Learn to Play: Buddy Guy Riffs with Jeff Massey

Buddy Guy is one of the last true blues legends alive. Now in his 80s, Guy still records and tours, performing shows that are known to run up to three hours long—showcasing Buddy's uncanny ability to still sing and play guitar with the same rigor and energy he displayed in his younger days.

Buddy was born in Louisiana and picked up guitar early, learning his first licks on a cheap Harmony acoustic before discovering the Fender Stratocaster he's now known for. In 1957, Guy moved to Chicago and kicked off his career with a blues apprenticeship of sorts with Muddy Waters. Guy hasn't looked back since and continues to dazzle blues audiences, trademark polka dot Strat in hand.

For this lesson, I wanted to emphasize how Buddy truly plays from his soul, always putting his all into his lead-playing and even going off the rails entirely sometimes. The contrast between Guy's raw, rough and tumble lead-playing and his ability to bring it down to a beautiful whisper within the same song is pure blues guitar genius.

Without Guy's influence, players like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton would not have had the same template from which to draw their own inspiration. All three of those players have cited Buddy as a major influence, and they're not alone. A lot of what you hear in your head when you think about blues licks came from, or was specifically inspired by, Buddy—a true original and an undeniable force in the world of blues guitar.

I picked some licks for this lesson that really caught my ear when studying Guy's playing. Notice how Guy's vibrato has a stinging-like effect that really grabs your ear. I feel all of these licks can be interpreted and incorporated into your own playing, especially in a blues format. Guy rarely plays the same lick twice and has an extensive arsenal of ideas, but I feel that what I’ve showcased in this video displays a good overall blueprint of where Buddy is coming from.

I hope you’ll find this lesson useful and enjoyable, and remember to get out and see Buddy live if you have the opportunity.


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