It’s the 1960s and Clapton is God in rhythm-and-blues heaven… A lot of the licks here are reasonably simple to execute, but their timing and placement in the bar will take a lot of practice to perfect here are very few albums that live up to the epithet “ground breaking” or ‘iconoclastic’, but John Mayall’s Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton (hitherto known as the Beano album) can safely satisfy any set of criteria you care to throw at it. It’s difficult for the current generation of guitarists to appreciate just what an impact the album had on the world at large. Clapton’s reputation at the time was that of a serious guitarist with an almost unfathomable capacity for pulling amazing licks out of a guitar night after night.
Since then, of course, EC’s reputation is firmly established, but a few players fail to see the connection between the Armani-suited Eric playing the really very soppy ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and the deified 20-year-old rewriting the book back in the mid 60s.
The fact is that Have You Heard sums up everything that was wonderful tonight about Clapton in the early stages of his career. Remember, nobody had really heard playing like this before and if they had managed to find some of the blues recordings of the time imported from the US, they’d certainly never seen anyone play it. So what we have here is a rich seam of great guitar licks that we can learn and turn to our own blues devices.
Have You Heard is quite a slow track, but this can be both a good and a bad thing: good, because you can assume that it’s going to be relatively easy to keep up with; and bad because it often means that the timing is harder to follow. This might strike you as being somewhat strange – how can a slower tempo actually make things difficult? But it’s actually true. If you imagine a bar of music to be an empty box for you to fill up with notes, then a bar at a fast tempo is going to be a lot smaller than a bar at a slow speed. A bit
| 1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|
| 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 |
The larger the box, the more space you have to put notes in odd places – and this is where the problems start. If everyone played exactly on the beat, they’d be no problem at all, but they don’t -and slower tempos give the errant player a lot more time to create mischief. This doesn’t, of course, mean that the player concerned is doing anything wrong or making mistakes. Far from it, timing and the placement of notes within the bar have an overall effect on phrasing and, as we’ve seen often in the past, this can be one of the most important elements of a particular player’s style.
This is certainly the case with Eric’s phrasing on this particular track. If you listen to the and try to follow it in the tab, you’ll see and hear how many times Eric’s phrases begin either ahead or behind the beat. This is a technique which does a lot to produce tension and excitement within a track. Anticipating the beat can make a phrase sound urgent and tense -playing behind the beat can produce an opposite, laid-back effect. It will be hard to duplicate Eric’s timing exactly – be prepared for a lot of practice to get things spot on in this department – but while you’re at it, you can reap the benefit of some of the greatest blues licks on record.
These licks will sound great played anywhere and you’ll find that if you tweak the phrasing a bit, you can sculpt them into something completely different. This is how a lot of players of Eric’s generation learned to play. They’d learn to mimic other players but, by literally playing the licks and riffs in a different order, speed or style, they’d start to formulate something original.
Have fun with this track, watch the bends and the timing and try to take it somewhere else!
Bear in mind that the gain settings here are fairly sedate. Eric was using a combo which belonged to the turn-it-up-and-let-it-howl school and they didn’t have the sort of gain settings which we would expect from a contemporary amplifier.
Turn it down!
There’s a story which accompanies the recording of this album which always raises a smile. Back in the mid 60s, recording engineers where a pretty staid lot. Beatles producer George Martin notes that on many Beatles recording sessions, engineers still wore white lab coats like they were scientists! So, when Eric Clapton set up his gear for the Beano album sessions and insisted that his Marshall combo be turned up almost full to achieve the desired guitar tone, the studio engineer had a fit and pronounced Eric’s guitar tone ‘unrecordable’.
It’s a part of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers
Have You Heard guitar tab and sheet.
Through the link below you can download a full transcription of
Have You Heard with backing track
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