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Soul Man – Verse
One bar long, that’s all. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Let’s spend half an hour on this one bar of music by digging deep into all its detail.
Here’s what it looks like in TAB.
The first beat is occupied by a G chord. It’s the top part of an E shape played on 16th 1 and 4. This is a syncopated rhythm, ensure the rest between the notes is pronounced.
Next, over beat two we start with a rest, then play a Gb7 chord in a D shape, quickly slide this up to a G7 and play that up until beat 3.
Finally, play on fret 5, string 1 and 3 on the up beat. Make sure you mute string two with the flesh of the finger playing string 3. End on the initial E shaped G.
This movement is a classic blues trick. It takes you from the D shape to the E shape using the 4th and 9th. Or if you want to, you could call this a C6 as I speak about in the video.
The syncopated rhythm and all the little rests in this riff creates a choppy sounding, forward-moving part.
This is great since it’s only one bar long on repeat!
Here’s a loop to practice along to.
Other versions of the verse riff
Such a fantastic riff, surely anyone who plays this song will just learn it, just like the original, right?
Well… it turns out that’s not the case.
In the key of E, when Steve plays with the Blues Brothers, he plays this.
Sometimes, he adds a mute on the third 16th of beat one. When the key change, he sometimes adds the last 8th note. This is where the horns play their stab. To me, it’s better to leave these notes out.
Here’s a playlist of different live versions of this song.
Talk about finding different ways! You are looking at players adjusting here.
To me, the original version is the best, but we’re not looking to copy and paste in this course, we are looking at developing guitar parts.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what these guys play.
In the first live version we find ourselves a semitone up, Steve keeps the riff the same, looks like this.
In the next example, there’s no more Steve Cropper, the tempo is very fast and the riff has been changed quite a bit.
The first beat is now played with straight 16th notes. It’s easier to play this when the tempo is this fast, perhaps that’s why he changed it!
Finally, Steve plays the song in a pub and completely changes his own part!
As he moves up to F, he simply plays the same shapes. maybe, just maybe, this is how he wrote the riff originally.
After playing these five examples, it’s very likely that you, like me, feel that this seemingly perfect, certainly iconic riff, probably shouldn’t be changed. Saying that – he even changes it himself!
Now then. Apart from deciding which riff to play, what’s the most difficult part of playing Soul Man?
For me, it’s all those sliding D shapes without a root note during the intro and instrumental section which we haven’t looked at yet.
If you, like me, end up playing several versions of the song, in lots of different keys, that intro and instrumental riff can get really confusing.
We need a solution to this dilemma.
Next time, we’re going to be practicing our D shapes. It will help with your understanding of the fretboard tremendously.
See you then!
Dan (your guitar guru)