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  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • stevie ray vaughan

    Lick of the Week: Mary Had A Little Lamb by Stevie Ray Vaughan

    by Simon James

    The lick for today is a 12 Bar Texas Blues Shuffle in E called Mary Had A Little Lamb by 80s Blues master and another of my favourite guitar players, Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you have yet to get into the Texas Flood album by SRV I advise you to do so right now if you are an aspiring Blues guitarist, because what is so great about his renditions of the Blues is that there is so much that can be learned from each small excerpt.

    What we will be looking at in this study is the intro and by just going round the opening 12 bars we will cover how to play licks in the open E pentatonic position, how to then move up to the next pentatonic position and how to use the open strings and alternate picking for some really speedy lick fills in between the chords.

    To warm up practice an open E pentatonic scale.

    open e pentatonic scale  

    The pattern of the lick is a bar of strumming followed by a fast pentatonic lick throughout.

    Strumming Patterns

    Begin with an E pentatonic run starting on the A in the bar leading in to the beginning of the 12 bars before dropping into the I7(E) in bar 1. Practice the strumming well so that you are able to always play a downstroke on the beat and an upstroke in between the rests as it is the same for each of the chord changes in the intro. This allows for you to attack the chords aggressively and to alternate between the open string root notes and chords throughout.


    The first lick in bar 2 involves a hammer on and fast alternate picking on the B before going down the scale back into the I7 by way of a G. Repeat the strumming pattern from bar 1 before going into the second lick. This one involves moving up to the 2nd major pentatonic position based around a G shape starting on the B with a hammer on and going up the scale to the A before finishing with a hammer on and pull off using a Bb taken from the E blues scale that fits nicely over the change into the IV7 (A).

    The lick over the IV7 in bar 10 is the most tricky part of this opening sequence. This one involves a fast pull off from the IV7 chord on strings 1 and 2 for which I use my second and third fingers. Then pull off from the D to the open string, again with third finger, so that you are still playing in the open position. When making the slide up to the second position from the A to the B I use my second finger and then play the D on the 2nd string with my first finger. This allows for me to slide up quickly and then back into the open position without any awkward finger changes. Notice also the strumming that I have marked in the notation at this point of a down and up stroke on the B, D and open E string chord. This helps keep with the groove and general feel from SRV. One further point for this lick is that I have also added a slide back down to the open position. This is hard to make out in the recording but it feels much more comfortable to play it this way.

    Finish the riff with the turnaround, fill and head back to the start.

    stevie ray vaughan mary had a little lamb tab  


    Stevie was very much influenced by Delta Blues and by the playing of another Blues great Albert King. We can see this in his use of the 3rds and 7ths (particularly when playing the C# and G over the IV7 in this example) which pop up a great deal in his licks and by the pull offs to the open strings, which allow for really fast and aggressive riffery before chord fills. The lick in bar 10 is a classic piece of Delta Blues playing.

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