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Dead Thumb

Josh Graves (2401) · [archive]
Style: Blues · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 80
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The point of this lesson is not so much for you to memorize the licks that I demonstrate, but to use those licks to establish the technique you'll need to be able to improvise while your thumb is playing quarter notes on the open bass strings. This requires separation of thumb and fingers. It also takes a fair amount of practice and patience. Some of the licks in this lesson may seem difficult at first, but I improvised the entire thing without practice or even very much thought. This should be your goal. It is incredibly fun to jam through twelve bar blues, but it can also be quite impressive when you are taking on the bass and solo duties all by yourself. Listen to some Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson to get the vibe I'm talking about. Their licks were not very sophisticated or technically difficult, but damn were they bluesy.

Blues is not a theory oriented style of music, it's geared towards emotion. You're not trying to play "outside" the scale, you're trying to get the most from the scale. If you feel sad then let your guitar weep for you, if you're happy then let it laugh. Pay close attention to the subtle aspects of playing the acoustic guitar (this technique is meant for the acoustic, although it can be practiced on an electric if it's all you've got), like the dynamics and vibrato. Pay attention to the way you pluck the strings, and that there are ways to get different types of tones from your fingertips. Pluck hard if you're mad, but pluck softly if you really want to be heard, that way the listener has to tune all the way in. You're in complete control of every sound that comes out of your instrument.