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Play Guitar Like Stevie Wonder

In this lesson, we are checking out three guitar licks in the style of the RnB superstar, Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s soulful voice, super tight arrangements and catchy melodies make him one of the most prolific artists of our generation. Although not a guitarist, stealing and utilising the licks Stevie Wonder uses will be fantastic for your own playing. Interesting jazz chords, in the pocket style funk riff, and an extended pentatonic line is all in today’s lesson.

Stevie Wonder Guitar Example 1 – Jazz Chords

There is something very satisfying about learning a new chord, and being able to add a brand new flavour into your own playing. Today’s chord is very jazzy and contains an alteration (adds in new intervals from outside the chord harmony.) The chord we are using is the dominant 7#11. In this example, we see how in can be used between two dominant 7th chords and acts as a passing chord.

Stevie Wonder Guitar Example 2 – In The Pocket Funk Line

‘In the pocket’ is a term used widely in the funk community. It refers to the riff you are playing being perfectly in sync, usually with the bass and drums. This riff is based on E minor. I pick this riff with quite a lot of force to get the notes to cut through. Try putting on a funky drum backing track, or your most faithful friend the metronome and make sure this idea is bang on the beat!

Stevie Wonder Example 3 – Long Pentatonic Run

Stevie Wonder’s bridge sections often feature long pentatonic runs where all the instruments are in unison (playing the same notes.) By adding a specific rhythmic pattern to a group of pentatonic notes you can build extended licks with very little effort. Make sure you use this technique in all of your pentatonic scales and not just the ‘A’ shape minor pentatonic as shown here.

Recommended listening

For classic Stevie Wonder style guitar licks, I recommend buying the album “Songs In The Key Of Life.” My favourite track on that album being “I Wish.”

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Guitar Lesson Video Transcription

Hey YouTube! Simon here once again for Fundamental Changes. Today we’re looking at some licks in the style of the fantastic master Stevie Wonder.  Let’s get to those just after this.

[guitar playing]

As always, here’s our chord in the style of, well, it’s basically one chord in a couple of positions today. It’s quite a fun one, it’s the dominant 7 sharp 11, sometimes referred to as dominant 7 flat 5, it has a few different names. Basically, we will be doing this C, then A sharp or B flat, depending on how you want to call it.

It’s kind of like a little mini passing chord between your A7s and your B7s, which is your E shaped bar chord minus your little finger. The C7 shape, you’re going to have 8, nothing, 8-9-7, and then your other one, obviously is the same shape as this back 2 frets.

So, a little bit of a staccato rhythm on these bar chords, these 7th chords, and it’s little interim bits here as well, really nice little dominant 7 chord for your alterations.

Let’s get to Example 2.

[guitar playing]

Example 2 here, I want to talk about the phrase “Being in the pocket.” Funk wise, this is one of the most important phrases. Basically, what this means is being synced up with the bass, synced up with the drums, everything is sat on top of each other, it’s in the pocket.

This groove here we’ve got today is around E minor, kind of a very popular type groove, and you’re starting off. The thing is that I want you to work on are, it’s slightly par muted, so a gentle chop on the guitar here, and you want to pick through the strings quite hard. You can see when I’m playing this,I’m getting this almost funky edge. If you just read the tab itself, it’s hard for me to note that.

Watch actually how I put this together, this little lick, and these little run-throughs there. You can add this more funky, more aggressive picking style to all your rock blues licks too. Really fun technique you can bring in. Groovy, syncopated, and in the pocket.

[guitar playing]

Stevie Wonder is a master of many, many things musically. One thing that he does a lot of the time in his breakdowns are along pentatonic runs where he uses a mixture of groupings of notes, the amount of notes he plays in one direction, then it comes back, and then up, and then back, and then usually ascends and descends in the same pattern.

Usually all the instruments are in unison, so you’ll have every part playing the same line at the same time. This one’s in E minor as Example 2 was. We’re running around the A minor shape, E minor at the 7th fret here, your 4th position of your minor pentatonic, and we’re running this syncopated little riff.

This is a really fun way that you can take just a normal pentatonic pattern picking, and make it into quite an extended sequence, which I really like to do. Try this in your other positions that you know as well, building these little ascending and descending lines that you could make in unison.

Try recording a bass part in, and put it on top of each other. Trumpet parts, or whatever, if you’ve got midi, and other access there. You can make a really fat, full breakdowns just from this idea of pentatonics.

You can of course try it with scales too. I really hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’ll see you soon.

Hi everyone, I really hope you enjoyed this Stevie Wonder lesson. Subscribe now, because we upload at least 1 video a week, usually 2, to inspire you in your playing. Go and check out Joseph’s website Fundamental Changes, and have a look at my YouTube channel, SDPguitar, where I give you more free guitar lessons. See you soon.

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