B.B. King is considered by many to be the most influential guitarist ever. From Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Gary Clark Jr., every blues-rock player of the last 50 years owes a debt of gratitude to the King every time they lean into a single-note solo.
In fact, the legendary Buddy Guy believes B.B.’s influence is so vast that his name should be engraved on every electric guitar!
Of the many signature elements that comprise B.B.’s sound, the one most often cited is his penchant for zeroing in on a specific pattern of notes and strings when playing in a given key. The pattern, which is played primarily on the top three strings and forms a visual “box” shape on the fretboard, has become affectionately known as the “B.B. box.”
In this blog post, I’d like to outline the pattern in a few positions and demonstrate some licks that navigate through his unique scale pattern to create some cool B.B.-style solo licks and phrases.
BB King Scale: Music Theory
BB uses the "Minor Pentatonic a little differently than most. Essentially he takes the standard "Minor Pentatonic" and replaces the "b7" tone with a "Major 6" tone.
- Example using the tonic note of "A"
BB King Scale: "Neck Patterns"
Most often, BB King’s use of this restructured Minor Pentatonic shape places the tonic note on the second B string, (generally fretted with the index finger).
Scale TAB - Figure One:
FIGURE 1: Shows how the six notes that make up the “B.B. box,” can be played in the key of A in the 9th and 10th position. But, in FIGURE TWO we expand the lower register range.
By staying in position, the "BB King" Scale can be played into lower register string sets. In Figure Two we take this pattern into a lower 5th string tonic at the 5th string's 12th-fret.
Scale TAB - Figure Two:
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The Author: Andrew Wasson (GIT Grad.), Ultimate Guitar's "Top Contributor"