I learn best through observation and tactile feedback.  I have discovered, in my new want to play the electric guitar, that sometimes the best way to get The Blues in your bones is to have someone physically put it there
through the pressure of touch.  My new learning mantra is:  “Play it On
My Arm!”

Sometimes the eyes and ears are not quite smartly trained enough to catch a fast fingerboard phrasing, but the body is always willing to accept input and process pressure.

If I’m having a particularly hard time figuring out how a certain Blues hammer-on or pull-off is being accomplished, I will ask one of my guitar friends to “play it on my arm.”

I then offer my left arm to them.  They take my forearm and, pretending
the anterior part of my arm is the fretboard, they move their fingers
from my wrist to elbow as if they were playing their own guitar.

I know that my “play it on” method of learning may sound a bit wonky,
but it works, but I do admit full-step Blues bends, can hurt a little in
the inadvertent pulling of the tendons and purposeful pushing of the

The mind might forget the particulars of an Albert King two-and-a-half-step
overbend, but the welting, burgeoning, bruise on my arm shall always

Beware that a digging B.B. King vibrato played on your arm can actually
have a curious massaging effect — but that’s probably a private story
best shared offline — and in the dark.

If you need a little help getting The Blues into your bones, I recommend the “play it on my arm” technique because it will absolutely let you feel the music as it should be played and a B Minor Pentatonic scale never felt so good as the red marks left behind on your skin testify to the radicalness of your now shallower, but never fallow, learning curve.


  1. Great lesson, David! The feel of a song is much better than notes on a page.

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