Smokey Robinson Biography

The vice president of Motown

Biography and Guitar Lessons

Watch This Video

Smokey Robinson live


Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson is a singer, songwriter, producer who started working with Berry Gordy before Motown was even founded.

Smokey’s band, The Miracles, was actually one of the first signings to the label.

During the 60s, Smokey Robinson and his Miracles released smash hits such as Shop Around, You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me, and The Tears of a Clown.

Smokey also worked as a songwriter and producer for Motown. In this role, he is responsible for My Guy, My Girl and Get Ready. He also wrote songs for Marvin Gaye and witnessed the development of little Stevie Wonder.

As if that wasn’t enough, Robinson also filled the position as the Vice president of Motown from 1965.

This was seemingly too much on Smokey’s plate as in 1972, he announced that his singing career was over and that he was to be only Vice President and a devoted father from now on.

A year later Smokey announced his comeback with a new album but by now, his former students, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder had become so successful that anything Smokey released paled in comparison.

The sweet, somewhat innocent sound of the 60s that Smokey was king of was gone, popular music had become more political.

What started out as “black music for white radio” had grown up and was now rebelling.

The new kings in town were Smokey’s students, Marvin and Stevie.


Guitar Lessons


Get Ready – Step 1

Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, Get Ready was originally written for a dance craze at the time.

Performed by The Temptations, it was released in 1966 and made it to the number 1 spot in the R & B charts.

Go to Get Ready step 1.


Get Ready – Step 2 (Free Preview)

First of all, you must try playing the riff in all positions. Not only will this teach you to play the riff better, but you’ll also manifest the Minor Pentatonic scale in your hands.

Moving a riff around like this is a much better idea than just practicing the scale up and down.

Go to Get Ready step 2.


Get Ready – Step 3

To master the chord progression of the chorus, first, we play the chords I – IV – II – V on a loop up and down the neck.

Following this, we look at some ideas for creating a completely new part.

Go to Get Ready step 3.


Get Ready – Step 4

Now that you know the verse and the chorus, let’s put them together and as we do, let’s explore options for that chorus tag.

First practice the two TAB examples exactly as written, then build your own variations.

Go to Get Ready step 4.


Get Ready – Step 5

Today we prepare to steal the sax solo and copy what the strings play during the solo section of Get Ready.

These two tasks come with pretty complicated techniques so before we get to that, I’m gonna give you some technical exercises.

Go to Get Ready step 5.


Get Ready – Step 6

When you visualize the string line, see each shape like this: A Major Pentatonic, add the 4 and b7, start on the 3rd of the scale.

Seeing the fret board and theory like this is the key to mastering the guitar.

Go to Get Ready step 6.


Get Ready – Step 7

In this step, I play the complete song from beginning to end. Using the complete TAB, play along with me, aiming to play the same or similar licks.

When you feel ready, move on to the next step where it’ll be your turn to play with the band.

Go to Get Ready step 7.


Get Ready – Step 8

Spend at least half an hour playing the song on a loop. The longer you can experiment with what you’re playing, rather than settle on a part, the better.

Get Ready is a Motown classic you’re very likely to come across should you join or jam with a soul band.

Go to Get Ready step 8.


Guitar Lessons


My Guy – Step 1

A standard on the Motown/Soul set list, this sugar-sweet pop hit is a must to learn for the aspiring soul guitarist.

With one foot in jazz rather than blues, we get more maj7 and 6 chords than dom7 chords.

Go to My Guy step 1.


My Guy – Step 2 (Free Preview)

The more you change between the rhythms and positions, the better.

Right now, this is not about performing the song, this is practicing getting good at moving around the neck. First, we develop, then we refine.

Go to My Guy step 2.


My Guy – Step 3

Today we dive into the bridge. As always, start by playing exactly like the TAB says.

Should you do this in less than half an hour, spend the remaining time improvising what shapes you play.

Go to My Guy step 3.


My Guy – Step 4

If you can move around the neck, rhythmically, and dynamically communicate with the band you’re playing with, then you’re making music.

Perhaps you spend today practicing the licks. If you do, remember, the guy who played it just came up with it, he didn’t practice it.

Go to My Guy step 4.


My Guy – Step 5

There was a lot of TAB in the last few lessons, today there’s even more!

Luckily it is the same concepts repeated, and they all build on what you’ve done before so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get through it all.

Go to My Guy step 5.


My Guy – Step 6

For the first three examples, we just play chords using the same rhythm as the bridge had. We also mainly stay in each area.

In these last three examples, we play licks instead of chords. Notice how the licks follow the chords.

Go to My Guy step 6.


My Guy – Step 7

Today you’ll find out how well all that preparation paid off as it’s time to play the full song.

Use the TAB to play along with me before you tackle the song on your own.

Go to My Guy step 7.


My Guy – Step 8

You could still use the TAB when you play on your own with the band, but it would be better if you didn’t.

Instead, aim to explore the fret board as you play the song. This is what will create your most organic and best sounding “part”.

Go to My Guy step 8.


Related Pages


Chords and Guitar Lessons

Get Ready is a song that moves from a repetitive Minor Pentatonic verse riff to a simple four-chord chorus progression.

When the solo comes along, we take the original sax and string ideas and put them on the guitar.

Go to Get Ready chords and guitar lessons.


Lyrics

I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do
(you’re alright)
Whenever I’m asked who makes my dreams real I say that you do
(you’re outta sight)

Go to Get Ready lyrics.


Chords and Guitar Lessons

My Guy was an early Motown hit from Mary Wells who was the first female Motown star.

Using more jazz-influenced harmony and playing, when you learn this song you’ll get an introduction to “playing over changes” as the licks use new scales for each chord.

Go to My Guy chords and guitar lessons.


Lyrics

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter
Like birds of a feather, we stick together

Go to My Guy lyrics.


Sign Up

A monthly subscription with access to all acoustic and electric step by step lessons, each one designed to bring your guitar playing skills to the next level.

Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.

Go to Monthly subscription.