African Fingerstyle Soukous Guitar Tutorial, Tablature, Guitar Backing Track & Drum Backing Track – Lesson 13
The above fingerstyle piece has a very fast paced sebene section, which is a rather characteristic trait when it comes to African soukous guitar music. If you would like to learn the tune, get the tab, the drum backing track and the guitar backing track for it below! Yeah, but what are the chords, right? The scale degrees the song’s using are I-V-V-I for both parts. What? No fourth? Yup, we don’t even need the fourth chord. The piece plays in the key of B major all the way through.
Finger Positioning is the Name of the Game
Yeah, the biggest challenge in playing this example correctly is to find a fluidity of movement. Only when you find this “inner peace” will you be able to place your fingers on the required strings & frets without straining your fretting hand or falling out of the groove and the tempo. The syncopation that’s so idiosyncratic to the Congolese rumba – and to African genres in general – is present in this song as well. Keeping this rhythmic pattern at the required tempo wouldn’t be particularly hard to do. The greatest obstacle in the way of doing so is the string skipping. You need to skip both the G and the D strings at one point into the 1st section. Pay attention not to make any unwanted noise during these leaps, and you’re in the clear. Most of the time you’ll need to outline chords with playing arpeggios within the melody line. But not at the phrase endings! When you arrive to them, you’ll have to fret double stops, which are actually major 3rd intervals. These are fretted on the A-D and E-A string pairs, that makes them sound really smooth and fat. But don’t be afraid of creating bad sounding clusters, because you are up high on the fretboard, past the 12th fret. Phew! After playing the required repeats, let’s move on to the sebene.
Breakneck Sebene with Sixteenth Notes
If you have followed the previous soukous tutorials, you probably noticed that if nothing else, the sebene will surely have fast 16th notes. Playing at the higher part of the fingerboard is also a typical trait of this African guitar style. What the current example showcases really well is the stubborn, almost mechanical way of oozing these fast notes. Letting the pattern speak instead of trying to carry a message through individual notes is key when it comes to soukous breaks. This of course doesn’t mean that you couldn’t inject your own personality into the song; quite the contrary. I highly suggest that you at least give an honest try to play fingerstyle with fingerpicks and a thumb pick. While these tools are not the most popular – at least not among “regular” guitar and bass players – they enable you to have the best of both worlds. Namely, the attack transient and the ability to play multiple strings at once. Not to mention the additional side effect of gaining some speed thanks to the picks. It of course takes some practice time to get used to them, but it’s well worth it. The sebene phrases also end in dyads, but this time, these are fourth intervals. Enjoy!
I bought one of your soukous guitar tabs some years ago. You are the only one who seems to be doing that. It’s great! I wish you put out a beginning to advanced soukous lead guitar instruction series. I want to learn lead soukous-style licks to add to my playing at church. I am still learning. I probably will be purchasing some of your tab. I play 4 string tenor guitar tuned DGBD. I just transpose.
Thanks so much, Don! Not many people that I know of play the tenor guitar, it’s a unique beast, not just a poor man’s guitar without the bottom two strings. Glad you’re keeping it up.
I’ve watched your Youtube videos and in fact have purchased tab from you. I believe you have the best soukous tutorials online. You slow the instruction down and furnish tablature which make it easier to learn than most those that have you watch their fingers. I have a question? I have played tenor guitar with four strings, now I’m into 3 string cigar box guitar. Can soukous be played on just the first three strings on a standard 6 string in standard tuning? I noticed there are playing scales in 3rds sometimes. In the future I hope you do some videos of examples on the first three strings. Thanks!
Hello Don, soukous can be played on anything, even on a single string, with the necessary limitations applied to the melody. If you are interested, I can make you custom tablatures for 3 string guitar, please check out the “Custom Guitar & Bass TABs” page in the Audio & Music Services menu.
Yes, Roland, you can do that. For now I will let you make me 3 examples of soukous guitar. I tune my guitar Open G (GBD ). That is same as first string of standard 6 string with 1st dropped to D. I has been learning playing in 3rds in that tuning. My aim is to play soukous licks for lead guitar in church. Just make me some examples and list the price. Thanks.
Don, please just send me a message through the “Contact” page of the website about what exactly you would like to get tabbed out, and I’ll get back to you with a price. Thank you.