Vaughan Brothers


Vaughan Brothers


Guitar Techniques 135

Unfortunately I’m not allowed to put the actual transcriptions on the website.

I posted everything else though!


‘Family Style’ was released in October 1990; a few months after Steve Ray’s tragic death and it began a series of posthumous releases of the great mans work.

The two brothers had been planning to record an album together for many years and finally found the right moment, luckily, before Stevie Ray died. The album shows a different side, and an evolution in the playing, of both guitarists.

On the album, Jimmy moved more into his brother’s territory and tone, and the reverse is true for Stevie Ray. The album was produced by another giant of the six strings, Nile Rodgers (Madonna, Chic, etc), who also plays the rhythm guitar on the album. He also produced Bowie’s Let’s Dance album that gave SRV his big break, where the two first met. The backing band featured a new lineup (neither Double Trouble nor the Fabulous Thunderbirds) resulting in a new ‘sound’ and vibe for both guitarists.

The tune we’re gonna talk about this month is ‘D/FW’ and it’s an instrumental blues in G. The main melody is played as question and answer, with each playing a line, and features a one chorus solo for each. The form of the song is quite simple: melody, melody, solo, solo, melody and that’s it but the melody is built over an unusual 22 bar chord progression that goes:

For the chorus they opt for a more traditional 12 bars blues without a quick change:

The difference between the brothers is seen not only in their tone, technique and general attitude, but also in their scale choice. Jimmy plays the G minor pentatonic (1, b3, 4, 5, b7 – G, Bb, C, D, F) for the entire solo except for a major 6 (E) over the C chord. This is a very common approach for modern blues players (think Robben Ford) and it’s pretty unexpected from such a traditional player as Jimmy Vaughan. Stevie Ray goes for the G blues scale (1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7 – G, Bb, C, Db, D, F) for a more traditional approach. With his incredible bending technique he also plays all the micro-notes (as micro-bends) between Bb and D. He also plays quite a lot around a G diminished arpeggio (G, Bb, Db); all notes that are found in the G blues scale.

Both guitarists were playing Strats (maple neck for Jimmy and rosewood for Stevie). It seems that Jimmy was playing with a capo (as he often does) on the 3rd fret and with a thumb-pick and fingers. In this way he could ‘think’ in the key of E, instead of G, and use the open position of the pentatonic scale. He also used a kind of Leslie effect (probably borrowed from Stevie!): I would guess it’s a Fender Vibratone (with a 12 inch speaker) set to the fast speed; this is the one the Stevie used on Cold Shot. As to Stevie Ray, it seems as though he’s playing in standard tuning, instead of his usual Eb, and without a capo. Technique wise, it’s well worth spending some time, especially on the SRV solo, in trying to get all the bends and vibratos right.

I hope you enjoy learning this tune as much as I did! Thanks to the Institute’s resident bass playing studio hound, Dave Marks.


A Strat with any good valve amp should do the job. If you want to get as close as possible to the original, try a couple of Fender Vibrolux or Super Reverb amps with the volume set around 6/8 (your neighbors are gonna kill me). For Stevie Ray’s sound, you can also use an overdrive pedal set with a small amount of distortion and level at the max. For the GT session I used my 84’ maple neck Strat (equipped with Kinman pickups and Buzz Feiten system) through the Line 6 POD XT.


The guitar is one of those lucky instruments, like the harmonica and most string instruments, where you can play notes impossible to notate in the occidental notation. Without getting too deep, here’s how it works…

In our system, between any tone gap, say C and D, there is one semitone C# or Db, which is exactly half way. Actually the distance between these notes (C and D) can be split in 9 micro-notes (as used in the African music) and originally (and still for some instrument) C# and Db were two different notes and not the same. In blues music, these notes have been used by vocalists, and then mimicked by harmonica players and guitarists, through the use of bends. This demonstrates the strong relationship between American blues music and African culture.