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This week's Guitarist in the spotlight: Eric Clapton

Last week we looked at some licks in the style on Jimi Hendrix. This week we're going to look at another guitarist from the 1960s: Eric Clapton. Eric burst onto the scene in the mid 60s, first with the Yardbirds, before joining John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and then Cream. His licks and playing style is iconic and legendary and inspired countless legions of guitar players. One could say only Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen have had more impact than the man himself.


n terms of gear, early in his career Clapton started off playing Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Telecasters and Fender Jazzmaster but in the late 1960s he switched to Fender Stratocasters, which he is most known for. Now let's look at some licks in his style:

A typical Clapton lick, this lick is based on the A Minor Pentatonic Scale. Includes the trademark Eric Clapton bends as well as vibrato.

Another lick based on A Minor Pentatonic, but this time an octave higher.

Another Minor Pentatonic Lick, this time in E Minor Pentatonic.

Another lick featuring more bends.

A slightly longer lick, this time starting in E Minor Pentatonic, but then shifting to A Minor Pentatonic.

Another licks with plenty of bends. Make sure you take this one slowly when practicing at first as it's easy to not be accurate with all the bends. Make sure that with each bend that you bend each one perfectly to the right pitch. Take it slowly at first before increasing the speed. A good practicing technique is to just focus on one bar at a time and only play through all 3 bars together when you have perfected all the bends and can play them accurately and effortlessly with not much second thought.

And in this final lick we finish off with a lick this time using the D Minor Pentatonic Scale. Make sure you get those bends just right. The semiquavers can be a bit tricky to play accurately so one thing you can do is just play the bit of the lick that includes a quaver and 2 semiquavers over and over again with a metronome, concentrating on playing them very slowly to nail the timing at a slow speed before increasing the tempo of the metronome to play them faster.

So that's the end of our lesson on Eric Clapton and some licks in his style. Make sure you learn all these licks and apply them to your own playing, mess around with them, play them in different keys, elaborate on them and make them your own. Below is some recommended listening if you want to go and check out some of Eric's work. See you in the next lesson!

With John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers:

  • Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton

With Cream:

  • Wheels of Fire

  • Disraeli Gears

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