TrueFire's Guitar Blog

Be a Soul Man

Steve Cropper, Spanky Alford, Curtis Mayfield, Jimmy Johnson, Cornell Dupree, and Leo Nocentelli are just a few of the legendary soul men of guitar. Their rhythm guitar work has powered hundred of hit songs. Their funky, soulful grooves have also influenced every generation of guitar players ever since.

Whatever your preferred style happens to be, injecting a little “soul” into your rhythm guitar work will light up your originals, covers, and jams. Here’s a couple of free guitar lessons from James Hogan to help you get your soul bag together.

Marv’s Thang

“Marv’s Thang” is inspired by the phenomenal Marv Tarplin. Marv was a fantastic guitarist and writer who spent most of his career playing his black Les Paul Custom alongside the great Smokey Robinson. Marv and Smokey started out on the Motown label with their group The Miracles in 1958 and are now both members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Though Marv Tarplin is typically known for his understated chordal work, this example is from a killer riff he played on the 1965 Marvin Gaye hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” (Tarplin also co-wrote the tune). For this one, we’ll be using a bit of hybrid picking with a clean tone. Although, if you add a bit of dirt to your tone, you’ll hear how Marv’s piano styled chords influenced the next generation of rock guitarists! Also, there’s some syncopation here so we’ll need to be aware of that.”

Marv’s Thang – Overview

Marv’s Thang – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this soul guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Marv’s Thang – Breakdown

Gentle Genius

“Gentle Genius” is a really classy chord progression with some elegant fills in the style of soul and R&B guitar genius Mr. Curtis Mayfield. While many know him from his “Super Fly” era playing and singing, Mayfield’s beautiful chordal work and fills have inspired countless players. In fact, his influence can clearly be heard in Jimi Hendrix’s chordal work. Hendrix once said, “The best gig was working with Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. He probably influenced me more than anyone I’d ever played with up to that time, that sweet sound of his, you know.” In this example, we’ll check out some of Mayfield’s beautiful “Impressions” era chord moves, intervallic fills, and lush harmonics! We’ll also be going fingerstyle here, though you can play the example with a pick if you prefer. Check out Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” with The Impressions for some inspiration.”

Gentle Genius – Overview

Gentle Genius – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this soul guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Gentle Genius – Breakdown


After you’ve got these soul rhythm grooves down, make sure to check out the full course on TrueFire to really nail down your soul rhythm chops! In Essentials: Soul Rhythm Guitar, James Hogan presents 8 more rhythms, complete with tab, notation, and jam tracks for each one. Check it out now!