Jim Campilongo

Sometimes when I’m faced with a standard jazz-blues progression, I like to spice things up by asking myself, “How would a great pedal-steel player like Buddy Emmons or ‘Curly’ Chalker approach these changes?” When I do, I usually come up with steel-inspired voicings that involve tangy 1st-finger bends on the third string—bends that help me emulate the greasy chime of a pedal steel. One possible result is the Roy Buchanan-meets-Freddie Green Bb blues below.
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These bends can be a workout for the 1st finger on some guitars, but are quite manageable to play on my ’59 top-loader Telecaster using a set of .009s. I think top-loaded strings on a Tele have a real slinky feel and are easier to bend than on a strings-through-the-body Tele.

Sound each chord using a hybrid pick-and-fingers approach. I pick the lowest note in each chord with one of those little white Fender Heavy jazz picks (probably for no other reason than that’s the pick Buchanan used), and I pluck the other two notes with the nails of my middle and ring fingers. You don’t need much nail on those fingers to get a good pluck tone. Try keeping those nails just long enough so if you’re looking at your hand palm-up, you can see them peeking ever so slightly past your fingertips, but not so long that they freak out the girl behind the counter at Macy’s when you’re handing her your charge card.