July 12, 2015 in Tips & Lessons

Eric Clapton – Guitar Lesson From 1968

Eric Clapton Vibrato Technique


Eric Clapton needs no introduction, as his legendary stature as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of the instrument has stood the test of time. From his earliest riffing and soloing heard with The Yardbirds in the early-mid 1960s, to his most recent performances and recordings – Clapton is a giant of music and has influenced thousands (if not, millions) of guitarists and musicians.

One of his signature trademarks includes his smooth and effortless vibrato technique, which has been studied and borrowed by countless guitarists. There is a subtle art to the way that Clapton sustains and uses vibrato with his melodic phrasing and this lesson will reveal three licks from a historic interview from 1968.  In 1968, documentary footage was shot surrounding the popular group Cream, when Clapton was a principle member of this influential band. Several interviews were filmed featuring each member of the group, and Clapton’s segment is very famous and will be of great interest to anyone attempting to emulate Clapton’s masterful vibrato style.

The first example from this lesson features a single string-bend, including some lyrical and sustained vibrato (Ex.1). This lick can be found in the accompanying video for this lesson (for reference), and you can view Clapton performing this lick in the flesh. As you play through this single-bend example, you should strive for smooth vibrato motion, and be sure to not apply an aggressive/wide vibrato movement. We’re looking for a smooth and controlled sound, similar to what you would hear coming from a blues vocalist, only here we’re performing this idea on a single-string of the guitar.

Clapton Vibrato Lesson EX1

As you get a feel for performing string bending with vibrato, you should be aware that the movement for this type of vibrato with come more from the wrist, rather than coming from the fingers. You should keep your frethand fingers stable and stationary, as your frethand wrist will gently twist back-and-forth, allowing you to perform flowing vibrato lines all over the fretboard. Play through the next example, which is the second lick that Clapton performs during the famous video interview from 1968 (Ex.2).

Clapton Vibrato Lesson EX2

The final example in this lesson is another tasty Clapton lick from the video, and this time you’ll find he not only unveils his trademark vibrato technique, but he also pulls out some position-shifting, legato moves, and some interesting blues-based phrasing (Ex.3).

Clapton Vibrato Lesson EX3

As you become comfortable emulating Clapton’s masterful vibrato technique, you should notice that your single-note lines and phrases should eventually sound more musical and melodic. Applying and emulating phrases and licks from a player on Clapton’s level will strengthen your playing and style immensely, and you should be patient while working through this type of material. Your progress will be gradual and slow, but the long-term benefit of practicing and perfecting your vibrato technique will influence and direct everything else that you play on the guitar.

Good luck!

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