You are on page 1of 24

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

A Breakdown Of The Style And Technique


Of Virtuoso Guitarist Larry Carlton
By Bob Murnahan
www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Introduction
If you have been following my teaching or are familiar with me in any way, shape or
form, then you know that Larry Carlton is my favorite guitarist. It all started back in
1978 when a friend of mine handed me an album and said, You need to listen to this.
I put in on the turntable and fired it up...and yes I am dating myself taking about albums
and turntables! I was instantly blown away. I remember thinking...This is how the guitar is supposed to sound!
If you want to hear what I heard then check out this link...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wq1i409CVU
If the song sounds familiar Larry freely admits that it is a rip of Steely Dans song, Peg.
There were a combination of things that stood out on this record for me.
1. Larrys tone - Carlton has always been recognized for his killer guitar sound.
2. The combination of rock, blues and jazz type ideas.
3. The melodies - I dont think there is a guitarist anywhere with more taste than Larry.
From that point on I went on a Larry Carlton frenzy. I learned almost every solo off of
that recording note for note. I bought every recording as they were released. I went to
see him live. I think you get the point.
As the years progressed Carlton started to get back to his roots and explore his blues
side. He was always quick to point out that B.B. King is one of his major influences. In
1983 B.B. joined Larry on his album friends and played on the track Blues For T.J.
I decided to make a study of B.B. Kings solo on that recording as a study to see if I
could spot the B.B. Influence on Larry. It is available under the title, A Lesson With The
King.
While it is a complete course of study on its own, it did not feel complete to me without
the Larry Carlton solo...so, in the following pages I would like to present, A Lesson With
Larry Carlton. If you like the blues, you will love this. Its a veritable treasure chest full
of ideas. Lets get to it.
2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved
Page 4

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton


Blues For T.J. is your basic 12 bar blues in the key of C with a quick change. If you
dont know what that means a blues with a quick change goes to the IV chord in measure 2. See below.

12 Bar Blues

I am going to assume that you are already familiar with the basic 12 bar blues at this
point so I am not going to go any deeper into this for now. I want to stay on task and
talk about what can be learned from Larrys solo in this song!
I will be referring to each snippet of the solo as a loop and you will be given the audio files in corresponding sections. This should help keep you organized as you work
through the solo on your own.

hold bend

Loop 1

10 12 14

13

16

hold bend

1/4

16 13

full

15 12

15

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 5

15

full

full

10

10 8

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton


The main points of interest here are the 2 step bend up from Eb up to G and the opening 3 notes. As you will when loop 2 comes around, Larry repeats the opening 3 notes.
This has the effect of tying the first 2 loops together and gives continuity to the solo.
On the bend, one would normally expect a whole step bend from Eb up to F. By bending 2 steps up to the G Larry creates a match with the C7 chord spelled C, E, G, Bb.
Most great players always find a way to play the changes.
Here is an alternate fingering for loop 1.

hold bend

Loop 1 A

8 10

11

hold bend

1/4

11 8

full

11 8

11

full

11

full

10

10 8

I also have to take a moment to talk about Larrys picking technique and touch. Its almost like he just coaxes the notes out of the guitar.
Check out the exercises that I recommend on the video to help you get control over
your picking. The first one simply helps you get control over dynamics. The second one
has you explore the different sounds available by changing the angle of your pick.
This is definitely an over looked facet of guitar playing. There are lots of different tonal
colors available...even if it is just a piece of plastic hitting some steel strings!

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 6

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton


Now take a look at loop 2.

Loop 2

1/4

12 14

13

16


17

17

17

16

full

18

18

18

full

18

full

18

18 16

17

16 18 16

17

Loop 2 has more of the classic Larry phrasing that we talked about in loop 1. In addition, check out the control that Carlton demonstrates on his bending. He has the ability
to bend perfectly in tune and hit all of the micro-tonal variations in between.
When doing a transcrition like this, you have to make several choices, fingering being
one of the most important. Often, its difficult to pinpoint but you can use the timbre of
the notes to help. I point this out on the video.
Here is an alternate fingering for loop 2.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 7

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 2 A

3
1/4

8 10

11

12

13

11

13

13

full

13

13


13

full

13 11

13

13

11 13 11

13

Loop 3

full

full

18

full

18 16

18

16

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 8

full

16

17

18

full

18

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton


Loop 3 is short and sweet but I think it clearly demos the B.B. King influence on Carlton. Be sure to work on the first finger bending.
TIP...let the lower strings slide over the top of the bending finger to make it easier.

Loop 4

18

full

full

full

18

18

16

17

16

17

18

18

full

17

17

1/4

20 18 16

17

18

15

16

17 14

17

Once again all of the classic Carlton elements are present in this one...the picking
touch, the precise control of bending, the choice of notes, vintage Larry through and
through.
Be sure to check the little demo on the video where I talk about the power of dynamics.
You can take the simplest of phrases and turn it into a masterpiece by applying dynamics. I really encourage you to explore this and add it to your playing.
2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved
Page 9

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 5

1/4

15 18

16

15

16 13 13

Short, sweet and simple...not much more to say about this one.

Loop 6

12 14

13

11

12

13

12

13

hold bend

full

13

12

13

12

13

12

13

12

13

12

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 10

13

12

13

12

13

12

full

13

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton


Once again you hear the B.B. King influence on Larry. Listen to B.B.s solo on this track
and you will hear this exact lick. And, notice once again the effect that Larrys use of
dynamics has on this lick!

Loop 7


hold bend

1 1/2

15

1 1/2

15

1 1/2

15

1 1/2

15

15
14

16

14

16

16 13

On this one its more wide bending. Focus on staying in tune and holding that first bend
for the duration. And, listen to the speed of the bends. Notice the release speed on the
first bend and how quickly Carlton does the 2 step bend. There can be lots of variation
in bending when it comes to how quickly you push the note up and release it.

This Area Intentionally Bank

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 11

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 8

full

11

10

11

10

1/4

10

10

1/4

10

10

Loop 8 is pretty much straight ahead blues. Here Larry is playing good old box 1 of the
pentatonic/blues scale.
There are 2 spots here where he alludes to the chords being played, both in the second measure. The first one is the note E at the 9th fret, 3rd string. This is the third of
the C7 chord and clearly matches the harmony at the time.
The last note G, at the 10th fret, 5th string occurs at the exact moment the tune hits the
five chord.
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the signs of a seasoned player. Even though the
lick is primarily blues, Larry still manages to target the chord tones.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 12

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 9

1 1/2

18

15

hold bend

1 1/2

15

1 1/2

15

15

full

18

13

13

16 13

1/4

14

16

13

Heres another nod to B.B. King. This lick is very similar to some of the ideas that B.B.
played in his solo. Once again I refer you to the recording.
Its interesting to note that even though players might play the exact same ideas, they
will sound different. B.B has sort of a rough edge and Carlton is smooth. This is
where all of the different elements of phrasing show up.
Thats why its a good idea to learn licks and use them in your own playing immediately.
Its not cheating...improv is not some sort of magic conjured from thin air. Eventually
the licks will become part of your vocabulary and start to sound like you.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 13

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 10

hold bend

full

18

full

18 17 15

18

full

18 16

17

18

full

18

full

18

18

full

18

18 16

17

19

17
20

17

18

20
17
19

17

19

17

17

17

This is probably my favorite lick in the whole solo. Great note choices, bending, a slip
into the major pentatonic scale and the octave Cs at the end.
When memorizing a lick lik ethis one be sure to take it a few notes at a time. It will be
much easier that way. Once you have it memorized it will be much easier to focus on
what you are playing.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 14

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 11

full

full

20 17

22

20 17

20

20 17

17 15

17 15

13

15

15

12

13

15 12

Transcribing a solo like this is not an exact science. If you look at different interpretations from various sources you are likely to find some differences. In doing the video for
this lick I discovered an error that I made the first time around. Above is the way I first
heard it and below is the modification.

Loop 11A

full

22

full

20 17 15

17

20

1/2

20

19

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 15

17 15

17 15

13

15

15

12

13

15 12

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 12

full

13

15

12

15

13

14

16

14

hold bend

hold bend

full

18

18

18

18

full

13

18

14

13

18

full

18

18

full

18

14

13

20

18

1/4

20 18

17

16

17 Reserved
17 17
2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights
Page 16

www.leadguitartactics.com

14

14

hold bend

14

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

1/4

20 18

17

16
17

17

17

This is a longer but due to the bending theme Larry has going here I felt it all fit together. Check out the cool stretch at the end of the second measure. The bend is at the
18th fret and the fretted note with the pinky is at the 20th. This might be a challenge but
worth the effort.

Loop 13

17
20

17

17
18

19

17

17 17
18 19

A cool little sequence of notes and a chance to work on the picking again. Even though
this seems easy, the phrasing makes it a challenge.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 17

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 14

hold bend

full

13

11 13 12 13 12

13 12

13

full

full

13

13

full

13

full

13

Heres a repetition of an earlier idea and another nod to B.B.

Loop 15

hold bend

1 1/2

15

full

13

1/4

11

13

full

15

13

15 13

12

13

11

13

12

13

13

Another test of your bending ability. Be sure to check out the video for this one. Take
note of how you can take advantage of bending multiple strings at once. In this one
Larry plays both notes together, but you can seperate them too.

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 18

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

Loop 16

full

13

11

12 1110 8

10

10

10

10

10

10 8

9
10

8
10

Its back to the blues to take it home. Notice the similarity between this line and the one
that ends the first chorus. Coincidence? What do you think?
Starting on the next page you will find the tab for the entire solo.

This Area Left Intentionally Blank

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 19

www.leadguitartactics.com


hold bend

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

12 14

13

1/4

16 13

16

full

15 12

15

12 14

13

15

16

full

17

17

16

18

18

17


full

18

10

18

full

10 8

18

17

full

18 16

18

16 18 16

18

full

16

16

17

18

full

18

full

18

18 16

full

18

full

18

18

full

17

full

1/4

full

full

18

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 20

3
20 18 16

1/4

17

18

15

16

17 14

www.leadguitartactics.com

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

27

1/4

16

17

16

13

17

17

17

13


10

13

13

12 14

hold bend

12

13

12

13

12

13

12

2012 Bob Murnahan


-1 All
Reserved
1 1/2
1/2 Rights1 1/2
1 1/2
Page 21
15

15

15

15

3
11

12

13

12

15

13

12

13

12

13

full

12

16


13

18

15

17

16

13

12

full

13

www.leadguitartactics.com
2

15

14

16

14

16

13

12

13

12

12

13

12

13

12

13

13

hold bend

1 1/2

1 1/2

15

1 1/2

15

15

16

13

1 1/2

15

15

16



10

10

hold bend

15

16

3
8

11

10

1/4

10

10


18

18

15

15

13

1 1/2

10

1/4

hold bend

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


1 1/2
1 1/2
full
Page 22
15

14

11

12

full

13

13

14

11

13

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

10

12

13

www.leadguitartactics.com
1/4

16 13

14

16

13

13

10

10

1 1/2

full

15

15

1 1/2

18

15

A Lesson With Larry10


Carlton

hold bend

18

15

1/4

13

13

16 13

16

14

13

hold bend

14

full

415

full

18 17 15

18

18

full

18 16

17

18

full

full

18

18

18

full

18

18 16

17

19

17
20

17

18

20
17
19

17

19

17

17

17

16


2012
Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved
www.leadguitartactics.com

Page 23

full

full

1/2

20
17

17

17
17
With Larry Carlton
17
19 A Lesson

19


16

full

full

20 17 15

22

17

20

1/2

20

17 15

19

17

13

17 15

15

15

12

13

15 12

full

18

13

15

15

12

14

13

16

14

18

18

18




hold bend

full

13

18

full

18
14

13

18

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 24

full

18

18

full

18

14

13

18

18

www.leadguitartactics.com

19

hold bend

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

1/4

20 18

20

21

17
18

16

17

17

17

17

17

17

20

full

12

13

full

13

full

13

1 1/2

13

13


hold bend

15

full

13

1/4

11

full
Page
25

13

full

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


22

11

13

18 19

hold bend

15

13

15 13

17

17 17

19

17

13 12 13 12

full

13

www.leadguitartactics.com

13

11

13

13

623

13

13

13

13

13

A Lesson With Larry Carlton

22

12

13

1 1/2

full

15

hold bend

1/4

11

13

full

13

15

13

15 13

13

12

11

13

12

13

full

13

11

1110 8

10

10

10

10

10

10 8

10

10

There you have it. I hope that you enjoy the licks and ideas presented in this course
and the video...I know I sure have. And, I had another chance to dive even deeper into
the playing of my favorite guitarist.
The most important thing is to take what you like and put it to use immediately. Make
the ideas a part of you and your playing.
If you have any questions be sure to drop me a line. I am happy to help.
Best Wishes,
Bob

2012 Bob Murnahan - All Rights Reserved


Page 26

www.leadguitartactics.com