How Did Eric Clapton Learn Guitar?
Despite a rough background, several addictions, and a major tragedy in his personal life, Eric Clapton was able to follow his musical career. He believes that music is the most powerful healer.
One of the most talented blues players to come out of England. Eric Clapton claims that he is primarily self-taught. He learned most of his guitar skills from other blues artists in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In addition to a long and immensely successful solo career, Eric Clapton was a member of the legendary Yardbirds and the leading power trio Cream. Clapton is well-known for his songwriting abilities and productivity, in addition to being a superb guitarist. He is also the only individual inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times.
For his 13th birthday, Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer. However, this low-cost guitar was extremely difficult to play, and Clapton quickly lost interest in the instrument. But it’s fantastic that he ultimately picked up the guitar again.
According to Clapton’s autobiography, the Slowhand’s first electric guitar was a double-cutaway semi-hollow Kaye. The same model as his hero Alexis Korner. It is believed that it was acquired for 100 pounds with the help of his grandparents.
Eric Clapton is widely regarded as one of the greatest Blues Guitar ambassadors. So, how did Eric Clapton learn to play the guitar?
Eric Clapton learned to play guitar by listening to blues recordings repeatedly. He’d then use a reel-to-reel recorder to capture himself playing riffs from the record. He wouldn’t stop till he had perfected the riff. Clapton had a terrific ear and could learn riffs faster than other guitarists.
Continue reading to understand how Clapton learned to play the blues guitar and evolved into a blues guitar superstar.
When Did Eric Clapton Begin Playing Guitar?
Eric Clapton began playing guitar at the age of 13 in 1958. Clapton purchased a low-cost steel-string Hoyer German guitar and began attempting to play the blues he had heard over the radio. Clapton retired the instrument after a half-year of attempting and failing to play effectively. He didn’t take up the guitar again for another year or two.
How Did Eric Clapton Learn Guitar?
Eric Clapton learned to play the guitar by ear. He would gather blues records, tape them with his reel-to-reel recorder, then play back individual phrases until they were perfect. Clapton also borrowed from the book Play in a Day. Many guitarists of the day, including Jimmy Page and George Harrison, utilized this book. It was really helpful in teaching simple chord formations, how to handle the guitar, and numerous practice tasks.
Eric Clapton’s first instrument was an inexpensive German guitar purchased in 1958. He quit after a year and a half of attempting to play the blues. However, it would not last long. Clapton’s love of the blues was too powerful. After being booted out of art school, Clapton focused his efforts on learning to play the guitar.
Clapton recognized the distinction between blues contributors and blues mimics. Everyone begins as a blues imitator, but many remain stuck in that rut. Clapton recognized this at a young age and worked hard to become a contributor. Someone who could deconstruct diverse blues guitarists’ guitar phrasing and incorporate it into their own style. That’s exactly what he did. Clapton recorded himself playing different iconic blues riffs, all interlaced on his reel-to-reel recorder. He began to build his own style by sporadically adding his touch to them.
Eric had a few minor bands as a teen, but none were serious, so he left them. Clapton went to a bar one night to see a few of his buddies perform. He claimed to be better than the guitarist they were using. He was in the band the next day. That’s a lot of assurance. They were the name of this band.
The Yardbirds started with a bluesy tone.
The Yardbirds started with a bluesy tone. Clapton, as lead guitarist, established this sound. However, this rapidly changed. It became clear that their music leaned toward the pop genre, and Clapton did not want his guitar to follow suit. He instead left the band. He understood exactly what he wanted at the moment, and that was to play blues guitar. To meet that urge, he joined the Blues Breakers. Clapton leaned further into his blues roots in this ensemble. There, he continued to hone his technique, which was profoundly steeped in the blues.
Eric Clapton was about 20 years old when he began playing like a master. No one in England has ever heard anyone play the guitar like him since joining the Blues Breakers. With blues expert John Mayall at the helm of the Blues Breakers, Clapton was able to study blues guitar extremely quickly after being introduced to more and more blues music. Mayall has an extensive collection of blues and jazz music. Far more than Clapton possessed.
Clapton’s guitar talents improved much more while he was in Cream. His bandmates were substantially older and had been playing for far longer than he had. They were proficient in rhythm and timing. According to Jack Bruce, Clapton’s perception of time improved substantially following Cream’s founding.
Eric Clapton, Is He a Self-Taught Guitarist?
Eric Clapton learned to play the guitar on his own. He acquired no official instruction and did not take any courses. Instead, he would imitate the riffs of his favorite blues performers, record them, and playback each phrase. Eric Clapton learned by ear and was unfamiliar with music theory. Clapton grew up listening to music, and his grandma played the piano. Despite his grandma’s mastery of music theory, he did not acquire it from her.
Who Were Eric Clapton’s Most Influential Figures?
Eric Clapton first heard the blues on a children’s radio show called “Uncle Mac,” which featured Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s “Whoopin’ the Blues.” Clapton was captivated by this. It prompted him to purchase his first guitar.
Eric Clapton fell in love with Delta Blues musician and singer Robert Johnson early in his guitar career. He was studying his albums and attempting to perform them. The record King of the Delta Blues Singers was handed to Clapton. Robert Johnson’s collection of seventeen songs. After listening to the record many times, Clapton recognized he had discovered the master. Clapton was inspired and attempted to imitate Johnson.
Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy were two more guitarists Clapton studied and listened to. He admired Broonzy’s skillful and precise rhythm playing. Clapton calls Broonzy’s rhythmic playing “totally amazing.”
He began to imitate Freddie King’s manner after hearing I Love The Woman. This was a single-string electric blues guitar.
Muddy Waters was the most influential figure in Eric Clapton. When Eric Clapton discovered Muddy Waters’ music, it was at a moment when the music was really speaking to him. He mentioned how he was particularly attempting to absorb and make sense of Waters’ guitar playing. In order to assimilate into his own. He was particularly intrigued by Muddy Waters’ style and ability to generate various sounds. Clapton put everything he had into learning Muddy Waters’ effects.
Of course, other guitarists like Buddy Guy and, later in the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix had a significant influence on Clapton. Despite this, the aforementioned Bluesman had the greatest effect on Clapton, particularly in the early days of his musicianship.
How Long Did Eric Clapton Practice Guitar Every Day?
During his childhood, Eric Clapton practiced up to 8 hours a day. Clapton spent an excessive amount of time practicing to reach his current level. When he wasn’t practicing, he was listening to and studying blues albums that he thought would help his playing.
How Did Eric Clapton Come By His Nickname “Slowhand”?
Eric Clapton was given the moniker “Slowhand” because he was slow at changing damaged strings, leading the audience to “sluggish hand clap” him as he did so. Clapton’s usage of very thin gauged strings caused them to break often. When he broke a string, the music stopped as he adjusted it.
Lessons You Can Learn From Eric Clapton
It is difficult to overestimate Eric Clapton’s influence on the blues. He was at the vanguard of the British blues movement, which, when brought back to America, gave the blues a fresh lease on life. He is a legend and one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time.
From his technique to his gear to his approach to practicing, ‘Slowhand’ has a lot to teach us.
Here are some crucial teachings from Eric Clapton that can help you become a great blues guitarist:
Match & Mix Pentatonics
The minor pentatonic scale can become excessively dependent. It works so well, is simple to learn and apply to your playing, and sounds so truly bluesy. However, reliance on the minor pentatonic can lead to monotonous and stale playing. To break out of this melodic rut, many guitarists turn to modes and more unusual scales at this stage. However, they completely overlook the major pentatonic scale.
Using the major pentatonic scale correctly will alter your playing. It will add a new depth to your soloing and dramatically expand your musical pallet.
Clapton’s use of these two scales has been consistent throughout his career. It’s a big component of his sound and can be heard in practically all of his lead work. However, one of the instances is his version of Memphis Slim’s song “Steppin’ Out.” Clapton combines the G minor and G major pentatonic scales, which is stunning. Do the same with your lead playing, and you’ll be surprised at how much variation and depth you can add to your solos. This is one of the most significant concepts Eric Clapton can teach you.
More Is Better
Eric Clapton’s ability to integrate several methods inside very narrowly defined phrases is part of what makes him such a superb blues musician. This really alters the vibe of his playing. It also enables him to get a lot of mileage out of relatively simple note groups.
He adds a hammer on, pulls off, bends, or slides to practically every note. These methods are heavily packed into the sentence, yielding a highly strong outcome. It demonstrates not just how much mileage you can get out of a few notes but also how vital bending and sliding skills are for great blues soloing.
Of course, you can’t always play in this manner. Effective blues soloing is about developing and releasing the tension and practicing restraint when necessary. However, if you want to emulate Clapton’s style from The Bluesbreakers and Cream, let go and let the magic happen!
Another approach Clapton frequently employs when it comes to vibrato is not about delicacy but about strength. Clapton’s vibrato was forceful and muscular, especially in his early performances. And the manner in which he accomplished this is pretty uncommon.
If you watch any live Clapton footage from his career, you will notice that he is quite reliant on his middle finger and frequently prefers it above his ring finger. This is not a terribly cost-effective strategy. However, it does have an effect on your tone. Your middle finger is the most powerful. So, if you want more control or if you want to add a powerful, muscular vibrato to your playing, utilizing your middle finger is a perfect option.
Learn How To Play The Blues
Eric Clapton is a real blues student. Blues music has been a lifelong passion for him. And, while he has dabbled in other musical genres, he has always returned to the blues.
If you truly want to become a competent blues guitarist, adopt Eric Clapton’s advice and approach. Concentrate your practice and focus on blues. Allow yourself to be diverted by things that will not help you improve as a blues musician.
That’s not to suggest you shouldn’t branch out into other genres. Just keep returning to the blues. Consider how you may improve your blues guitar skills by using jazz, soul, and funk methods. Investigate the genre in depth and become a student of the trade. You’ll be astounded at what it can achieve for your game.
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