'B.B. King Box' Technique

author: BodaciousBob date: 06/07/2006 category: guitar techniques
rating: 8.6 / votes: 83 
In this lesson I'm going to teach you the "B.B. King Box" technique, which is a very simple but effective technique for soloing. We're also going to write a song along the way so this lesson may or may not be 100% useful to everybody; in fact it's probably going to be more of a workshop. Are you ready to rock? Ok, let's go! Let's build this lesson as if we're writing a song. First of all we're going to be in the key of A and we're going to use a 12 bar blues structure for our backing, which goes a little something like this:
e|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-------------------|
D|-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4---|
A|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-------------------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0---|
E|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

e|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4---------------------------|
D|-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-----------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-----------|
A|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4-----------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-----------|
E|-----------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-------------------------------------------|
pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NOTE: Most 12 bar blues sequences are constructed in the same fashion. They are built up of three chords, I, IV and V which in this case are A, D and E. Ok, now you may want to play that a couple of times over until you get the hang of it before we continue. For the lead we're going to compose a riff using the blues scale. There are five positions of the blues scale on the neck I'm going to illustrate the first two in this lesson, here is the first.
A blues scale 1st position:
e|-------------------------5-8-5-------------------------|
B|---------------------5-8-------8-5---------------------|
G|---------------5-7-8---------------8-7-5---------------|
D|-----------5-7---------------------------7-5-----------|
A|-----5-6-7-----------------------------------7-6-5-----|
E|-5-8-----------------------------------------------8-5-|
Run up and down this scale a couple of times to get used to it. We're going to use this to compose our main riff. Now you can just play around with this to find a riff that you like.
Ex. 1
e|----------------------------|
B|----------------------------|
G|--------5---5?7b9-5---------|
D|---7-7----7---------7-------|
A|-5--------------------------|
E|----------------------------|

Ex. 2
e|----------------------------|
B|--------------------------5-|
G|--------------------------5-|
D|----5-7-5-------5-----5-7---|
A|--7-------7-5h7---7-7-------|
E|----------------------------|
Now, that we have our rhythm guitar and our lead guitars main riff, you could use two if you're feeling adventurous, regardless it's time for a guitar solo. For our solo, we're going to use the 2nd position of our blues scale, you don't necessarily need to use the 2nd position you could just use the 1st. I've chosen to use the 2nd position to illustrate the "B.B. King Box" technique.
 
A blues scale 2nd position:
e|-------------------------8-10-8-------------------------|
B|--------------------8-10--------10-8--------------------|
G|----------------7-9------------------9-7----------------|
D|-----------7-10--------------------------10-7-----------|
A|------7-10------------------------------------10-7------|
E|-8-10----------------------------------------------10-8-|
Again, run up and down this scale a couple of times to get used to it. The "B.B. King Box" is taken from the last five notes of this scale which are:
e|--------8-10-8--------|
B|---8-10--------10-8---|
G|-9------------------9-|
D|----------------------|
A|----------------------|
E|----------------------|
Why is it called the "B.B. King Box?" Well, it's a technique used a lot by B.B. King so that would answer part of it. It's called a box because if we plot the notes out on the neck we get this box shape, well it's more of a house if you ask me but it's title wouldn't be as catchy without the alliteration would it now?
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|x|-|x|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|x|-|x|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|x|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
We're going to use this to compose a solo; although I am a big believer in improvised solos it's good to have a back up solo in case your mind goes blank when it comes to your improvised solo. I suggest you play around with this, using different techniques that you know for example string bending, legato, slides, tapping, sweep picking, trills etc.
Ex. 1  
e|-----8----8----10--10b12--10-8-----------------------------8------8------8|
B|8/10---10---10-----------------10-8---8----8-10-10b12?8h10---8h10---8h10--|
G|------------------------------------9----9--------------------------------|
D|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Ex. 2
e|---------------------------------8----8h10p8-10b12-8-10-8-----------------|
B|-10b12 8-10-10b12-8---10b12-8-10---10---------------------10-8------8h10p-|
G|--------------------9------------------------------------------9--9-------|
D|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Ok, if you've got that nailed it's time to think outside the box, try to incorporate both scale positions, try some that old blues call and response, some tapping or some scale sequencing. If there are any requests for it, I could compose an example in Power Tab and upload it for anyone who would like it.
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