10a
1

(in G: G A B D E). FIGURE 7c illustrates G7

solo phrases that are based on the 3 3 6 3 3 3 6 3 3


6 6 6
extended position of G major pentatonic
and played in Claptons style.
Our look at scales wraps up with

3 3 3
FIGURE 8, which illustrates G major
FIGURE 10b

pentatonic in an extended pattern that 1/2 1/2
G7


starts at the 10th fret and ends at the 19th,


making it very useful for inventive solo 3 3 6 3 3
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explorations.
One of Claptons best-known Blues-
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breakers tracks is the instrumental Step-
pin Out. FIGURE 9 is a solo played over FIGURE 11 q = 126
a Steppin Outstyle backing track, A7 D7 A7
which is simply a fast 12-bar blues shuffle

let ring
1 1/2
in the key of G. I begin with sixthspairs 1 1 1 1
of notes that are six scale degrees apart
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on the third and first strings, and for the 19 19 19 19 17
rest of the 12-bar form I stick between
first and third positions, using finger
slides to connect the scale positions.
Along with subtle bends, I also blur the 1 1/2
D7
let ring
line between minor and major by quickly
hammering from the minor third to the 19 19 17 19 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17
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major third, as shown in bars 10 and 12.
An effective stylistic device of
Claptons is to use quick hammer-
A7

pulls on adjacent strings. FIGURE 10a 1/2 1/2 1/2
demonstrates this technique on the top
two strings, and FIGURE 10b moves the 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 19 17 17 19 17
17 17 17 19 19 19 17 19 19 19 19 17
idea over to the B and G strings. 17 19
Lets wrap up with a nod to Claptons
classic 1968 Cream-era Crossroads
solo, as shown in FIGURE 11. Cross-
roads is a 12-bar blues in A, and this solo E7 D7
is based on A minor pentatonic (A C D 1 1 1
1 1/2


E G). Rooted in 17th position, this solo 19
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demonstrates how much mileage one can 19 19 19
get from a single scale position.
Eric Claptons Bluesbreakers/Cream 3
era guitar work offers many valuable
lessons that cover all of the ingredients A7 E7 A7
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essential to blues-rock soloing: touch,

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tone, phrasing, musicality and inspira-

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tion. Like all great things, these record- 19 17 19 17 19 19
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ings sound better with age. 17 17

92 gu i ta r wor l d