Here is the riff at 120 bpm:
You’ll be repeating this 8 measure chord progression throughout the entire song.
The basic chord progression is G, B, C, Cm, but we’ll throw in a couple of suspended chords with the B and C chords that really add color. During the chorus, it’s played a bit differently, but the underlying chord progression stays the same.
Take your time when learning this part. We want each note to ring out clearly.
We have four different chord formations here. Each formation lasts for half a measure or, in other words, 2 beats. We want each chord to ring out, so let each note that you pick ring out with the other notes in the chord formation.
For the first chord formation, place your 1st finger on the 5th fret and barre the D, G, B, and high E strings, then use your 3rd finger to fret the 7th fret of the D. Hold your 1st finger there as you’ll use it for the next 2 chord formations.
On the 3rd beat of the first measure, you’ll use your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the high E string and your 2nd finger on the 6th fret of the D string. Yep, your 1st finger should still be barred across the D, G, B, and high E strings at the 5th fret.
In the 2nd measure, we have our 1st finger still barred across the 5th fret. The only other thing to do here is to fret the 8th fret of the high E string with our 4th finger (pinky). Make sure you have a strong barre here so that the chord rings together cleanly when fingerpicked.
In the 2nd half of the 2nd measure, we’ll shift our barre down from the 5th fret to the 2nd fret. Use the 3rd finger to fret the 4th fret of your D string and your 2nd finger to fret the 3rd fret of the B string.
How To Get It To Sound Good…
Obviously, the short answer is “a lot of practice”, but if you develop bad habits you’ll be practicing it wrong.
A few key points:
- Let it ring throughout. Each chord change will break the cycle but each individual chord formation should have all notes ringing together.0
- Make sure you have quick clean changes from chord formation to chord formation. Pay special attention to the switch from the 5th fret barre to the 2nd fret that’s found in the 2nd measure.
- Don’t overplay it. Don’t attack the strings, just be easy. Play it softly. It’s a ballad for goodness sakes.0
For this riff, you may want to use your thumb for the “low E” string notes, as it will provide much more ease in playing the riff. The option is still totally up to you though. In this riff, you will be focusing on some palm mutes and a slide, as well as some “vibrato.” Vibrato is when you rapidly shake the string being played with your fret hand as much as possible to produce a wah-like effect. This riff is set to 144 bpm (beats per minute).
Below is the riff slowed down a little to give you some practice:
Here is the riff at normal speed:
“Life By The Drop” Song Facts
The song’s tempo is at about 98 beats per minute. It’s in standard 4/4 time and the rhythm uses a shuffle pattern. Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded the song using a 12 string acoustic guitar. If you don’t have a 12 string, that’s okay. It sounds great on a six-string acoustic, too. It’s one of those rare SRV songs in standard tuning.
In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the intro lick to the song which takes place in the measures 1 and 2.
Wouldn’t you know it! The hardest part to play of Life By The Drop is the very first part. Stevie sets things up nicely with a tasteful two measure lick.
This lick seems straightforward but it is deceptively difficult. It’s not real fast, but that’s not the problem. It’s got a certain swing to it and accents that give it character.
The main thing to keep in mind when learning it is to maintain the steady triplet pattern. That’s what gives it that swing.
In the official recording, this riff is played with a device called a Talk Box. Since I don’t have access to a Talk Box at the time of this recording I cannot duplicate it exactly.