B.B. King (Riley B. King), American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, was ranked one of the top greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone. He introduced a seasoned soloing style with fluid string bending and bright vibrato, which influenced many later electric blues guitarists. An inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, King is known as one of the most influential blues musicians, garnering “The King of the Blues” nickname. He appeared at more than 200 concerts a year.
Guitar: Gibson Es 355 “Lucille”
How Lucille got her name:
Amp: Lab Series L5 2×12
Picks: D’Andrea 351 MD SHL CX (Medium 0.71mm, Tortoise Shell, Celluloid) Picks
Effects: B.B. King doesn’t use any effects. His distortion and overdrive comes from having a tube amp pushed to its limits.
Show your students the basic 12 bar blues form. Have them play along and essentially be B.B. King’s rhythm guitar player. The blues is taught in Lesson 21 of our Beginning Guitar Complete course. There is also a layered learning section with more advanced 7th chords for the blues progression.
King’s tunes have a vast variety from quite simple to advanced. You could do a very basic blues tune:
or a more complicated blues:
Rhythm guitar is great to teach a beginner student because you can teach them to master more basic comping patterns.
B.B. King’s playing is often simple. Using his tunes is a great introduction into lead guitar and improvisation. King was a master, not only of the major pentatonic scale, but also the minor pentatonic scale. He is a great artist to draw licks from when teaching those scales to students. You can create a more unique and interesting way to teach, and for students to learn those scales. The major pentatonic scale is taught in the Intermediate Guitar – Level 2 course in Lesson 18 and the minor pentatonic scale is taught in the Beginning Guitar Complete course in Lesson 31 and in the Intermediate Guitar – Level 1 course in Lesson 20.
On paper, B.B. King’s playing is very simplistic. But to nail the King’s phrasing takes dedicated practice and listening. For your advanced students, emulating King’s vibrato is a great challenging exercise. Give them a transcribed B.B. King solo and ask them to strive for King’s vibrato, phrasing and bending.
Here are a few B.B. King licks to get you started. Have fun!