BB King began performing in the 1930s, on the street corners of his hometown Itta Bena, Mississippi. And ever since his big break, playing on a radio show in Memphis in 1948, he has maintained his position as a blues master and has been acknowledged as a guitar hero by his contemporaries.
There are some key points to look for when emulating BB King's style. He often uses a fast, shallow vibrato on sustained notes.
Wherever the 'third' note of the chord appears (in the case of our examples, the third is C) it is bent slightly sharp by about a quarter-tone (half a semi-tone). The effect of this is to bypass either major or minor sounds, giving a feel unique to the blues - later emulated by rock players.
Even though most of the phrasing is derived from the blues scale, BB is aware of the composition of the chords behind him. A fan of guitar players as diverse as T-Bone Walker and Django Reinhardt, he chooses his simple melodic lines to fit the accompanying chords.
Our examples are based around a 12-bar style progression and the phrases are all based around the A blues scale in different positions. You can learn the licks by following our free tab. Avoid the temptation to play these with a rock sound, or it becomes graceless! Use the middle pickup selection with a smattering of overdrive and reverb, but plenty of treble.