Badass Bends and Vicious Vibrato—Greg Koch Reverse Engineers the Gristly String Yanks of Blues and Rock Legends

April 20, 2006

If you want to achieve a similar vibrato yourself, the first thing to do is bust out your trusty E minor pentatonic scale [Ex. 1] and work on developing a solid 1st-finger vibrato, which can be a pain in the buttocks to get dialed in right. Clapton would really make this note [Ex. 2] sing, as his 1st finger sat on the string, floating first up and then down [i.e., toward the ceiling and then toward the floor] repeatedly to create vibrato. The tone gets extra gristly, of course, when you add a little paste—that is, overdrive—by kicking on your favorite stompbox of destruction. Next, you need to expand into more complete phrases. Here’s a classic E pentatonic Claptonism that ends with the first-string, 1st-finger vibrato we’ve been talking about [Ex. 3]. Try other Clapton moves, such as this one in the key of A [Ex. 4]. It’s hard to get a good vibrato like Clapton’s going. It takes lots of playing and lots of listening.

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