Beyond Blues: Warren Haynes’ Southern-Fried Blues-Rock
Few guitarists are able to combine soul with a healthy amount of down-home rock like the Gov’t Mule frontman.
• Understand how to play expressively with the blues scale.
• Learn how to use space effectively in your solos.
• Develop standard-tuned slide skills.
The best part of writing a column like Beyond Blues is getting to look at a few of my musical heroes and without a doubt North Carolina native Warren Haynes falls into that category. Haynes has had a long association with the Allman Brothers Band—who he’s been playing with (minus a short gap in the late nineties) since 1989. While that obviously meant standing up and playing classic Southern rock jams for many years, Warren would lend his voice and playing skills on tunes characteristically his, such as the beautiful duet with Derek Trucks, “Old Friend.”
Outside of the Allman Brothers he has played with the Dead, David Allan Coe, and the Dickey Betts Band. He’s probably most known for his own solo work and fronting Gov’t Mule, who have released no fewer than 18 albums in 20 years!
Haynes has the full package. He’s a phenomenal rhythm guitar player with groove for days, a powerful electric blues player, a scarily talented slide player, and he wraps it all up with an ability to write (and sing) fantastic songs.
For this column we’ve got a backing track with an A and B section in the style of something you might hear in a Gov’t Mule song. Let’s start by taking a look at the riff in the A section (Ex. 1). We’re just using notes of the E Dorian mode (E–F#–G–A–B–C#–D), going between a punchy riff and an open-string fill. This one can present quite a challenge if you’re not comfortable with 16th-note rhythms, so be careful!
The solo (more on that in a bit) happens over the B section shown in Ex. 2. It’s a simple idea based around a straight-ahead A power chord. Keep those 16th-note rhythms tight and really lock in with the drums. In the 2nd and 4th measures, make sure to bounce off the downbeat of beats 3 and 4.
Our first solo example (Ex. 3) is based almost entirely on the A blues scale (A–C–D–Eb–E–G) and uses plenty of space—a hallmark of Haynes’ sultry and economical style. This example is all about phrasing, vibrato, and tone, so it’s important to spend time on how you play the notes in addition to accuracy. Shades of big benders like Albert King and David Gilmour appear in measure five with a jump from A to E before a huge minor-third bend and a walk down over the essence of the blues scale—the b5.
For the next example, we bust out the slide. Haynes is known as one of the modern masters of soulful slide guitar, and it’s an essential part of his style. In a previous column, [“Standard-Tuned Slide”], we touched on some of these elements, so go back and check it out to brush up. As this solo demonstrates, Haynes is a big advocate of combining regular fretwork with slide playing. We’re sticking with the E blues scale (E–G–A–Bb–B–D), and the trick here is to focus on the muting. To keep any unwanted notes from ringing out, use both your right and left hands (let your fretting fingers rest lightly on the strings behind the slide).
Finally, we have a backing track, which you can hear with or without the slide solo, so you can experiment with the ideas shown here and then try some of your own. Have fun!