Learn to Play: Albert King Riffs in Standard Tuning with Jeff Massey

Albert King was a highly influential blues songwriter, vocalist, and, of course, guitarist. Originally starting out as a drummer playing on many sessions for the famous Chicago-based Chess Records, King soon made the switch to a guitar-slinging frontman.

Rarely seen performing on anything other than his Gibson Flying V, King had a rather unorthodox playing style as a left-hander who flipped his guitar over but did not change the order of the strings. Albert’s tuning method is surrounded in mystery, but many believe King relied primarily on open E minor tuning.

Because King's playing style and note selection seems to work well in standard tuning, I’ve decided to utilize that tuning for this tutorial.

The key to King's powerful playing is his superb precision with bending and his excellent vibrato technique. Keep in mind, because King played left-handed with the guitar flipped over, he is literally pulling the high strings in the opposite direction of what a right-handed guitarist would do.

Albert King

King played with real emotion and didn’t waste notes. The fact that King uses his thumb instead of a flatpick also has a lot to do with his strong natural guitar tone.

I believe that just trying to get somewhere close to King's vibrato and note selection will provide you with some new ideas and concepts that will enhance your playing. How much can you do with just three or four notes? Quite a bit in Albert King's world.

You can hear a strong Albert King influence in other players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Doyle Bramhall II, who actually plays lefty as well, with the same string configuration as Albert.

I hope you enjoy this video and are able to adapt some of Albert King's licks to your own playing.

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