Robben Ford Licks

Hello guys! Today I would like to talk to you about one of the greatest artists of the modern blues scene. A composer who had collaborations with talents such as Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, and blues legends such as Charlie Musselwhite and Jimmy Witherspoon, so much so that he was recognized as one of the “100 greatest guitarists of the 20th century” according to the American magazine Musician.

He’s acclaimed as one of the greatest living guitarists, I’m talking about: Robben Ford.

Born December 16, 1951, in Woodlake, California, after 3 years of studying the saxophone, he began taking guitar lessons at the age of 14. His career as a professional guitarist began as a young man in 1969 when the Charles Ford Blues Band (the band of his father Charles from whom he takes his name) opened a Charlie Musselwhite concert. It is the beginning of an ascent.

Over time Robben earns an overwhelming following that leads him to become a real-world star as a guitarist on the 1986 tour of Miles Davis, in which he combines the technical ingredients of blues and jazz.

He recorded his first album – β€œDiscovering the Blues” – in 1972, at the age of 21, up to the most recent “Supernatural”, “Blue Moon”, and the latest “Purple House”.

But let’s take a step back and introduce a genre that has characterized Robben Ford’s musical journey from the beginning: the Blues.

Birth and importance of the Blues.

The Blues has its origins in American history of the early 1900s and is generally defined as a form of vocal and instrumental music characterized by a twelve bars repetition and – in the melody – by the so-called blue notes.

This genre certainly represents one of the most important styles in the entire history of music. In fact, we can say that other music genres, such as jazz, rock, heavy metal, soul, funk, and pop, are derived from or have been greatly influenced by it.

A musical form without which there would probably have been no world-famous bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and artists like Stevie Wonder and James Brown.

While there are still many discussions about the birth of the genre, there is no doubt about the meaning and origin of the name: the name derives from “to have the blue devils”. The expression was a sort of code to understand the depressive state resulting from abstinence from alcohol or drugs.

Today I will give you a series of licks written in the style of Robben Ford. In fact, it is important to put yourself “in the shoes” of the artist you are studying, trying to understand how he thinks during improvisation. In doing so, we will not only “copy” his phrasing, but we will also be able to have a coherent and truthful language.

What is a lick?

A lick is a small motif, a phrase, or more simply a musical “word”. Analyzing it more specifically, we can say that licks are those “musical cells” that are used to create your own solo and vocabulary.

Licks are “improvised ideas” and can sometimes be the trademark for a great guitarist.

Going into more detail, there are several aspects that characterize a lick, or modern blues phrasing: rests, for example, are very important. In fact, the music is not made only by notes but also of moments of silence that give the listener – and also the guitarist – time to “take a breath”.

Another very important aspect concerns the bending or that effect that aims to alter a starting note to bring it to a higher arrival note, by bending the string. Finally, we have the vibrato, a fundamental element for a solo guitarist, and therefore in the Blues. Good use of vibrato, in fact, distinguishes amateurs from more experienced guitarists.

Blues Licks in the style of Robben Ford.

Ford uses sophisticated Jazz lines combined with deep Blues licks, so as to obtain truly remarkable sounds. Below you can download the transcription of four licks that I wrote for you in the style of Robben Ford.

Robben-Ford-Style-Licks (Download)

Put these simple licks into practice right away! And remember: even a good improvisation is the result of constant practice and training.

I look forward to seeing you in my GUITARlab Modern Blues Guitar Academy portal, to level-up your playing and practice together! πŸ™‚ 

See you soon,

Davide Pannozzo

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