Here's a quick Eric Clapton guitar lesson for those who want to play the guitar like Slowhand. These 5 essential Eric Clapton guitar habits and guitar techniques will help improve your playing and achieve that Clapton style.
Learn some really easy guitar habits in our Eric Clapton guitar lesson and see how the techniques of 'Slowhand' can improve your own playing. We've even got a handy video to play along with courtesy of Leigh Fuge at MGR Music.
If you’re a guitar player, you will almost certainly have heard of Eric Clapton. With a varied career spanning everything from blues to reggae to country to pop, it’s hard to pinpoint a list of things that are distinctly Clapton.
You can watch and play along with the video below:
Eric Capton Guitar lesson & guitar habits video
Naling the Eric Clapton Guitar Tone
To make this Eric Clapton guitar lesson easier, we will focus on one specific era of tone and playing. The 1960s.
From 1965 to 1969 the two groups Clapton performed with were John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and the worlds first supergroup; Cream.
The Eric Clapton guitar tone of this era was based around big British amp sounds (The Marshall Bluesbreaker combo and later, a wall of Marshall stacks) and Gibson guitars. Clapton used a Les Paul, SG and ES335 in heavy rotation in this era.
To get the exact Eric Clapton guitar tone, you want to keep your bass and middle to around 8 and the treble down to 6. This gives a warm but cutting sound that is prominent in the mid range.
On the guitar, roll the volumes of both pickups back to 8. Take the bridge pickup tone control back to 2/3 depending on how bright this pickup is. On the neck pickup, keep the tone control on zero.
Guitar habit #1 - Eric Clapton Bluesbreaker Inspired lick in G Minor
Video section 1:32
This first Eric Clapton style lick is a G Minor Pentatonic lick similar to that from Clapton’s time with the Bluesbreakers.
Space is a big part of this lick - in fact space is an essential part of any Eric Clapton guitar lesson!
After the initial phrase ends in the middle of the second bar, there is a 2 beat rest before the final descending run.
This lick shifts between the first and second shapes of the pentatonic scales so choose your fingers carefully for the position shifting slides in bar 2 and 3. I’d recommend the third or fourth fingers.
Guitar habit #2 - Repeating Triplet Phrase Eric Clapton Styl
Video section 3:08
The next part of our Eric Clapton guitar lesson talks about the repeating triplet phrase technique often heard on his tracks.
Clapton often used repeating ideas in his lead breaks - it was one of his main guitar habits. This is a rolling triplet lick. The phrase is a simple hammer on from the 8th to the 10th fret on the B and the 8th fret of the E string. This is played as a triplet (Three notes per beat).
You repeat this triplet every beat of the first bar. The lick ends with a full tone bend on the 10th fret of the E string on the first beat.
Guitar habit #3 - 16th Note Speed Lick Clapton Style
Video section 4:17
Eric Clapton didn’t often venture into the faster end of playing - hence the name 'Slowhand', but when he did it looked something like the tab discussed.
This flurry of notes is inspired by the song Crossroads. It crosses between major and minor pentatonics, a trick Eric used a lot.
The first bar is all sixteenth notes (four per beat) so break this down into groups of four when working on it.
Pay extra attention to the three note pull off in beat 3. This requires two simultaneous pull offs without re-picking.
Guitar habit #4 - Crossroads inspired guitar lick
Video section 6:32
The next part of our Eric Clapton guitar lesson is another Crossroads inspired lick, except this time we’ve shifted the first shape of the pentatonic up a full octave.
The first bar is made up of sixteenth note triplets (equivalent to half a beat) and eighth notes (also half a beat). Check the video out to capture the phrasing of this. It has a very urgent feel.
Guitar habit #5 - Pentatonic style licks
Video section 8:17
This final lick and final part of our Eric Clapton guitar lesson is similar to a lick that appears in the Sunshine of Your Love solo, but transposed to a new key.
This is a slinky feeling bending lick that starts by ascending, then descends again.
The second three note pattern starts with a pre bend which you release straight into a pull off. This style of lick is a key Eric Clapton guitar habit that you can add to your own playing.
About The Author:
Leigh Fuge is a professional guitar player and tutor from Swansea in South Wales and a guitar writer having written and produced content for Guitar Magazine and many other high profile guitar publications and websites.
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