This time we take a look at a very familiar and basic riff idea that has a thousand different applications! Where would we be without this particular riff? It crops up time and time again throughout blues history and goes under hundreds of pseudonyms and minor variations. But it started, in all likelihood, with Muddy Waters guitar style classic track Hoochie Coochie Man. Of course, this riff was brought to the attention of millions with the recent TV ad campaign for a certain fizzy drink -you know the one, it featured a gaggle of gals going gooey over an office window cleaner whilst I Just Want To Make Love To You blasted away in the background.
In order to soften the blow to all the ladeez out there that guys like that don’t really exist, it’s probably worth your while learning this riff – well, at least you’ve thrown your hat in the ring…
Learning the variations on the basic riff shouldn’t cause you a great deal of bother, but you will have to pay very special attention to things like muting. This kind of phrase will sound pretty hopeless if it isn’t cut off at exactly the right moments by employing either left- or right-hand muting. It’s quite possible to get the notes and timing absolutely right and still have the riff sound absolutely wrong without a little care in this area. If your muting technique isn’t quite up to scratch (or even if it is!), make the effort to practise it for a little time each day. All it takes is for you to feel comfortable with your picking hand resting on the strings and your left hand able to mute the strings using any spare fingers. I know this makes it sound simpler than it really is, but muting is such an important technique to master; it has an effect on both your tone and overall sound, which is a very great part of your overall musicianship.
For the solo passage. I’ve tried to keep everything fairly simple but, at the same time, I hope I’ve been able to give you some useful phrases to play with. Once again, your ability to bend strings in tune and with confidence is going to make a big difference here. I’ve said before how an out-of-tune bend can really bring a great guitar solo to its knees, so a bit of practice here will be well worth the effort, too.
With this kind of solo, it’s easy to see how a string of individual, fairly simple phrases add up to make a much bigger picture. This doesn’t really change when you’re playing in other, more continuous contexts, though. Just as a lot of language is made up from short sentences and phrases, music can be seen as being very similar. This is why your blues phrase book needs careful topping up every so often to keep your solos sounding fresh.
As far as guitar and amp settings are concerned, take a look at the settings I used on my own gear and try to customise your own amp/guitar set-up to suit. The most important thing here is not to use your eyes but your ears to get the sound right. Don’t rely on numbers to help you achieve the right sound – there really would be a benefit to setting the controls on your amp blindfold! If you get to know your amp’s controls well enough, it should be possible for you to hear how a guitar sound is put together – that’s to say if there is a lot of mid-range present, or if there is a big bottom end. Just from listening to these simple criteria you should be able to get well into the ball park and a little subsequent fine tuning will get you right on the money.
Don’t ignore your guitar’s controls and pick-up settings, either. For this particular song I altered the pick-up setting on my guitar to give me a difference in tone between rhythm and lead parts – sometimes something as subtle as this can make all the difference.
I hope you have fun coming up with your own version of this staple blues riff and using the backing track to experiment with licks. See you next time!
This basic style of blues – or rhythm and blues – has been used in countless different songs over the past 50 years or so. Notables are Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’, but it may be worth your while checking out some others. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘Framed’ is a good place to start!
It’s a part of Muddy Waters Guitar Style Blues Tab and sheet music
Below you can download a full copy of
Muddy Waters Style Blues lesson with backing track
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