Magazine article Guitar Player

Blues Guru Popa Chubby: Busking the Blues

Magazine article Guitar Player

Blues Guru Popa Chubby: Busking the Blues

Article excerpt

I bring lots of styles to the blues, probably because when I started playing guitar, I wanted to be able to play every genre well enough that I'd always have a gig of some kind. I never wanted to be chained to a day job. There's even a country influence in my playing, and I'm from the Bronx! Figure that one out. There's also some rap, hardcore, and dub reggae in there too, so I guess I'm all screwed up.

Like many guitarists, I got my start as a sideman. My first solo gigs were probably when I was busking in the subways of New York, playing a beat-up, pink B.C. Rich acoustic that I bought for 99 bucks on sale at Sam Ash. Busking can be a great learning experience, because when you're playing for the general public, the results are immediate: If you're good, you get money. If not, you don't--simple as that.

When you're busking, it doesn't take long to figure out which songs work. I'd play blues tunes, Beatles songs, folk songs, bluegrass, and country, but right away, I discovered that people liked high-energy flatpicking grooves. People love a good riff--it makes them happy. I'd often play licks like the one shown below. This phrase outlines a G-D progression, and keeps things exciting by using a ton of open strings and a few hammer-ons. On the G chord, I'm picking the root and hammering the 3, B. When it goes to D, I'm hammering the chord's 5, A. For an extra percussive sound in the first three bars, try muting the lower strings with your picking-hand's palm. A cascade of pull-offs comes in the last measure where I play a descending G major pentatonic run. …

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