Slides, Hammer Ons and Soul
Lenny is probably one of the most peaceful and delicate guitar pieces ever written. It starts with an E Major 13 chord and slides up to an E Major 6. You’ll move this shape up and down the neck a little as you play this song. Also, you’ll need to perfect those slides and hammer ons too, if you want to perfect this song.
Also, if you’re not familiar with the Pentatonic Scale, you might want to brush up on that before plowing into this song. It will make some of the slide riffs make a little bit more sense.
Tips for Learning “Lenny”
“Lenny” is a song mired in soul and feeling. That feeling comes from not just the notes played, but how they are played. There is so much technique that is brought out into the foreground that really makes this song sing. If you’re going to learn this song you can’t just learn which chords to play where and get to a point where someone walking by would say, “hey, isn’t that ‘Lenny’?” To really play a this song you have to take the time to understand what makes it the way it is. It’s all in the subtlety.
Another bonus for a song like this is the tone. Stevie Ray’s tone has set a precedent in the industry that’s had people tweaking their gear to get that sound that flew seamlessly from his fingers. While matching the specific sound of his gear might be reserved for a select few (like anyone that can afford a Dumble amp), it’s still feasible to get a crisp, overdriven sound to balance out the tone that comes from the fingers.
Speaking of the sound that comes from the fingers. Learning a song like this will be great for your picking hand if nothing else. Stevie Ray was very proficient in many different picking styles from upstrokes and downstrokes to hybrid picking. Practicing a song like “Lenny” can be tricky for your hands at first between the rhythm and the technique, but it’ll keep your hands guessing and eventually you’ll adapt the ability to dip in and out of whatever technique you wish on the fly.
And if you want a real workout try playing with the same gauge of strings Mr. Vaughan used. He would play slightly down tuned with hefty .013 gauge strings. Playing with strings like that with the bends and hammer-ons as he did will be like focused weight lifting for your fingers, hands, and forearms.
So go for it!
See if you can learn this song by ear, and keep the tips above in mind.