Learn the approaches to blues-rock, acoustic fingerstyle and slide guitar from the legendary Rory Gallagher

This month we take a look at the different styles of Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher.

Rory successfully fused blues and rock guitar vocabulary with local folk and Celtic influences, and his albums have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. The various key ingredients of Rory’s influences can be clearly heard, but are beautifully blended with her own nuances.

We wrote five new tracks to learn. Each of them is in the style of a historic Rory recording, and each highlights a different signature approach. One of the key ingredients to Rory’s style is keeping the delivery organic with an emphasis on feel and delivery, as opposed to clinical precision.

Our first track is a slow blues inspired by tracks like I’m collapsing. We’ve included a rhythm work chorus for you to learn and this acts as a stepping stone to soloing. The A Minor Pentatonic (ACDEG) scale provides the primary roadmap for the major lines here. However, Rory was a master at incorporating minor scale notes into this basic framework and it added to his signature sound.

Our second track is an up-tempo rock track inspired by songs like shadow theater. Again, to kick things off, there’s a bit of powerchord riffling to learn. Rory wasn’t afraid to turn it up and add a slice of rock to his blues.

This time, the solo uses D minor pentatonic (DFGAC). Again, two additional notes can be added to D Minor Pentatonic (E and Bb) to create a D Natural Minor scale. This sound takes us further into the world of rock (think Gary Moore) and facilitates a more emotional delivery.

Our next track releases the bottleneck. Rory was a master of the slide guitar and his style was aggressive and powerful. Our track uses open G tuning (DADGBD) which facilitates some of that classic electric blues slide guitar phrasing.

For the last two titles, we dust off the acoustics. Rory wasn’t afraid to incorporate folk and Celtic influences into his style, and our fourth track draws inspiration from songs like just the smile.

For this one we’re using the DADGAD tuning which provides a cool ambiguous modal tone that is neither major nor minor. As standard chord shapes and scales will not work with this tuning, the musical ear must take over. Using a different setting can be a good way out of the same old patterns and boxes.

Finally, we have a simple but effective piece of fingerstyle blues. Rory was a fearless fingerpicker and this track is inspired by songs like tell me goodbye, and features a repeated finger style pattern. The continuous octave bassline gives the driving feel of this track.

One of the key ingredients to Rory’s style is keeping the delivery organic with an emphasis on feel and delivery, as opposed to clinical precision.

You can use the three backing tracks to try out your own Rory-tinged solos using some of the ideas from our sample songs. But resist the temptation to stay within a pentatonic-only framework, and instead do like Rory, bringing in chromatic tones to create minor, dorian, and mixolydian natural sounds. It’s so much cooler. Explore and have fun!

Get the tone

The Fender Custom Shop now manufactures replicas of Rory’s iconic 1961 Strat. He used a Vox AC30 with a treble boost pedal to get him to sing sustain.

To get the sound with your own setup, select the bridge pickup (single coil is the most authentic, but a humbucker will work well). Go for a light overdrive with lots of sustain. Rory would use the guitar amp all the way, but if that’s not practical, use a compressor or overdrive pedal to emulate a loud valve sound.

Technical focus: vibrato and finger flexion

Two techniques that are key to delivering Rory’s lead guitar are his finger vibrato and string bending. Although his technique and approach is more blues oriented, it also works well in rock mode.

The key to a good finger vibrato is consistency of width and speed. Rory used an aggressive touch that is most characteristic of a medium width and fast pace. Rory adds this finger vibrato to normally fretted notes as well as curved notes. Rory’s string bending technique is appropriate for his blues and rock playing (when using slide, the vibrato speed and width is very wide and fast).

As with all string bending practices, you need to use a target pitch to ensure you bend perfectly on pitch. It will be easier to work on the bends of a semitone (one fret) first, and then move on to a bend of a whole tone (two frets).

As with all electric blues, all minor third intervals can be bent by a sharp quarter tone. These quarter-tone bends help the notes fit harmonically into the chords, which adds a nice, fishy, ​​bluesy flavor.

Background

There are many Rory Gallagher recordings to choose from. These range from his debut with blues-rock trio Taste, to his solo recording career and prolific live production.

His first solo album from 1971, titled simply Rory Gallagher, is a classic and well worth a listen. But don’t miss Irish tour 1974, often touted as one of the best and most exciting blues-rock albums of the time.

Jam track 1: Slow Blues in A minor

CHORUS 1: BARS 1-14

We’ve included a rhythm work chorus for you to learn and this acts as a stepping stone to soloing. The bass notes of the Fadd9 and G chords are played with the thumb of the fretting hand, which wraps around the top of the fretboard.

CHORUS 2 AND 3: BARS 15-END

The A Minor Pentatonic (ACDEG) scale provides the primary roadmap for the major lines here. Combining string bending and double strings is a classic trick and we use this idea in bar 30. The open strings can be used as pedals and it really helps fill out the sound.

Jam track 2: rhythmic rock in D minor

VERSE 1: For starters, we have powerful powerchord riffs. Rory wasn’t afraid to go up to 11! Use Palm Muting to thicken the sound and add a punchy attack.

CHORUS: Rory often used patterns that can be repeated, giving the listener something to cling to. Our pattern is simple to play and memorable.

Jam track 3: electric slide

Rory’s slide style was aggressive and powerful. Our track uses open G tuning (DADGBD) which facilitates classic blues slide phrasing. Having a b3rd interval between the first and second strings, a major 3rd between the second and third, and a perfect 4th between the third and fourth allows these intervals to be used freely.

Jam track 4: Celtic acoustics

Rory loved the acoustic guitar and incorporated folk and Celtic influences into his music. For this one, we’re using the DADGAD tuning, so detune the sixth, second, and first strings one tone to create this modal chord. We noted the strumming pattern with its swinging eighth note rhythm.

To condense the chart, we’ve used a few roadmap repeats and symbols. Hopefully after one listen it should be pretty obvious where everything is going.

Jam track 5: Fingerstyle Acoustic Blues

Finally, we have a simple but effective piece of fingerstyle blues. This track features a repeating two-bar finger style pattern that we noted. Starting slow with this one is key because while the finger style pattern isn’t too difficult, you’ll need to get it nailed down before you get it up to tempo.

The continuous bassline pattern (typical of Delta blues) gives the driving feel (think Big Bill Broonzy). We’ve doubled a main acoustic part to provide some context and to end the track, but the main thing we’re concerned about here is the fingerstyle acoustic accompaniment, which is notated in full.

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