Eric Clapton is not only a fantastic Pentatonic player, but is far more ‘chord-tone’ based than you may think. He finds these hip sounds around the regular Pentatonic framework by zoning in on two crucial notes: the Major 3rd and Major 7th. He adds the Major 3rd to the Minor Pentatonic via the Minor 3rd found a semitone (one fret) below. For the Major 7th, Eric often performs a preset three-note decoration that is as follows: Root note, Major 7th (a semitone below), and back up to the Root note.
Here a breakdown of what’s going on in this week’s solo:
We kick off with some regular Pentatonic action, but look carefully and you’ll see in bar 1 the three-note Major 7th decoration idea mentioned earlier. In bar 2, Clapton executes a similar move between the resolute Major 3rd and the slightly more tense Minor 3rd. You can use Major and Minor 7ths within the same phrase.
Clapton really got to grips with playing through changes during his Cream period. To accurately spell out the change to the IV chord (in this case, D7), we simply move the same shape up to the 10th position. The same decorative additional notes can be used here also. In bar 7, we’re back to the 5th position. This phrase is based exclusively on chord tones. The trick is to approach each chord tone from a semitone below. This creates a pattern of tension release.
For the final four bars, there are two slightly different approaches to spelling out important chord tones. For bars 9-11, we’re staying in one fretboard position while following the underlying harmony. Clapton frequently aims for the 3rd of each chord, sometimes going straight there and sometimes via a bluesy Minor 3rd. For the final bar there’s more horizontal fretboard motion, moving up to the 12th position to nail the target E7 chord change.
As always, below the YouTube video you’ll find the backing track to play along with, and below that, the tablature. Aren’t I nice?!
Feel free to ask questions or just share your thoughts in the comments!