New ‘Slowdown’ And ‘Skip’ Features

Hello everybody,

We hope you’re having a great summer.

I thought I’d write a quick message to let our members know that we’ve added a few new features to our video player, in order to enhance your learning experience at Absolute Blues Guitar.

Firstly, members looking to nail that tricky passage can now slow down playback to half-speed with just one click (see screenshot below).

Secondly, we’ve added a function that allows users to jump forwards or back in increments of 15 seconds. 

Both of these features have been implemented as a result of feedback from our valued members. 

As always, all of our lessons feature full Tab and note-for-note video breakdowns, but we hope these additional functions allow for a truly immersive user experience.  

Thank you, once again, for your continued support.

All the best,

Bobby

Take Your Pick

For the past year, I have been using Hawk Picks exclusively. Rob Edney from Hawk Picks in Manchester UK, makes bespoke, handmade guitar and mandolin picks that are extremely hard-wearing, vastly outlasting regular, plastic picks.

Not only that, but they sound great, tonally. Seriously – Never underestimate the difference a good pick makes to your sound.

Check them out at: https://hawkpicks.co.uk

Bobby Harrison ‘T-Dogs’ Signature Telecaster Pickups

Hi everybody,

Hope you’re having a great week.

I am honoured to announce that my Hot Rod Pickups ‘T-Dogs’ signature Telecaster pickup set will be available to buy very soon from Eternal Guitars & Hot Rod Pickups. 

Dave Walsh at Eternal Guitars (Chichester, UK) hand-wound this pickup set when he built ‘Summer’, my latest custom T-type. 

Summer became my main guitar on this year’s Cliff Richard tour. The set list spanned 7 decades of music, ranging from pop ballads to hard rock, so I had a good chance to put the guitar and pickups through their paces. 

The T-Dog single coil set is such a great, versatile pickup duo that are equally suited to blues, country and rock players.

Switch to the bridge position, roll your guitar’s volume up, crank up the gain on your amp and the single coil has all the output and grit of an overwound P90, almost going into humbucker territory. Roll the volume pot back a few notches and you retain that traditional Tele twang. The middle pickup position sounds punchy and funky; and the neck pickup is smooth and bluesy.

Check out the video demo of the pickups and guitar.

Until next time,

Happy playing!

Bobby

 

 

String Theory

Which guitar strings should I use?

Hi everyone,

I am often asked about guitar strings: What gauge would I recommend? Which brand do I prefer? How often should a set be changed? I figured it was about time I shared some of my observations on what I have come to know about guitar strings during my 30 years as a guitarist.

String Gauge

Ultimately, the gauge of string you use comes down to personal preference, based on factors such as the size and strength of your hands and simply what feels comfortable, especially when it comes to string bends. Your preferred string gauge can (and often will) change as you experiment. Some guitarists settle on their favourite gauge after years of trying different string thicknesses and tensions, while others stick with the same gauge for their entire playing career.

String Brand

When it comes to string brands, your preference will, for the most part, be dictated by your personal experience when trying that particular brand. This, too, is highly subjective. For example, I have had negative experiences with strings by leading brands that some of my peers swear by. While it would be unprofessional of me to mention brand names, there is one leading string brand that I always seem to break more easily than others. Similarly, strings by another popular manufacturer tend to corrode very quickly when in my sweaty paws. You may wish to experiment with the leading brands until you settle on your personal favourite, based on what feels the most durable and long lasting.

Don’t Sweat It

While we’re on the subject of sweaty hands, your skin chemistry is another key factor in the lifespan of a guitar string. The sweatier your hands become when playing, the quicker the string will corrode, rendering it dull-sounding and more prone to breakage. How long a string lasts varies greatly from one player to the next.

A set of strings on a guitar you only use at home will last longer than strings on guitar that you play on stage while perspiring under hot lights. That’s not to say that a brand new string can’t be broken. I have broken new strings mere minutes after changing them. Snapping a brand new string is often just bad a case of luck. However, there is sometimes such a thing as a bad batch of strings, regardless of the reputation of the manufacturer.

Time For Change

So, how often should you change your strings? This depends on how often you play and whether or not you perform live. If you only ever play daily at home, I would suggesting changing your strings every 2 to 4 weeks, or whenever they become noticeably dull or start to break. It is also good practice to keep a small supply of individual high E strings, if your guitar store sells them separately. The high E is the thinnest string and therefore the most prone to breakage.

The older and dirtier the string becomes, the more likely it is to snap. This is why many touring guitar players change their strings before every show. Of course, this gets expensive, but much like petrol, picks and stage clothing, strings are a necessary, regular expense for the gigging guitarist and there are few more embarrassing live experiences than that moment you snap a string mid song. Rest assured, this will happen and it’s okay. Along with death and taxes, string breakage is one of the few certainties in the life of a guitarist. When it happens to you, try to laugh it off. It’s a known casualty of rock ‘n’ roll and your audience and bandmates will forgive you.

Along with death and taxes, string breakage is one of the few certainties in the life of a guitarist

Wear And Tear

What you do to a string also plays an important role in its lifespan. Over-bending, or sometimes simply repeatedly bending the same string on the same fret will gradually bring it closer to breakage, as will an overly aggressive strumming or picking technique. When we perform live in our adrenaline-pumped states, we unconsciously tend to play heavier, sometimes losing our sense of dynamics completely. Of course, a heavy-handed attack can be exciting for our audience (check out some of the live footage of Steve Ray Vaughan on YouTube). Just be aware that all 6 of your strings may not make it through the show.

Many string manufacturers now produce coated strings. These can be more expensive than a regular set, but the thin layer of protective coating makes the string less prone to rust, debris and dirt and therefore allows it to last longer. In my opinion, the champion of the coated string, above and beyond the leading competitors has always been Elixir. The strings that I use exclusively on all of my electric guitars are Elixir Nanoweb, gauge 10-52.

Personal Favourites

I feel honoured to have recently become an endorser of Elixir strings. However, I have been using their strings for many years, regularly singing their praises to anybody within earshot. In fact, even before I joined Elixir’s artist programme, I used their Nanoweb strings for the filming of this site’s entire launch content, re-stringing every guitar with a fresh set.

Amazingly, each set lasted the entire duration of the filming. The studio lights were hot and I played all day, every day for several weeks, only ever breaking one string (which may have been captured on camera). That’s testament to how long these strings can last.

Of course, the string brand you choose should always come down to personal preference, but I cannot recommend Elixir strings highly enough. They really are super long-lasting and they feel great to play on both electric and acoustic guitars. Even if you’re not a fan of the slightly smoother-than-usual coating, Elixir now offers the fantastic Optiweb strings as an alternative. While still coated, Optiweb strings retain the feel of a regular, uncoated set of strings.

I have tried all of the popular brand’s coated strings. A couple of years ago, one leading brand’s expensive coated set actually corroded within 45 minutes of me putting them on my Gibson SG. That is in no way an exaggeration. It was a hot day and of course, they may have lasted longer in the hands of another guitarist, but in my mitts, they had a shorter lifespan than a regular, uncoated set.

In stark contrast, around the same time, I put a set of Elixir Nanoweb strings on a Les Paul that I now only play at home. That very same set of strings is almost as good as new at the time of writing this blog. That’s right…one set of Elixir strings has lasted two years and counting!

Personal Preference

Since everybody’s hands are very different, recommending the ideal string gauge is an impossible task. For the past 25 years, I have been using gauge 10-52. However, this is simply a preference that I settled on after a few years of experimentation.

Gauge 10-52 consists of a fairly regular trio of top strings, followed by a relatively thick D, A and low E. A regular set of “10s” is rated at gauge 10-46, but I prefer the fat tone of a thicker low E string. However, I still want to bend the higher strings without my putting too much strain on my fingers. This hybrid gauge may not be right for everybody and I know many guitarists who get a huge sound from gauge 9-42 or even 8-38 strings. Billy Gibbons is rumoured to use gauge 7-38 strings these days and we all know how big he can make his guitars sound!

When I was a beginner player, I used gauge 9-42 strings for a couple of years before graduating to 10-46 and finally settling on 10-52. A couple of years ago, while I was on tour and suffering from a mild wrist injury, I tried switching down to a hybrid gauge of 9-46 for a couple of days before settling back into my regular gauge. The sudden change felt alien to me, throwing me out of my comfort zone, so back I went, once again, to my preferred gauge.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the string gauge and brand you choose doesn’t have to be the one you settle on. Though not always cheap, a set of guitar strings is a far smaller investment than a guitar or an amp, so it’s okay to experiment and change things up as often as you like. As your playing develops and you begin to settle into your own style, you will naturally develop an instinct for choosing the gear that’s right for the sound you want to make.

Until next time, happy playing!

Cheers,

Bobby

Free 40 Minute Blues Guitar Lesson With Tab

Hi everybody, 

We’ve uploaded an exclusive lesson to our YouTube channel. 

“15 Essential Blues Guitar Licks” is a 100% FREE, in depth blues guitar lesson with on-screen tab. In this tutorial, we will learn 15 licks in the context of a 12 bar blues solo over a shuffle groove in the good old-fashioned key of A.

Our solo spans two choruses (twice around the 12 bar progression) and features many classic blues licks and phrases in the styles of B.B. King, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King and Albert Collins. 

These 15 licks feature classic blues tonality, along with chord tones that really highlight the changes. These are all extremely usable ideas that you can incorporate into your own playing. Each lick breakdown features on-screen tab

In addition to learning the solo, we’re also going to cover a very cool rhythm guitar part that you can try out next time you find yourself at a blues jam. Enjoy! 

While you’re on our YouTube page, feel free to give the video and like and subscribe to our channel.

Have a great weekend,

Bobby & Sarah

How Good Do I Need To Be?

Long Blues Shuffle Solo Study (part 4) - video poster

A question musicians often ask themselves is “How good do I need to be?” Think about that phrase for a minute. It’s one of those scary, bottomless questions to which there really isn’t a definitive answer.

In our lifetime as musicians, many of us never grow complacent with our progress or simply consider ourselves good enough. Our goals may change from one year or even one day to the next. Do you want to be as good as Jimi Hendrix was in 1969? As good as your mate Jeff? Do you want to specialise in just one style? Would you like to be more of an allrounder? Do you strive to master classical or jazz alongside your blues or rock playing? How about mastering slide guitar, or learning to play a second instrument, such as piano or harmonica?

As a musical instrument, the electric guitar is still relatively young. I started playing in 1988 and by then, I thought the bar had already been set in terms of what could be done with the guitar. Fast forward 30 years and there are now so many great, inspiring players to listen to and draw from that it can sometimes feel intimidating. The important thing to remember is that music is not a competition. Our goal as guitarists is to find our own voice on the instrument.

Who wouldn’t want to lock themselves in a room and emerge 3 hours later a better guitarist?

Mastering every style of guitar playing would take the average human several lifetimes. It’s a near impossible task, but the fact that we never really stop learning and improving is what makes the journey so exciting. It’s a journey without a destination. How cool is that? Unlike athletes, who are forced to retire after their prime, we musicians have a lifetime in which to express ourselves on our instrument. You may never reach full six string enlightenment, but who wouldn’t want to lock themselves in a room with a guitar and emerge 3 hours later a better player?

Like levelling up in a video game, personal progress can become an addiction and some of us never stop striving to improve. I know musicians who seem to improve daily, due to the work they put into their craft. One of my biggest personal peeves is fellow musicians who judge another player’s ability based on the last time they heard them play, which may have been a decade ago, ignoring the possibility that the person they are judging may have made huge advances in that time, rather than simply stagnating. Keep working on your playing and your playing will work for you.

On a personal level, I continue to work on my craft daily and I feel that I’m a better guitar player than I was 10 months ago, let alone 10 years ago. Maybe one day I’ll stop putting in the work, but for now, 30 years into my life as a guitarist, I still feel that there is a great deal progress to be made and it’s that motivation that gets me out of bed every morning…or afternoon!

Until next time, happy playing!

Cheers,

Bobby

How Do You Play Guitar With Feel?

Slow Blues 13: Taking It Down - Fourth Slow Blues Solo Study (part 3) - video poster

What is feel? In the most general sense, feel is essentially a musician’s ability to connect with the listener on an emotional level. The resulting emotion can vary from excitement, to sadness and even to tension (especially if we like to play those crunchy outside notes).

In terms of lead guitar, feel can best be defined by the way we apply our expressive techniques such as vibrato, string bends, note choice, phrasing, our sense of dynamics and our overall tone. Of course, this varies greatly from one guitar player to the next.

The general mood of the song we are soloing over also plays a huge role when it comes to making an emotional connection with our audience, as does the chord progression, as this will determine our note choices. Additionally, some players just seem to have a secret mojo in their playing that can be impossible to describe.

So, can feel be taught? This is a difficult question to answer definitively, simply because a guitarist’s feel is essentially an extension of his or her personality and a teacher cannot manipulate a person’s character (or, at least, they shouldn’t try to). However, the core ingredients that make up what we consider emotional playing can indeed be taught. For example, a good guitar teacher can advise the student on the intricacies of vibrato, phrasing, dynamics and note choice, guiding the student to work on developing these techniques over time. However, there is no magic wand that will instantly transform any student into B.B. King. Crafting one’s own style can be a lifelong pursuit.

We can work towards developing our own feel on a slightly more abstract and subconscious level. Try the following exercise: Without overthinking, try to visualise three blues guitarists whose names frequently come up in conversation when discussing the subject of feel. There’s a strong chance that B.B. King, Albert King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix were some of the names that immediately came to mind. Perhaps you chose Jeff Beck, John Mayer and Albert Collins, but that doesn’t matter. One thing blues players have in common is that they all play with feel.

Now go back to the first name you chose, close your eyes and try to imagine hearing that guitarist play. Can you hear it? There’s a good chance that you’ve already listened to and internalised so much of their music that you can literally hear their phrasing in your mind. Try the same exercise with the remaining two names you chose.

Sounds lovely, right? Without realising, the chances are you have just picked your three favourite guitarists, or at least the three whose playing affects you the most strongly on an emotional level. You should now take time to analyse what it is about the feel of these three players that you love so much. What qualities do they share? What is it about their phrasing or vibrato that you connect so strongly with?

Feel is not something that you either have or you don’t. Nobody picks up a guitar on day one with the sudden ability to make it sing!

It may help to make a list of the specific traits of your favourite players that most appeal to you as these are the things you should work on and apply to your own playing. In much the same way as many vocalists subconsciously adopt the vibrato or phrasing of their favourite singers, you too will find that you will naturally inherit the expressive qualities of the guitarists you listen to the most. After all, we are what we eat and new music cannot be made without influences.

It’s no crime to make a conscious effort to copy our favourite players. In fact, copying other guitarist’s licks and making them our own is a huge part of the blues. After all, the blues is essentially a language. A musical form of communication. If musicians didn’t borrow phrases from one another, the blues would lose its instantly identifiable sound and become something else entirely.

Don’t worry about becoming a Stevie Ray Vaughan clone If you happen to learn Texas Flood note for note. Learn some B.B. King next, then some Albert Collins. Hey presto! You are now a blues guitarist whose style is a cross between Stevie Ray, B.B. and Albert Collins. If you analyse most guitar players’ styles closely enough, you can hear the influence of three or four key inspirations. In Stevie Ray Vaughan’s playing, you can hear the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Freddie King. However, it could never be said that Stevie didn’t have his own instantly recognisable style.

Let’s conclude by dispelling some ill-informed myths about feel. Firstly, it’s been said that you can’t play fast with feel. You only have to listen to Eric Johnson or some of the aforementioned Stevie Ray’s rapid fire flourishes to know that’s untrue. While not an essential ingredient of the blues, a sudden burst of speed at the right point in a solo can really hit the listener square in the feelings. The myth may have originated in the midst of 80s shred overkill, during which time, many young guitarists (my 13 year old self included) became obsessed with playing fast at the expense of working on their vibrato or phrasing.

Finally, feel not something that you either have or you don’t. Obviously, it’s possible to prefer one player’s feel to another’s, but we are all able to continually work on and improve our own expressive techniques. Nobody picks up a guitar on day one with the sudden ability to make it sing. In fact, we all sound terrible at first. We sound like angry bumblebees when we first attempt vibrato and like crying cats when we first try to bend strings.

The most important thing we can do to improve as guitar players is to be mindful of our own playing and to listen to ourselves. This sense of awareness will help us filter out the important things that we need to work on, allowing us to play what we hear in our heads and connect with our audience on an emotional level.

Until next time, enjoy your practice,

Bobby

Welcome To Absolute Blues Guitar!

Welcome to our website! I can’t tell you how good it feels to type these words. This project was a long time in the making, for both myself and Absolute Blues’ very own web developer, Sarah Cox. One day, I’m sure we’ll sit down and calculate just how many hundreds of hours went into launching this course (Edit: *coughs* thousands! – SC), but for now, we’re extremely proud just to have it exist and to know that right now, you are visiting our live site.

So, once again, welcome to our website. Less than a handful of people close to Sarah and myself were aware of this impending project, prior to launch. We wanted to keep things under wraps until everything was as perfect as we could make it.

Sarah worked tirelessly, designing and coding the website from the ground up, testing and re-testing like the true perfectionist she is, in order to provide you with a fun and effortless experience. Everything you see here, from the site’s appearance to the intricate membership system is a result Sarah’s very own custom programming. A lot of care went into the site’s build and we feel that it shows. The result is a clean and neat user interface where the primary focus is on the student’s learning experience.

Filming, teaching, editing and transcribing the content was my job. Those who know me well will know how self-critical I can be, but when it came to the making of this course, I can truly say that and I am so proud of every lesson I produced. During the site’s filming, I found myself caught on a wave of inspiration in which I managed to capture myself on something of a creative roll. Of course, I had a very detailed plan of what I wanted to teach, but as each video shoot unfolded, I kept discovering new ideas that I wanted to present alongside the original lesson plans, essentially doubling the educational content.

If I had to go back and film each lesson again, even if I played the same notes and spoke the same words, I would not have been as pleased with the end result as I am now.

So, what is Absolute Blues Guitar? Quite simply, Absolute Blues Guitar is a truly immersive online guitar course, committed to making you a better blues guitarist.

As well as learning hundreds of great blues licks, solos and rhythm guitar styles, you will learn how to improvise and play with true expression and feel.

Whatever your level, our course offers hundreds of video lessons, covering decades of classic blues, from T-Bone Walker to Stevie Ray Vaughan and everything in between.

In addition to learning classic blues styles such as Chicago and Texas blues, jump blues, slide guitar and slow blues, we cover other blues-influenced styles such as rock ’n’ roll, southern rock, blues-rock and even jazz-blues.

Everything we teach is broken down note-for-note and written out in either tab and standard notation or in the form of fretboard diagrams. We also offer hundreds of downloadable backing tracks in a variety of grooves and keys for you to play along with, allowing you to hone your skills in a realistic, jam-like setting.

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an experienced player looking to add a bluesy feel to your playing, we offer a complete, step by step blues guitar course with absolutely nothing missing.

Take a look around and try out some of our free lessons. Take as much time as you need. We’re here to answer any questions you may have. If you’ve already signed up, we’re proud to have you on board. Again, if ever you need our help or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Once again, thank you. We hope you enjoy using the site as much as we enjoyed creating it for you.

Cheers,

Bobby