Learn an Albert King Blues Lick

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Albert King and His Influence on Blues Guitarists

albert king
David Redfern | Getty Images

 Albert King is possibly the most influential of the modern-era blues guitarists. The musician's guitar playing has become entrenched in the modern tradition of blues guitar, largely through the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughan regularly borrowed directly from King's arsenal of guitar riffs. Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn't the only one, though - an entire generation of blues guitarists still consider King to be the ultimate modern blues musician.

Albert King approached the guitar in a dramatically different way than many of his blues guitarist peers, however. For one, King was left-handed, and instead of using a left-handed guitar or restringing a right-handed guitar, he simply flipped a right-handed instrument upside down and played it with the high E string at the top. This made copying his style extremely hard to do, as his bends were all "backwards" (he'd often "push" strings while bending where guitarists playing in a traditional manner would "pull" the strings).

Having said that, there are a couple classic examples of the Albert King sound we can explore further.

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Learn an Albert King Blues Lick

albert king riff

 (If you're having trouble reading this, check out learning to read guitar tab).

The illustration above is a very short fragment of an Albert King solo on a 12-bar blues in G. The clip is taken from the first few bars in the guitarist's solo.

While it would be impossible in this brief article to give a thorough analysis of Albert King's style, the above clip should provide you with a bit of insight. Although Albert tried his best to keep his unorthodox method of tuning his guitar a secret, it is believed that he used open Eminor tuning (C-B-E-G-B-E) and/or a slight variation on an open F tuning (C-F-C-F-A-D). Without tuning our guitar in that particular manner, however, we can still emulate the Albert King style. 

Albert tended to play off of the root of the chord, much like B.B. King. Try this by playing these roots on the 3rd or 2nd string, as opposed to playing off the 1st or 6th string roots like many guitarists. Albert plays the chord roots with your third finger (instead of the first like B.B.), which puts his hand in an altogether different position, and gives him a different sounding vibrato. This, in turn, opens up different riff possibilities. 

Pay attention, when playing the above riff, to concentrate on "milking" the vibrato the way Albert does. Make sure your bends sound convincing and aggressive; not weak. Remember, attitude is everything! 

For some more insight into the playing of Albert King, check out this YouTube video from Active Melody.