Blues Rhythms & Riffs – Inspired by Smokestack Lightning

Checkout this fun electric blues riff inspired by Howling Wolf (from Smokestack Lightning). It comes out of the E pentatonic minor scale, both the first and second positions. First we'll look at the scales the riff comes from, then we'll learn the riff, then we'll add it into a fun boogie woogie blues shuffle.

Here is the tab for the basic version of the riff, at 6:15 on the video. If you're not familiar with reading standard notation, don't worry about it, just use the TAB portion at the bottom to see where your fingers go, and use the video to learn the timing.

Do you like this lesson? Let us know what you learned in the comments below. 

12 Responses to “Blues Rhythms & Riffs – Inspired by Smokestack Lightning”

  1. Chris December 7, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    I look forward to your posts. Thanks for doing what you do.

  2. Robert Wilcox December 7, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m just a beginner with Ra learning been trying for four years and that riff for me is kind of hard

  3. Douglas Matson December 7, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    Good lesson, Have the original SmokeStack Lightning Album. Played off that record, or by ear

  4. erdogan December 7, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

    thanks great riff great lesson thanks again.

  5. lwanga charles December 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    good lesson sir.but i need to know much because am a beginner,
    Could you help me and teach me?

  6. Greg December 8, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    Good sounding riff, early part of the video about scale hard to follow, I had to go to another site for reference. Having tabs good

    • Jonathan December 8, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

      Hi Greg, this lesson series is more of an intermediate level, so it tends to assume some familiarity (though not mastery) with some scales. You might find the following lesson helpful, as it deals with the scales in this lesson in more detail:

  7. Charles December 10, 2016 at 4:45 am #

    Hey Colin
    I am one of your members getting ready to spend a few more dollars for my dec. 30th birthday.
    This particular lesson is deeply appreciated . Last July I watched a new documentary about howlin wolf
    And his compatriots called Sidemen created by a close family friend. It was my introduction to these guys and the song Smokestack Lightning which I loved. Needless to say you’ve helped me immensely polish it off.
    Thanks for all your efforts. I only wish I had started taking lessons when you started teaching 45 years ago… And that would have been 15 years too late. I know they say it’s never to late. You wanna bet.
    Happy holidays

    • Jonathan December 10, 2016 at 5:47 am #

      That’s a cool story Charles!

  8. Brett December 22, 2016 at 11:33 pm #

    To Greg’s remark I find the same thing. The teaching is fine on the first two frets. It gets hard to follow because he is quick when he expands the scale and the camera moves from his fingers and he does not mention the frets he’s going to very clearly.

  9. Brett December 22, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

    By the way I just started playing this past March and have no music background. I was able to learn the riff with no problem. What I meant in my prior post is that I was not able to clearly see what he did when he expanded the scale a few positions over when he got to the G string. He blew past it to quick. The most important thing about the riff is to do what he said and use the 3rd finger to slide to the 4th fret and gotta get that second one under right away and down up pick. Without it your toast.

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