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Smokestack Lightning: Introduction

 

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Smokestack Lightning

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In this tutorial I'm gonna teach you how to play the classic blues song Smokestack Lightning as made famous by the one and only Howlin' Wolf. This song is part of the "standard" blues repetoire, and almost any blues or rock act has covered it at some point. Their versions are often cleaner and more accessible, but Howlin' Wolf's original version is so dark, obscure and almost hypnotic that it in my opinion is the coolest. It can be a little bit trickier to learn, but it's worth it.

The whole song is based on that one classic guitar riff, which uses a combination of quarter notes on the low E-string and the catchy melody on the top strings. This is pretty tricky to do, but we'll take it one step at a time, and I'm also gonna show an easy alternative so everyone can hang!

That is the main riff that everyone knows, but there is also supporting rhythm guitar part almost hidden in the mix, which adds that droning, hypnotic vibe to the song.

I'll explain how to count this song, and we'll keep it simple, but I'm still gonna explain what happens on the original recording of this song, to make it so confusing rhythmically. Then you and your band can always choose how you wanna play it or feel it!

We're gonna talk about how to get your tone just right and much more. This song is in 4/4 and the quarter note equals 146 bpm, so let's get to it!