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Lenny Breau Tabs

Lenny Breau was born in Maine on the 5th of August 1941. His French speaking parents were professional country musicians. Lenny began playing guitar when he was 7.






When he was 12 he performed the role of lead guitarist in the band of his parents, playing Chet Atkins-style instrumental songs.

Lenny Breau was an outstanding fingerpicking guitarist who merged country, flamenco, classical and jazz guitar techniques into his own personal sound. Lenny was very good at simultaneously playing single note lines and chord accompaniment. He was one of the first guitarists to play in the style of Bill Evans, using harmonics and seconds in his chord voicings. Near the end of his career he began using a 7-string guitar.

Unfortunately Lenny Breau had drug problems. He died on the 12th of August, 1984, aged 43. He was found dead in a swimming pool and it was soon discovered Lenny Breau had been murdered. The case remains unsolved until today.

Recommended listening: Swingin' on a Seven String
Recommended Reading: One Long Tune (Lenny Breau's biography)

Lenny Breau Licks 1

This first Lenny Breau lick is based off of his chord-melody arrangement of the classic Jazz Standard Emily. The phrase is played without time, rubato, but feel free to work it out both freely and with a metronome in order to get a broader vision of how these chords can be translated into your solo and chord melody performances.


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Lenny Breau Lick 1

Lenny Breau Licks 2

One of the things that Lenny was great at, was walking a bass while maintaining a melody line on top of those bass notes. Here is an example of this concept over the first four bars of an A Blues, using the A Blues Scale over top of a chromatic, ascending bassline that moves from root, to the IV chord and back to the I7 chord with the 5th in the bass.


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Lenny Breau Lick 2

Lenny Breau Licks 1

One of the most characteristic sounds of Lenny Breau’s playing is his use of artificial harmonics. In this sample lick, you are mixing harmonics (the diamond notes in the staff) with plucked notes as you ascend an Am11 chord on the 5th fret. When playing this lick, make sure to let all the notes ring over each other so that it imitates a harp, getting that true Lenny sound when applying this idea to your own arrangements and improvisations.


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Lenny Breau Lick 3

Lenny Breau Licks 4

This next lick is influenced by Lenny’s playing on one-chord modal tunes such as his classic versions of McCoy Tyner’s “Visions.” Here, you are applying 4th intervals to create 3-note shapes that you then run through an E Dorian Mode, being played over an open-E string pedal. Both ideas that Lenny loved to explore when playing over modal tunes such as “Visions.”


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Lenny Breau Lick 4

Lenny Breau Licks 5

Last but not least, here is a chordal riff based on Lenny’s love of using 3rds and 7ths as the basis for any chord or comping idea in his playing. In this lick, try to visualize the 3rds and 7ths below the melody line as being separate from the melody itself. Almost as if there are two guitarists playing this phrase rather than one.


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Lenny Breau Lick 5


With a short but storied career, Lenny Breau left an endless amount of material for jazz guitarists of all levels of ability to study and enjoy.



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