'B.B. King Box' Technique

In this lesson, we're going to learn how to use the 'B.B. King Box' we're also going to compose a song and write wicked solos along the way.

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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.

100 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    jkjp
    Wow , a whole 18 years. Your immaturity shows through your excessive use of profanity and lack of ability to communicate in a mature manner.This is a forum for people to learn , and talk about music. The only thing "the avery " contributed was immature banter. I get so tired of kids ruining these chat rooms whith their childish antics. If you look at my original post I said the article was good, I was trying to help out by pointing out some of the mistakes in the lesson so that people could get the right information. That's called contributing. I wasn't trying to give Bodaciousbob a hard time , I was just pointing out an oversite on his part. I agree with many in that I feel his lesson was very good compared to others.Had he included the blues notes in the second scale, or referenced it as just a pentatonic , and gave us a full 12 bar blues rhythm, the lesson would have been excellent.The only thing "the Avery" as contributed is ignorance and negativity.But he's just a "kid" so we'll let it slide.
    The Avery
    well, i was actually coming back to apologize to jkjp because i realized that i was wrong, but if he's got that attitude then nevermind. oh, and i'm not immature. i'm 18 w/ a driver's license. you obviously think that everyone that disagrees with you is immature and ignorant. that's pretty closed minded of you. i just looked over those scales really quickly, so i made a stupid mistake. anyway, i'll try not to jump down your throat so quickly next time. later
    The Avery
    you should calm the **** down jkjp. for starters, i'm not immature, and i'm 18 w/ a driver's license. so i overlooked the fact that the first scale wasn't minor pentatonic. big ****ing deal. i called you an idiot once (which i will take back seeing as how you were right), you wrote a paragraph about me. that's pretty lame. also, beginners SHOULD learn the minor pentatonic and the blues scales. i just think that they should learn them seperately as the blue notes might confuse them in regards to when to use them.
    jkjp
    I like how the moderator deleted my last post, thanks guy, you leave the post with the kids and there name calling and you delete mine. For all you immature kids out there and I know thats all you are, kids, most of which aren't even old enough to drive, Pay attention. Without the notes that make up the blues scale it is an insult to call the lesson a B.B.King technique. B.B. uses the blues scale, that is why he is one of the greatest blues musicians.Bodacious bob should not have called it a blues lesson, he didn't even give you guys a complete 12 bar blues rhythm, he gave only 9 bars (again he called it 12 bars and it wasn't).He also commented that "the blues notes can kill a solo". Any real blues player would laugh at that. The blues notes add color to the minor pentatonic scale. They are what causes the tension in the music to give it that "blues Feel" Bodacious bob claims these notes ruin a solo, well that's because he is inexperienced in writing Blues solo's . Remeber kids, this was suppose to be a lesson in the blues. Dark-light 1989 and the Avery are just immature kids that feel they need to trash talk people who actually know what they are talking about, You can see by other post there are a few people with some common sense out there that agree with my post. To "the avery" you're such an idiot that you didn't even realize that the first scale listed was actually the blues scale, not the pentatonic.Besides , why wouldn't a beginner want to learn the blues scale? If he or she wants to play the blues than they'll have to know the blues scale. Like I said just a bunch of immature kids running off at the mouth. the only reason you guys think this is a great lesson is because you know absolutely nothing yourself. Point in case "the avery" thought both scales were "minor pentatonic scales(in both positions) perfectly" well the first one wasn't, who's the idiot now? thanks to wherermykeys, I don't know why everyone is trying to jump me, I'm just trying to give them correct information, I even listed a link where you can find all the blues scales.Here it is again. http://bothner.co.za/articles/blues8.gif
    wherermykeys
    you guys need to back up a second here. yes, he took the time to write a lesson but he did make a mistake on the scale. jkjp was very polite in pointing it out but then bodaciousbob goes and says "i didn't say I was teaching the correct scale" what the hell does that mean? if he labeled the scale as such, why would anyone NOT assume he was teaching that scale?
    jkjp
    Well , I guess you proved me wrong, your not immature after all, thanks for the apology, although I'm not quite shure that's what it was. I'll take it either way. But, to answer your question no I don't think that people are ignorant or immature just because they don't agree with me, I just have a hard time with people being rude on the internet, not being face to face allows people to say anything they want , and to interact with less respect than they would if they were in person, that's the downside to the net, it's less personal. If we were all hanging out having this discussion I'm sure you wouldn't call me a big dumb bitch in person. By the way maturity comes with age but is not dictated by age.I know some 15 year olds more mature than some 40 year olds.But whatever, thanks for the quasi apology. Now lets all go practice our blues/pentatonic lesson ;
    The Avery
    first off, i'm not immature, and i can drive. lets avoid rediculous generalities. i made a mistake by overlooking the kind of scale that the first scale was, big deal. that doesn't make me inexperienced or mature, but name-calling behind a ****ing computer screen does. also, Dark-light 1989 didn't trash talk you, and neither did i. i said that you were an idiot, and then you got defensive. chill out. yeah, looking back over his entire lesson, there are a few mistakes, but they aren't anything that people couldn't have figured out on their own anyway. oh, and you were right to point them out. so i'm sorry for making you piss yourself with anger. if you think that his lesson is so flawed, then why don't you take the time out of your day just like he did to revise/rewrite a blues lesson?
    The Avery
    really, ignore that post. it's buggin' the hell outta me that its up there and i can't erase it.
    The Avery
    okay. ignore the post above . it got posted on accident. my computer wasn't showing my posts after i did them, so to jkjp i'm sorry that you had to hear my pissy rant three times. i'm just going to say sorry and move on with life. oh, and you were right about the scales i reread the lesson and he did mess up a bunch, so again... that's my bad.
    The Avery
    jkjp is an idiot. this was a great article for beginners, and just because you didn't mention the blues notes doesn't mean that you didn't give 100% correct information. you outlined the minor pentatonic scale (in both positions) perfectly. beginners need not worry about blues notes while first learning the minor pentatonic because it will add a lot of unneccessary confusion. anyway, you did an awesome job! next time you might want to make to versions of the scales- one with the blues notes and one without to avoid having some big dumb bitch complain that you left them out. GREAT JOB!
    josephaaron1@gm
    Thank you for the great lesson. I'm an avid learner and am glad that someone is able to teach some tricks of the trade.
    BodaciousBob
    Well I was trying to be polite when I suggested I was wrong, but I am not.If you look at the scale that you posted in your lesson as being A blues scale second position, you can clearly see that it is the minor pentatonic scale second position. The irony (if you are old enough to know the meaning of this word)to this is that you left out the notes that make it a blues scale. the A blues scale goes A-C-D-Eb-E-G-A. I hope if you plan on adding anymore lessons that you stick with something you know or at least take the time to verify your information. To anyone reading this or using this lesson , this is an example of why you should learn through proper resourses like books and teachers instead of going buy what some kid is writing while he was eating froot loops cereal and watching saturday morning cartoons.
    Lol, The scale you suggested first was wrong and that's why i dismissed it. I did not say that the scale in the lesson was correct, you assumed that.
    10th gear
    Great lesson for the beginner like me. I couldn't tell you if it was wrong or not to be honest. I appreciate the work that was put into it, and will use it each time I practice... Thanks. Keep On Rockin On All...
    Freddy_Walker
    Thats a pretty good lesson and i found it really useful because i love improvising solos and id never seen the A in the second position like that. thanks
    epic7734
    Good job on the lesson.. jkjp: i agree with you on the missing notes in the second position, but i call it d# instead of Eb, but what ever. The main point was made, so i am happy with this leason.
    BodaciousBob
    I see you merely outlined the 'blue notes' i apologise. I was teaching the minor pentatonic scale for the second position as i don't use them they can kill a solo.
    jkjp
    Lol, The scale you suggested first was wrong and that's why i dismissed it. I did not say that the scale in the lesson was correct, you assumed that
    If you are not going to list the correct scale you are not helping anyone, you labeled the scale as being A Blues scale 2nd position.Now you are being immature by saying " I did not say the scale in the lesson was correct". Do everyone a favor and don't post lessons unless they are correct.You made no mention that you you were "teaching" the minor pentatonic. The scale I listed is correct, The first time I listed D# instead of Eb they are the same note I just figured using the # symbol would be better than the small b .You have to realize beginning guitarist look to sites like this to learn the craft, you have a responsibility to post clear and correct information, if not you are commiting a great injustice to the guitar community and the credibility of this site.
    Dark-Light1989
    jkjp wrote: Lol, The scale you suggested first was wrong and that's why i dismissed it. I did not say that the scale in the lesson was correct, you assumed that If you are not going to list the correct scale you are not helping anyone, you labeled the scale as being A Blues scale 2nd position.Now you are being immature by saying " I did not say the scale in the lesson was correct". Do everyone a favor and don't post lessons unless they are correct.You made no mention that you you were "teaching" the minor pentatonic. The scale I listed is correct, The first time I listed D# instead of Eb they are the same note I just figured using the # symbol would be better than the small b .You have to realize beginning guitarist look to sites like this to learn the craft, you have a responsibility to post clear and correct information, if not you are commiting a great injustice to the guitar community and the credibility of this site.
    Dude give him a break, he took his time to help others and he gets abuse from an idiot like you. Ok, the Info might not be 100% correct but are you always 100%? (I Doubt It) So he made a mistake, get over it! By the way, thanks for the lesson, v. useful.
    joeyramoney
    good article for someone looking to write a very specific blues song. i find that it sorta just tells you what to play and not why. if i wanted to learn the pentatonic scale, i could find that somewhere else. also, the song is A minor specifically.
    recliner33
    jkjp wrote: Lol, The scale you suggested first was wrong and that's why i dismissed it. I did not say that the scale in the lesson was correct, you assumed that If you are not going to list the correct scale you are not helping anyone, you labeled the scale as being A Blues scale 2nd position.Now you are being immature by saying " I did not say the scale in the lesson was correct". Do everyone a favor and don't post lessons unless they are correct.You made no mention that you you were "teaching" the minor pentatonic. The scale I listed is correct, The first time I listed D# instead of Eb they are the same note I just figured using the # symbol would be better than the small b .You have to realize beginning guitarist look to sites like this to learn the craft, you have a responsibility to post clear and correct information, if not you are commiting a great injustice to the guitar community and the credibility of this site.
    Give the guy a break, even if he was wrong it was still a good lesson. This leson makes more sense then most of the ones that I've seen on this site.
    GoldenTouch
    Love these fights...great job starting it jkjp. I'd just like to quote you 2 times. "By the way maturity comes with age but is not dictated by age" And "For all you immature kids out there and I know thats all you are, kids, most of which aren't even old enough to drive, " I'd say that the first thing you said, really is true, and to draw this line between non-drivers and drivers, is wrong...Draw the line between Starting-fights-over-the- internet-about-shit-matte rs-noone -cares-about-peop le/and the others. I know you had a good point at first....I don't care. Peace
    skh23_16
    very good lesson! and ill take you up on ur offer of composing an example for Power Tab
    BodaciousBob
    skh23_16 wrote: very good lesson! and ill take you up on ur offer of composing an example for Power Tab
    Haha this has been up for over a year now. What kind of examples you looking for?
    Bobill
    One little pointer. The BB box shape in your lesson should really be moved up two frets to be in the key of A but should also incorporate the ninth fret(E note)of the G string in order to dig into some BB licks. This shape isn't suppossed to map over the minor pentatonic shape as BB would usually move into this position to introduce major tonalities into his soloing.
    Bobill
    Not quite sure what your getting at emo. Of course you can use it with any scale but whether it sounds good or not is another question. If you want to understand how to use this shape effectively you'd be much better off listening to "Live at the Regal" and trying to pick out some of the licks BB plays using this shape than using this lesson as a guide. It's highly inaccurate and certainly has little to do with BB Kings style of playing.
    emo-happy(not)
    i have a question? im writing a solo and can you use any scale with the b.b king box? everything else was pretty good!
    BodaciousBob
    Thanks for the compliments guys. I'm considerering writing another lesson soon but i'm not sure on which subject. Please bare in mind that there are a few mistakes in this lesson, as outlined in other comments. The a blues scale in the second position is missing a few notes i've actually outlined the a minor pentatonic in the second position but that's not a big deal, lol. Also i think i'm a bit short of 12 bars on my chords but i'm sure you can work that out. Thanks. Bob.
    Elman
    what a cool little lesson. i am new to guitar and i really want 2 be a lead guitarist. i have been doing a few lessons on UG and this is one of the very best, it broadened my mind. i would like to see more of this type of stuff around. cheers
    thedarkblues06
    jkjp, you are about the A blues scale, but he was teaching the article in the second blues scale box form, which can be placed anywhere on the fretboard. Don't believe me, listen to it and place it anywhere, it sounds good almost anywhere. Not to mention I'm not really sure beginners know how to form a 12 bars...or know what notes make the scale the "blues"...so I say they're both right. Stop arguin' and play the blues, lol.
    Ring
    jkjp: I don't know if you still come around the site anymore, insofar as your complete and utter over reaction to some ones good will and labor; however, please remember this anecdote: "No one can embarrass youYou can only embarrass yourself." There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to embarrass me; oh contraire, one can only embarrass oneself thinking they've embarrassed someone else. I am personally offended by the verbiage you elected to use, and then hide behind it with some lame remark of ostensibly being "mature." I'm not sure that you are aware that what you mean to say, and what you write, are two completely different things. Nonetheless, I feel it would be a pretty good habit if you were to check your own eye, rather than try and clear out another person's eyes. You came off from your very first post with, " but I think your posting of the A blues scale 2nd position is wrong." Ever try this one, "could perhaps be incorrect?" How about, "Maybe you over-looked" It's called diplomacy. Then closing with a remark such as "I am new; [and] I could be wrong" is so esoteric it's flat out ridiculous. Who are you trying to kid? Yet, the rubbish goes on from there with your remark of "trying to be polite." How is it polite when in the first sentence you tell a guy who's trying to share with others that he's wrong; moreover, trying to hide behind such language that "I could be wrongbut I'm not." Cutting to the quick here, I find all of your posts condescending. You make assertions vis-a-vie name calling and maturity, when at the same time you are calling other folks "kids, eating fruit loops, while watching Saturday morning cartoons" Seriously now, who's the mature one? And finally and this is what irks me: You continue to make constant reminders of "making sure it's correct." Well as I read your collection of posts I was thinking, "What's with this dude, he's got misspelled words, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and besides butchering the language he's doing a lot of butchering to himself." Take and use your own advice before lambasting someone else with it.
    led zeppelin104
    theres like fifty
    tbrit37 wrote: helpful but i learnmed the blues a different way, or are their two types?
    kpmeat
    oh nevermind, i see you were saying "A blues scale" like here it is, not "An Amaj scale."