Have you ever loved a woman

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This song is one of EC’s signature songs – after so many years he’s still playing it live. It’s a slow Blues in C, basically using the minor Blues pentatonic and adding some notes from the major scale, playing it in the cool Chicago Blues (urban Blues) style.

The Chicago (Urban) Blues style developed from the Delta Blues when in the 1940s the black population started to migrate northwards, to the big industrial cities like Chicago and Detroit, which promised profitable job opportunities and so a better life. Nearly 3 million black people left the south between 1940 and 1960. They took their music with them, adapted it to the urban life, the Blues became electrified and was played in a band with drums, bass and piano. Influenced by jazz music, Blues players like Muddy Waters or B.B. (Blues Boy) King created the new Chicago style, which was different to the rural Delta Blues.

This version is from 24 Nights, sometimes compared to the earlier, version on Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. As always it’s not a complete note for note tab, just an aid to play the song and find out characteristics of the Chicago style. Another really great version by EC and the Blues Breakers is on Crossroads I. The song was written by the American R&B songwriter and singer Billy Myles (William Myles Nobles, 1924 – 2005) and recorded first by Texas style Blues artist Freddie King back in 1960. Some websites and even books claim that Myles is just the alter ego for King, but he was a close friend of Freddie and wrote some songs for him.

(…) Freddie King smiled at me as I approached him. His hair was still styled in a perfect processed pompadour and he wore a dark sharkskin suit. As he reached down to gently shake my small nervous hand, I stuttered something about how many times I’d seen him and how great a guitarist I though he was. He thanked me, and then I asked him who Billy Myles was. “Was he another great guitarist I should listen to?”
Freddie King started laughing and looked at his band member and said, “Can you believe this boy asking me about old Billy Myles.” I felt embarrassed and apologized for asking such an apparently stupid question. Then Freddie King said something I’ll always treasure.
“It’s not a stupid question, son.” He said. “Billy Myles was a friend of mine who wrote some songs for me. He was my friend just like you’re my friend.” I walked away on cloud nine. (…)
- Dave Alvin, from the liner notes for FREDDIE KING: LIVE AT THE ELECTRIC BALLROOM 1974

Song basics

At first we need the scale: it’s C. If you started with learning the E Blues scale, it’s easy to get the C scale: just move the pattern 4 frets down from the 12th fret. How do we know where to move the fingering pattern? Just go down 4 frets (aka semitones!) from E to C:

E-D#-D-C#-C

So we get C minor Blues scale:
C-Scale

The first Blues fingering pattern we learned with the E scale now starts at the 8th fret. You can start playing here, using the minor Blues scale – it still fits. But soon you’ll hear that some notes are missing – you don’t get this cool Chicago feeling with only this scale. We add some notes from the major scale (and sometimes other notes from the subdominant or dominant scale), combined with the minor Blues scale as the base. Look at the fingering pattern scheme above to locate the gray colored major notes.

Don’t think too much in scales – instead try to get a feeling for the notes. Every note on your fretboard belongs to so many different scales, learning them all would take a long time and not nececcarily improve your playing – there’s not much time to think when improvising. Keep the basics in mind and try out what sounds cool.

We also leave the dominant 7th chords like E7, A7 or B7 and use dominant 9th chords like C9, F9 and G9 instead – they sound “cooler”. They are also named C7/9, because they are basically the 7th chord plus the additional 9th note. They are used often in the Chicago Blues style. Listen to “Third Degree” (on From the Cradle) for a another good example – cool, mellow, grown-up city Blues. Typical players are BB King, Albert King, Otis Rush or Muddy Waters.

Chords are:

C9 F9F9 G9G9

Intro (24 Nights)

               C9               F9                                               C9
I------------------------11--------11-13-(15)rb13p11----11------------------------------------I
I--------------13-13~~~---------13-------------------13----13-13---11-------------------------I
I--------12-14--------------------------------------------------------12-10-8----8h9----------I
I--13h14----------------------------------------------------------------------10-----10-------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10----I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
0:00                             0:07                                                   0:10

We start with an ascending lick into the root note (C), putting a cool vibrato on it and closing the lick with a very short note, picked and muted immediately. It follows a release bending lick, than descending and resolving into the C major chord.

C9                                                   F9
I------------8---------------------------------------13h15p13---------------------------------I
I--------------11-10-8----8-----------------------------------16b--13----13-13-16b------------I
I-piano--/9------------10---8h9---------------------------------------15----------------------I
I-------------------------------10------------------------------------------------------------I
I----------------------------------10-9-8---6h7~~\--------------------------------------------I
I-----------------------------------------8---------------------------------------------------I
0:11                                                0:18                       0:20

The following licks have the same characteristics: small Blues bendings, very sensitive vibrato and the fluid phrasing between minor and major scale.

F9                                                C9
I---15-13-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------16-13-----13-15-13h15p13----13-13~~~~---11-8------------------------8-10-(12)rb10-8-I
I---------------15-----------------14------------------10-8h9-------piano-8-9-----------------I
I-------------------------------------------------------------10------------------------------I
I----------------------------------------------------------------10---------------------------I
I-------------------------------------------------very smooth---------------------------------I
0:22                                       0:25

C9                     G9                                      F9
I----------------------10-8h10p8----8--------------------------13h15p13-----13h15p13-11-13-11-I
I------8----------8-8------------11---11-8----8-------------------------16b-------------------I
I---10---10-8h9----------------------------10---10/12~-10p8-----------------------------------I
I-----------------------------------------------------------10--------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
0:32                                                               0:38

F9
I---------------------11--13b(15)-11b---------------------------------------------------------I
I-------------------------------------11-8----------------------------------------------------I
I---13-11-13-11-13-13----------------------10-8b--------10b(12)p8--------------------8h9------I
I------------------------------------------------10---------------10------10----7-10-----10~~-I
I---------------------------------------------------10---------------10------10---------------I
I--------------------------------------once-again-resolving-into-the--major-chord!------------I
0:39

Intro (LAAOALS)


OK, so far the intro from 24 nights. Now let’s compare it to the version on Layla and other assorted love songs (LAAOLS). It’s also in C, but not so much Chicago-like, more straight-forward rock Texas Blues style. You can use mostly the same scale as above. Sometimes Old Slowhand is getting really fast and it’s hard to follow. A good CD may help – there are some free-/shareware programs which can reduce the speed while not changing the pitch (using Fourier-transformation).

At first the rhythm part:

The typical slow Blues shuffle rhythm.
Chords for the riffs are: C5/C6/C7; F5/F6/F7; G5/G6/G7,
played for example:

  C5    C6    C7    C6       F5    F6    F7    F5       G5    G6    G7    G5
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I----------------------------10-10-12-12-13-13-12-12---12-12-14-14-15-15-14-14---I
I-10-10-12-12-13-13-12-12-----8--8--8--8--8--8--8--8---10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10---I
I--8--8--8--8--8--8--8--8--------------------------------------------------------I

It’s a bit too high for a typical rhythm guitar, but we can use the standard finger set.

Now the intro from LAAOALS:

C5
I------------8-----------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I----------8-8-/13~~--11b(13)rb11p10p8-----8-----------------------------------------------I
I--10b(12)-----------------------------10---10b(12)rb10----10----8-------------------------I
I-------------------------very fast---------------------10----10---10p8--------------------I
I-----------------------------------------------------------------------10p8---------------I
I----------------------------------------------------------------------------11\-----------I
0:00                                                                        0:06

F5                                        C5
I----11-13--13b(15)-repeat-several times-13-11-13-13b(15)rb13p11--------11------------------I
I-13-------------------------------------------------------------13-13~----13---------------I
I-----------------------------------------------------------------------------10-8----10----I
I----------------------------------------------------------------------------------10----10-I
I-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
0:08                                                               0:12

C5                             F5
I-------------------------8---------8--------11----13/15b(17)-15-13-------------------------I
I-----------------------8---8-----8---/13~~-----13------------------15br-p13----13-13~~-----I
I--8h9---------------/9--------/9--------------------------------------------14---------\14-I
I------10-----8~~\--------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------10--------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
                    0:18                                      0:21

C5
I----------------------8------------------------------------------------8---------11b(13)----I
I------------------8-8---10p8----8------------------------------------8---11p8---------------I
I-----8-10-10b(12)------------10---10b(12)rb(10)-p8-----10----10b(12)------------------------I
I--10------------------------------------------------10----10--------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
   0:25                                                                           0:29

C5                                                               G5
I--11b(12)-8---------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I------------11-8----------------------------------------8-11---------8----------------------I
I-----------------10b(12)-10-8----8h9---------------8-10------10b(12)---10-9----8-10-10b(12)-I
I------------------------------10-----10----8\---10--------------------------10--------------I
I----------------------------------------10--------------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
                                         0:31

G5                                                              F5
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I-8-11------8--------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I-------10b---10b(12)rb(10)-p8----10----9----------------------------------------------------I
I------------------------------10----10---10h8-------------------------8---------------------I
I----------------------------------------------10\8\7\6---6tr8---/8/10---10\8\6---8---6/8/10-I
I-------------------------------------------------------8-----------------------8---8--------I
 0:36                                                       0:40

F5                                                                     C5
I-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------8\-------I
I------------------------------------------------11b(13)rb11--8-------------------8----------I
I--------------8--10-10b(12)rb10-p8h10-8h9----------------------10-8h9--------8-9------------I
I-8-10----8-10-----------------------------10~~~-----------------------10~~------------------I
I------10------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
                                                                        0:49

Hard to play, really… But if you take a closer look at the fast licks, you see a common structure:

Example:

I---------------------------------I
I---------------------------------I
I-10b(12)rb10-p8----10----8-------I
I----------------10----10---10----I
I------------------------------10-I
I---------------------------------I

Solo pieces

from “24 Nights” (look at the bottom time line to get the right starting point:

I------11-13-13b(15)-13b(15)----11-13-(15)rb13-p11----------11----11b(13)--13b(15)-repeat-----I
I---13-----------------------13--------------------13-13-13----13------------------15-times---I
I----------------------------------------------------------------------------------with-------I
I----------------------------------------------------------------------------------different--I
I----------------------------------------------------------------------------------attacks----I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
    02:26                                                                   02:35

I-11----11----11-(15)rb13-p11-13-11-----11-13-15-13p11----13-11-----------11----11-13-----13--I
I----13----13------------------------13----------------13-------13-13-13~----13-------16b-----I
I-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------repeat--I
I-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4-times-I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
                    02:43                                           02:45

Less then a fistful of notes, but enough to make a great solo…

Later in this solo:

I-------11-13-15-13-11-13--(15)rb13-p11----11-13-15-repeat--11-13-11-13-12-13-(15)rb13-p11----I
I-11-13---------------------------------13----------several--------------------------------13-I
I---------------------------------------------------times-------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
  3:14                                       03:18                               03:23

The first solo closes with a nice turnaround:

I-----------------------I
I------------8----------I
I------------8h9--------I
I-----8-9-10-----10~~---I
I--10-------------------I
I-----------------------I
04:04

And now parts of the second solo. We leave the fingering pattern above, playing in the beginning of the solo at around 3rd fret. Take a second look at the scale above, to know which notes can be played. The solo starts with a strong double stop, two notes played together:

I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
I---------------------------------------------------4-----------------------------------------I
I--/5--/5--repeat---3---------------------/5-/5-/5----5-5~~--3--------------------------------I
I--/5--/5--3 times----5-4-3-----3---1h3p1-/5-/5-/5-------------5-3-1---3---1------------------I
I---------------------------6-3---3----------------------------------3---3---3p1h3p1h3--------I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
   04:55                             05:00                                   05:03

The repeating pattern at 05:17 (a C minor chord):

I----------------------I
I----------------------I
I-8---------8----------I
I---10-8------10-8-----I
I--------10--------10--I
I----------------------I
05:17

Another great change of mood at 06:01

I----------------------------15-14-13--11-13-11----------------------I
I--/11--/11--/12--/14---------------------------13-11-13-------------I
I--/12--/12--/13--/14-------------------------------------15b(17)\---I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------I
I--fast up and down strokes------------------------------------------I
I--------------------------------------------------------------------I

The rest of the solo is played along our first pattern. We close our tour now with the ending:

   F9                                      C9          F9                   G9          Db9 C9
I---13b(15)-11b----13b(15)-11b-----------------------8-13b(15)-11b--13b(15)-11----------4--3--I
I---------------13-------------13---------------8-10---------------------------13-------4--3--I
I---------------------------------10-8------8-9-----------------------------------/12\--4--3--I
I--------------------------------------10-----------------------------------------------3--2--I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4--3--I
I---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I
 06:25                                      06:28

Always remember: you don’t need to play this note for note. You don’t need to learn the complete scale before you start playing. Pick out a part of the scale, try out which notes are added to get this cool sound and then just listen and play. Discover all the small bendings and vibratos which are not noted here. A fluid playing is very important for this sound, try out to close your eyes while playing. This helps you to get more reliability.

Chicago (Urban) Blues summary

  • fluid phrasing, just cooooool
  • lots of small bends and vibrato
  • use dominant 9th chords instead of 7th
  • keys are preferably C or G
  • avoid open strings – you can’t bend them nor put a vibrato on it
  • include notes of the major scale