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Blues Guitar Institute

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How to Play a Big Bill Broonzy Lick

Lesson ID: TB012

Ever get a song stuck in your head for weeks at a time?

Well, that happened to me recently with a little tune by Big Bill Broonzy called Mississippi River Blues. I’ve always loved Broonzy’s playing.  In fact, his song “Hey, Hey” is pretty much solely responsible for turning me on to acoustic blues. Once I heard Clapton’s version of this on the Unplugged album, I was hooked.

But back to Mississippi River Blues – this song came up in my playlist a while back and I have been obsessed with it ever since. There are a lot of things that make this song great, but my top pick would be the lick he plays over the A chord in the intro. It weaves its way back into the song a few times after that too.

This lick really grabbed me and that’s what this lesson is all about.

Learn the Mississippi River Blues Lick

For such a short lick, there’s quite a lot of technical ability needed to pull off this lick. You’ll need to finger pick with precision and play a pull off with some serious finesse. Throw in the fact that you need to hold down a steady barre across the second fret, nearly throughout this lick and you’ve got quite the challenge.

The secret to nailing this lick is slow and deliberate practice.

Set your metronome to a slow tempo and focus on getting the notes to fall correctly in time. In the video, I tend to play this lick pretty fast. (Don’t worry, I slow it down several times as I teach). But the lick as played by Mr. Broonzy himself is much slower. The point is, slow doesn’t mean uncool. This lick is sweet at any speed.  So at the risk of sounding like a broken Chess Record….

Start slow and work up through the tempos.

Keep picking and it will all come together!

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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