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Blues Guitar Lessons: Pedal Points

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kind of
a sound
That's a sound you probably have heard.
Stevie Ray Vaughan did that in
a couple of different instances.
And I believe he probably picked
it up from one of two sources,
if not both, Buddy Guy.
Buddy Guy used it famously on one of his
earlier tracks, Leave My Girl Alone,
and a guy that you may not have heard of
but who's a tremendous influence, and
somebody you should check out, go out of
your way, find out about him, Lonnie Mack.
Lonnie Mack.
He was from Indiana.
I believe he did his
recording in Cincinnati.
And he was a guy that in 1963 or
came out with a record called Wham and
another one which was called Memphis,
which was an instrumental
version of a Chuck Berry song.
And he just was a phenomenal guitar
player and had a huge sound.
I mean he had a wall of sound before
there were Marshall amps even invented.
And he was a big influence
on Stevie Ray Vaughan.
And you'll hear, when you hear Lonnie Mack
then hear Stevie you'll say, right, yeah,
okay I can hear the roots of that.
So anyway, Lonnie used that technique
on one his tracks very prominently.
And what that is [SOUND] is in technical
terms is called a pedal point.
Now we looked at that sound before
when I introduced hybrid picking and
focused on it.
[SOUND] Talked about
playing with a pick and
then alternating with the finger,
back and forth, and
as a way of sort of developing your
skills with that particular approach.
In this case,
we're concentrating more on the musical
quality of it than the technique.
And the idea is that you have a single
note that's sustained against
a moving melody.
Now a pedal point can be either above
the melody like in this case [SOUND] or
it can be below the melody [SOUND] as we
did with the hybrid picking exercise.
So you've got [SOUND] often the pedal,
the choice of notes to use as the pedal.
The root is a very stong choice and
the key of A.
Using A as the pedal.
But you can also use
a pedal with the fifth.
[SOUND] There's E.
The idea is that the note just creates
this sort of sense of consistency,
a little bit of a drone almost
that gives it a moody quality.
Now phrases that you might hear
like in the one I was just playing.
[SOUND] Right, I think Stevie used
something like that on his song Cold Shot.
[SOUND] Right.
Now you can finger it in different ways.
What I'm doing here is
picking the fourth string and
using my middle finger to play
the high string, that's the pedal,
and then I move the melody
[SOUND] up the third string.
[SOUND] And I can use embellishments and
phrasing techniques like I
would use in any normal phrase.
[SOUND] And the only trick is
to keep my finger plant down so
that I'm always fretting the pedal tone.
So once you get the idea of it, you can
start to hear it in different contexts.
Thinking of a different approach here,
slightly different
would be using a lower pedal and
kinda moving my way around.
That was
a different
take on a blues
solo right there.
I didn't really use a lot of
the standard blues licks, but
I I played a bluesy melody.
I used my blues vocabulary and I just
moved around different pedal points,
depending on the chord change.
So I've got
and here's the
right, use the root of the D chord as
a pedal while I move the melody against D.
Sometimes when you use a technique like
that you just have to invent the fingering
on the fly.
See how can I get at that note?
And sometimes you wind up in some
weird stretched out position.
It's not efficient but
it gets the job done.
[COUGH] Another application and then I'll
put it to use over a chord progression.
Combining techniques,
like we've got the tremolo,
[SOUND] we've got double stops,
[SOUND] and so we use the top
note as a pedal point,
while I tremolo pick a double stop.
How's that, right?
Right, see can
we make anything out of that.
I'm just thinking of different ways
to combine these techniques and
create these different flavors.
Let me give you a demo over
12-bar shuffle in A and
ways of using the pedal point.
bit of
We call that the kitchen sink.
So I started of with [SOUND]
kind of that classic thing,
sounds a little bit like there's
a song by Little Willie John,
it was covered by a lot of people,
called Fever.
Just a great,
great moody kind of quality to it.
Use that and
go onto the IV chord.
Now the treblo
combined with,
right, I didn't play that,
but that was the idea of it.
So I've got a couple of different
ways of using the texture and
working it in with my phrases.
Now I use that myself
quite a bit actually,
but not necessarily all the time.
I'm exaggerating now to make the point,
I use it quite a bit because it
just kinda anchors the phrase.
That's the way I look at it,
so I'll do stuff like.
So it's a different kind of a sound and
like all of these textures and
little kind of twists and
turns that we're talking about here,
some of them will appeal to you
right away and you'll say, yeah,
I've heard that sound, I've always
wondered how that sound worked.
Now you know.
And some of them you might listen to and
say, yeah, it's okay, but I don't know.
And that's okay.
That's part of the blues style and
that's part of playing guitar in general,
playing music is that you pick and choose
among the influences that you encounter.
But if you like that sound and [COUGH]
you do hear it often enough that it
could be considered sort of
a standard blues technique.
Well there you go,
there's really nothing to it.
Hybrid picking and then just sustain
a note on the high end, sustain a note on
the low end, and otherwise play melodies
that you're normally gonna play anyway,
but with a little bit
of extra texture added.
All right, have a ball with that one.
And we'll come back and
we'll tackle some more.