Learn 5 Essential BB King Licks Today
BB King licks are an essential part of developing a well rounded blues language.
In this article I have written out 5 BB King licks that showcase BB’s signature slow blues guitar style by demonstrating the techniques he’s known for such as raking, vibrato, the BB box and jazz guitar arpeggios.
Each of these licks is in the key of G and comes with an audio example to play along with.
The key to really nailing these licks and BB King’s style in general is to listen to his playing as much as possible.
Reading the tab and notation alone will not make you sound like BB because so much of his sound comes from phrasing, attack and feel.
BB King Licks 1: Classic Slow Blues Intro
To start things off, here’s a classic blues intro that has been used by countless guitar players over the years.
While most blues guitarists favour the minor pentatonic scale, BB favours the major pentatonic which produces a bright and warm sound.
Make sure that the bend in the first bar is a full tone bend and goes all the up to the major 3rd (B) before playing the last note. Bend with the 3rd finger and use the 1st and 2nd fingers for additional strength.
Check out the full video lesson for this lick below
BB King Licks 2: 16th Note Triplet Idea
The next lick features a 16th note triplet rhythm which is commonly used by BB in both fast and slow tempo solos.
Like the first lick, this line features the major pentatonic and finishes on the root of the chord.
BB King Licks 3: Build Up Lick
The next line is a great way to build up a blues solo. BB probably would not start slow blues solos with this lick, but he will throw it into the beginning of the 2nd or 3rd chorus.
Note that this lick is a variation of this classic jazz blues lick too.
BB King Licks 4: Box Lick
No study of BB King Licks would be complete without something from the BB box.
This lick starts with a descending 5th interval and bends up the 3rd of a chord twice before finishing on the root.
I have also included a signature BB King phrase on the 3rd beat at the 2nd bar which he does to “wake people up”.
You can add this little track to the end of any of the licks in this article.
Check out the video lesson below which explains how to get 3 BB King Licks from using the box shape
BB King Licks 5: Jazzy Lick
BB King’s guitar style incorporates a lot of jazz and changes based playing, so to complete this study of BB King licks here’s a Charlie Christian esc lick done BB King style.
This lick starts with a descending major 6th arpeggio finishing on the 6th of the chord which is more common in jazz guitar playing, but works well in blues.
To make this lick sound like BB king, rake to the first note (G), and apply some vibrato as demonstrated in the audio clip.
I hope that these BB King licks have helped you gain some insight into his playing. BB has been my favorite jazz guitar player for a number of years.
I may follow up this lesson with 5 faster BB swing blues licks. What do you think of these licks? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Here’s my favorite YouTube BB King video to finish off this lesson.