You wanna learn something about the Reverend Billy from ZZ Top? Well, you’ve come to the right place. What a fabulous guitar player! Billy is a blue’s guitarist. There’s one lick he’s done a lot of different times, so that is a good place to start.
Start with the A pentatonic minor scale. When you play the scale, assign one finger per fret. So if you start at the fifth fret, your first finger will take care of all the notes on the fifth fret, your second finger takes care of the notes on the sixth fret etc.
So this riff comes out of that scale. It’s a diad, or a double stop, which is a two note riff. It starts with the major 2nd. This example is in the key of A, so start on the eighth fret with your pinky on the second string, and use your first finger on the fifth fret, first string. Play those two notes after each other with a triplet count. Your next triplet grouping is played with your third finger on the seventh fret, second string. Your first finger stays – it’s your root note. So you start with the major second playing the G and the A, then the next interval is a minor third using the F#. The third triplet grouping is the major third played with the second finger on the sixth fret, second string. End with your A chord.
It’s all in your down up picking. You have to learn to clear the first string so that you don’t mute it by accident. The trick is to let your strings ring out over each other. This riff is chromaticized, meaning it moves in semitones.
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Ready for more? Checkout Billy Gibbons Inspired Licks Part II next!