Learn to Play: Jeff Massey Teaches Eric Clapton Solo Riffs on Guitar

For many players, Eric Clapton is the epitome of a guitar legend. He's often mentioned alongside Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page as one of the most revered and influential rock guitar players of all time.

Clapton's chameleon–like knack for musical reinvention is evidenced by his countless recordings and style changes over the years. In this video, I decided to put the focus on his work with the '60s supergroup Cream.

Alongside bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, the power trio forged the path for other acts like Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Mountain. Cream was the original force behind loud and proud blues rock while still the crafty songsmiths penning classics like "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "Politician."

In a live concert setting, Cream were the kings of improvisational jamming, and it wasn't uncommon for the band to take a three–minute recorded piece of music and stretch it to 20 minutes on stage.

"The Fool" SG Tribute by The Painted Player Guitar Co

During the Cream years, Clapton mainly used a Gibson SG — nicknamed "the fool" — with a wild, psychedelic paint job. Clapton occasionally used a Gibson 335 during this period as well. It wasn't until the early 1970s that Clapton switched primarily to a Fender Strat, leaving his huge Gibson humbucker pickup sound to die with Cream.

Fortunately for us music fans and guitar players, Cream's music stood the test of time and Clapton's approach from that era is still copied and imitated by countless blues and rock guitarists around the globe.

The licks I demonstrate in this video are very similar to something Eric might have played with Cream. Clapton had a pure talent for turning a simple pentatonic or blues scale into an all–out blazing guitar solo.

As far as duplicating Clapton's tone, I demonstrated how he works the tone controls to get his famous "woman" tone. By experimenting with guitar volume settings, he easily switched from subtle to in–your–face–style rock guitar playing.

Cream was a very loud band, and Clapton often played out of two Marshall stacks, engaging the second one for leads. If you don't have this type of sonic insanity available to you, a decent amp and drive pedal should do the trick.

It's always important when learning from players like Clapton to incorporate the licks into your own repertoire and style. If you put in the effort to learn some solos note–for–note that's great, but the real satisfaction comes from incorporating the ideas into your own thing by experimenting and seeing what path the music takes you.


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