Ike chose his notes with the cunning of a card shark trying to draw an inside straight. But, he phrased with the abandon of a sailor on shore leave. All those years of playing piano and arranging taught him a considerable amount about harmony, as he could certainly navigate I-IV-V chord changes. Ike modestly terms what he does on the guitar as “tricks,” but make no mistake, he attacked his axe with the conviction of a man who knew precisely what he wanted to hear come out of it.
He took inspiration from Gatemouth Brown’s “Okie Dokie Stomp” and ran it through the supercharger on his Strat to produce the four measures of Fig. 1. Similar to “I’m Tore Up,” it shows how the root position of the basic blues scale can be finessed to create tension, even with typical blues licks. Dig how Ike ends his phrases on the 5th (F) in measures 1, 2, and 3, refusing to give in to the root note. Instead, he slams past it until measure 4, where he finally resolves to the Bb while getting ready to up-shift to measure 5 and the IV chord, with a full-step bend to the F note.
Fig. 2 gives a tantalizing taste of Ike’s whammy-bar technique. Like all of his Kings of Rhythm material, notes on paper do not adequately convey the explosive exuberance of his playing. Nonetheless, you should know that Ike did not use the whammy bar to dive bomb, he used it to launch rockets and incendiary devices. With a limited palette of notes, he acknowledged the chord changes of the last four measures of a fast shuffle like “Sad As a Man Can Be.” To fully achieve his shattering vibrato, pull up and push down on the bar rapidly. For the bends in measures 10 and 11, hold the bar up while vigorously pumping on the handle. Though he may have sound wildly spontaneous, Ike was able to articulate these maneuvers with a high degree of pitch accuracy.
Ike demonstrates his mastery of the Mixolydian mode combined with the blues scale in Fig. 3. Taking advantage of the attributes of both scales, he uses the major 3rd (C#) in the pickup and measure 1 to illuminate the A7 change, but eliminates it in favor of the b3rd, which functions as the b7th leading tone of D7. Of course, he is bending, hammering, and pulling off like a demon throughout, scattering triplets like a man shooing alley cats with a bucket of water. Compare this figure to what Ike played on Buddy Guy’s “You Sure Can Do.”
Fig. 4 is from the soulful sixties and is based upon “Love the Way You Love.” With economy and tasteful simplicity, Ike accompanies the I and IV changes in measures 1 and 2 with the graceful arpeggiation of the triadic tones for each chord. Note the hip dyads in measure 3 that imply C (root and 3rd) and G (3rd and 5th). At this juncture in his career, Ike was absolutely content to assume a supporting role in his band, allowing his singers and soloists to command the glare of the spotlight.
Based on the instrumental funk ditty called “Scotty Souling,” Fig. 5 employs major scale patterns that Jimi Hendrix would later incorporate as well. In this position, the root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes fall right under your fingers. Though broken into syncopated increments of one measure each, these four measures actually constitute one complete musical idea that would not begin to repeat the cycle until measure 5 (not shown.
If you barre fret 9 with your index finger, you can access all the notes (except the E at fret 7 on string 5 in measures 1 and 3) without changing hand positions. After that, all you will need to cop the appropriate vibe is an iridescent suit, dark shades, and your Strat set in the funk notch between the middle and bridge pickups.