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The B.B. King ‘Box’ Position

Today’s lesson is going to show you perhaps the No. 1 reason for B.B King’s incredibly recognizable style and technique. Even though he is a truly masterful and complex guitarist, he has over the years been whittling his style down to some very basic “signature” licks and runs that are instantly identifiable, such as the ones I’m about to show you.

Once you hear them you’ll know what I mean. I will also demonstrate how I can stay in this major pentatonic box, and while riffing away hear all the changes of the I-IV-V blues progression without playing a single chord!

This is because B.B. uses the MAJOR pentatonic scale, which enables him to save up the all-important MINOR third for the IV chord, giving the IV chord a decidedly more “bluesy” sound. He then keeps a few V chord licks saved up in his back pocket for that special moment when it comes, and even has some special blues licks that are born out of the minor pentatonic scale that are right beneath his fingers!

In addition to this, I will also demonstrate his all-important “butterfly” approach to his incredible vibrato technique, which has always been an integral part of his wonderfully unique sound.

So, here you have it, some of the most defining blues positions and licks you’ll ever know, and licks that you’ll surely be putting to good use for a long time. Enjoy!—Arlen Roth

Click here to check out the Gibson ES-335 that Arlen is playing!
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