Eric Clapton - Guitar Heroes A-Z

The original British blues-rock guitar hero, Eric Clapton was referred to as “God” by many well before his 21st birthday, at least in graffiti that decorated London circa 1965-1967. Whether or not Clapton truly is a celestial power, his transition from the Yardbirds’ original guitarist to the revolutionary blues ace who powered John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & the Dominoes was downright biblical in the sense that it spawned perhaps the largest following of any single rock guitarist to date.

A switch to a more song-oriented approach in the early ’70s has garnered Clapton massive popularity as a solo artist ever since, but his recent projects—a Cream reunion in 2005, tours with his own guitar-intensive band, and a pair of 2007 appearances with Steve Winwood—confirm that Clapton’s original flame still burns brightly. Always an elegant player and a pioneer of exquisite tone, E.C. was the first to introduce the kind of smooth, repetitive triplet-based pentatonic figures in Examples 1-4 to the blues-rock pantheon. Practice ’em until they flow like water, then append them with the trio of sweet Clapton-isms in Examples 5-7. Strive for that “Slowhand” vibrato—a study in itself—and watch the sparks fly.