How To Play Strange Brew
Today we are going to learn how to play Strange Brew by Cream! Cream was my favorite Eric Clapton band growing up. They were so different and I just loved all of their songs. This has to be one of my favorites! This was the time of power trios, how so much great music came from only three people I don’t know, but definitely not complaining! Today we are going to just focus on the intro and break it into phrases. I love this song! Let’s get started.
Step 1: Phrase One and Two
Phrase one in how to play Strange Brew starts with a ton of attitude! We have hammer on/pull offs slides, you name it! Lots of cool details in the song that really make this song stand out and give your guitar more of a voice and push you to be a better player! So first we hammer on on the 2nd string with our first finger, the 8th to the 10th fret. A hammer on is when we pick once and then slap another finger onto the next desired note. So we pick once but we get two sounds. This gives your playing a smoother more legato feel.
We add a ton of vibrato on that last note of the hammer on, the 2nd string 10th fret. Vibrato is when we move a string back and forth around a pitch but we do not bend to a specific pitch so we are more so manipulating the note and just adding a ton of feel. To clean that I up I actually touch my third and first string lightly with my picking hand.
That way I can wiggle around adding vibrato to the note and not get any unwanted feedback or noise from the guitar. Then we are going to do this same hammer on again but a little quicker making that first note, the 8th fret on the 2nd string a ghost note, which means it might not be a technically right note or perfectly in time note but it’s a very fast note that adds a lot of feel to the line. It’s a very bluesy technique that you have most likely heard from players like Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and of course, Clapton.
Then pick the 8th fret 2nd string twice. I use my third finger to slide down on the 3rd string 9th to 7th frets. A slide always has to be really accurate and should be played with confidence, we pick once and keep our fingers pressed down so there is still pressure on the string and then push it over to the 9th fret so we never lose the sustain and sound of the note while moving from one to the next. Then on the 3rd string 5th fret we pick it once, then pick the 7th fret once and then we end this phrase with a half step bend on the 3rd string 5th fret. If you are enjoying learning this intro be sure to check out how to play Don’t Look Back by Boston for another awesome intro solo to add to your repertoire.
For the second phrase we also end with that half step bend on the 3rd string 5th fret but we start a little differently. So we start with a whole step bend on the 3rd string 7th fret bring it both down and up and then pull off to the 5th fret 3rd string. Then I use my third finger to go up a string to the 4th string 7th fret and add lots of vibrato. Then I bend with my first finger the 5th fret 3rd string up a half step to end this phrase. Just like we ended the first phrase.
Step 2: Phrase Three and Four
Phrase three starts with our first finger on the 1st string 8th fret, then we use our third finger on the 2nd string 10th fret and add lots of vibrato to the 10th fret and hang it out for a second. Then we are going to do this an additional two times, but faster. Especially on the second time of the quick hammer ons, the third time of all of them. Then we slide right away on the 3rd string on the 9th fret slide to the 7th fret. The we pick the 5th string once and end on the 4th string 7th fret.
The end of phrase three left us with our third finger on the 4th string 7th fret. The next part we’re going to use that same finger but drop it down a string to the 3rd string. So on the 3rd string 7th fret we are gonna pick once and then slide to the 9th fret. Then we drop our pointer to the 8th fret second string and pick once, as well as on the 8th fret 1st string. So since both of these notes are on the same fret, we bar them with our pointer finger. Then to the 10th fret 2nd string vibrato and hang on that note for a second. Then pick the 8th fret 2nd string.
After all all four of those phrases, we wait for the vocal “Strange Brew….girl what’s inside of you….” We wait one beat and then bend a full step on the 7th fret 3rd string. Then while our bend is still in the air, instead of doing the typical blues lick where we bend a note on the 3rd pick the 2nd and 1st strings both 2 frets down over and over, we are actually gonna bar our finger on the 5th fret 2nd and 1st strings just like we would for that lick, but we are going to change it up a bit by picking the 1st string first and then the 2nd. I pick down on my bend and I pick up on both of those barred notes. Then were gonna pick the 7th fret 3rd string with our ring finger, then bend a half step on the 5th fret 3rd string, and then pick the 7th fret on the 4th string, and then 7th fret on the 5th string. And that’s the entire intro!
Recap: How to Play Strange Brew
I hope you enjoyed learning how to play Strange Brew by Cream! This intro is really cool, a bit challenging but also really fun to play! And to sing! Make sure to play it slow first so you get all the detail in it and then when you speed it up it will be easy! And of course, most importantly have fun! Take it piece by piece if you need, just make sure you are pushing yourself but also enjoying yourself.