Acoustic Blues Guitar Video Lesson Preview - Glory of Love by Big Bill Broonzy
Glory of Love by Big Bill Broonzy - Swing Blues Guitar At It's BestBig Bill was incredibly prolific in the 30s and 40s and he almost single handedly invented the acoustic blues swing guitar style that pave the way for electric Chicago blues. Like Blind Blake, his guitar technique is much admired and copied, but rarely are the copies true to his original guitar finger picking technique.
Broonzy's repertoire was enormous. he wrote over 300 songs - good time swing blues, ragtime pieces, down home blues and popular songs from Tin Pan Alley.
More than a blues man, he was an entertainer and able to sing and play just about anything for anybody. In his early career he was part of the group 'The Hokum Boys', a traveling string band. Groups of this kind developed a very varied repertoire to engage audiences of every type.
Glory of Love Chord ProgressionGlory of Love was a very popular standard 'Pop' song of it's day - one of the many churned out by writers for 'Tin Pan Alley'. Big Bill gave it the celebrated Broonzy work over and added his individual guitar finger picking style to this song played in the key of C, which lends itself to a ragtime swing style guitar treatment.
The chord progression was very simple - C-G7-C-F-C-G7 for the verse and for the refrain F-C-F-C-G7. Not complex at all, but it's the special picking that gives this song some magic. So how did he do it?
Big Bill Broonzy's Finger Picking Technique - The 'Big' Thumb
Broonzy used a style of thumb picking (without a plastic pick) that's known as monotonic bass, which is not unusual and just means that he normally doesn't alternate between two basses to maintain his rhythm. Many blues men played this way - Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Mance Lipscomb - but not in the same way that Bill did.
All these men used the same technique for deadening or 'damping' the bass string sound with the palm of their picking, but Broonzy (and Lipscombe) took it to the extreme in that they often didn't even bother fretting the bass E string for many songs.
It should have sounded strange, but it didn't as the strings were damped so heavily, becoming a 'thud' rather than a recognizable note. What set Bill's style apart was the fact that he didn't just hit one string but two or three at the same time, like a thumb brush or strum before damping them down. This really filled out the sound and it's tough to do it effectively like he did it, particularly when playing the trebles at the same time!
Bill's One Finger Guitar Style
Most people copy his finger picking style by using two fingers for the treble strings, which doesn't give the right feel at all. How can it, if Broonzy didn't play that way. He just used his forefinger, which was very dexterous, accurate and fast - like Doc Watson and Reverend Gary Davis.
Of course, we need to use every trick we can to get over the fact that this stuff is hard to play, but using two fingers to play Broonzy and Davis often changes the timing and the flavor too much, making the music too modern and slick - Big Bill missed notes and you can too!
How To Get That Broonzy Blues Guitar Swing
There's something else happening when Broonzy plays guitar and it's difficult to pin it down. The swing effect is due to the fact that his bass strikes are not exactly on the beat, but lag just behind it. Swing bands of the time also used this technique to make the big band swing sound.
Broonzy said 'You can either ride on the front of the horse, or the back of it - you're still going at the same speed.' Big Bill rode on the back of it, which gave his music a laid back swing sound that was very appealing, which was one of the reasons he was so popular.