Play acoustic guitar like Eric Clapton

A look at the easygoing acoustic style of Mr Unplugged, Eric Clapton

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Lick 1: This lick, and indeed the whole solo, starts off with a double-stop that pedals a B on the first string 7th fret with a G on the second string 8th fret, pushed almost up to G# in that classic major/minor blues ambiguity. G is of course the minor 3rd and G# the major 3rd of E. You can hear this move at the top of John Mayall's Rambling On My Mind and the second lick in SRV's Pride And Joy.
© Tristan Seume
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Lick 1, part 2
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Lick 2: Here we find ourselves in the BB box - position five of the minor pentatonic scale. The semitone hammer-on and pull-off move highlights the b5 of the blues scale and is another move that Stevie Ray Vaughan also used.
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Lick 3: This is a typical minor pentatonic move you'll find in a lot of Clapton's playing. While it could be used as something of a 'filler' lick, it's so Clapton that we've highlighted it. It also pinpoints the underlying chords nicely.

While not using a technically demanding style, Eric Clapton always manages to let you know it's him playing the acoustic guitar. And with such a limited palette in this style, that takes some doing. It's hard to say whether it's note choice, tone or what, but the 'one note from Eric' chestnut is certainly true.

Here we take the medium-paced shuffle of a song like Before You Accuse Me (from Clapton's Unplugged album) and changed the turnaround so it has a C9 and a B7#9 in bar 10 and the classic C9 to B9 as the very last change in bar 12 of each verse. When soloing over the former chords try to target a strong chord tone - in C9 this could be the C itself (as here), the E (3rd) or perhaps the G (5th) or D (the 9th). Just be sure you have a smooth route back so it doesn't sound too much of a musical jolt. E, D and G are both in E minor pentatonic anyway, which is probably your first port of call for this solo and so this shouldn't prove much of a problem.

When it comes to the B7#9, you could stay on the D if that's where you landed on the previous chord (D is the #9 of B as well as the 9th of C and it's also in E minor pentatonic), play the major third (Eb) or indeed stick with the tonic B. As usual, use the backing track to come up with variations and ideas of your own.

Click 'see all pictures' in the picture box for full-sized tab.

Audio - Full track

Audio - Just the licks

Audio - Playalong

Clapton's gear

Clapton tends to use 000-size Martin guitars as they don't boom and are as happy to be fingerpicked as strummed. They record brilliantly for this reason too. We recorded a Martin D-41 using two Groove Tubes valve mics, one over the lower bout and the other over the end of the fingerboard, plus we dribbled 10 per cent of the onboard iBeam pickup into the sound. A touch of ambient 'stage' reverb was also added.