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from Andy Aledort’s Kings of Blues & Rock, Volume 1: Johnny Winter
One of Johnny Winter’s greatest studio recordings is the slow blues, “Be Careful with a Fool,” from his first Columbia album, Johnny Winter
, upon which this solo is based. In our version of “Careful,” we’ll look at the first half of Johnny’s work – or the initial six bars from the 12-bar form. Based on a C minor pentatonic with the occasional use of the C major pentatonic, “Careful” demonstrates Johnny’s ability to set a solo on fire and fly through more notes than you can imagine. It also shows Johnny’s preference for feel over sticking to strict rhythmic constraints.
Based predominately around the eighth position, the solo fully exploits what the C minor pentatonic – C, Eb, F, G, Bb – has to offer, with occasional forays into the C major pentatonic – C, D, E, G and A. Beginning with a three-note pickup phrase on the last beat of the first measure, “Careful” then goes straight to an Eb to F bend to initiate one of several up and down runs within this solo. “Careful” is also good advice for this solo – work out fingering positions beforehand, or your left hand could end up in knots. Measure 2 moves to the IV chord and throws in unison bends for a change in texture as well as a respite from the previous – and the upcoming – barrage of notes. Measure 3 is right back at it, featuring another up and down pentatonic lick over the C chord. Barre your index finger across the E and B strings at the eighth fret and start off slowly, being mindful of the hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Note the quick stop on the A at the tenth fret on the B string as a brief nod to the C major pentatonic scale. Measure 5 moves back to minor pentatonic territory, featuring full step bends on the G string at the tenth fret before landing on the Eb on the same string at the end of the measure – one of your few opportunities to throw in some vibrato.
The sixth measure moves back to the F and showcases a rapid-fire bend and pull-off riff repeated throughout the bar. Once again, comfortable fingering is key. The phrase is played high enough up the neck that the ring finger could easily be used for the bend and pull-off on the B string at the 11th fret; feel free to use your pinky for the same role if it’s dexterous enough. The finger you choose will likely depend on how quickly it can burn through this tricky riff. The last measure doesn’t slow down much, but does offer a break from the challenging bends within the fast phrases, delivering another Eb with some space around it near the end, with a quick pull-off to finish things off.
Johnny’s knack for delivering bends within blazing passages is a skill any guitarist would be proud to possess. Try working through “Careful” slowly before moving up to speed – dropping to a lighter string gauge might not be a bad idea, either!
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