J.J. Cale was probably best known as being a great singer / songwriter, but his unique approach to playing lead and rhythm (without a pick) has influenced thousands of guitarists. His style was simple and elegant, and always seemed to perfectly compliment the music. This guitar lesson showcases some of J.J. Cale’s style of lead and is perfect for even beginner guitar players. As a bonus, I’ve included a breakdown (with tab and video) of the fingerstyle rhythm.
Lead Part 1 (Free Guitar Lesson)
Lead Part 2 (For Premium Members)
Rhythm (For Premium Members)
Lead Slow Walk-Through
Rhythm Slow Walk-Through
Video Tablature Breakdown
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Beautifully captured - thanks Brian
So just when I think Active Melody can’t get any better, it does. Another great lesson Brian.
JJ Cale had a great influence on Eric Clapton. Both produced beautiful music. This is a must do Lesson for me.
You done it again Brian! a great sound. I had been hoping JJ Cale would come up as I had been listening to him on my car CD player, and here it is a really nice tune.
simply beautiful, love JJ Cale and this unique sound and style…Thanks Brian!
Thank you Brian - I’ve been waiting a long time to see someone deconstruct and explain how JJ Cale got that sound. Maybe some Mark Knopfler fingerstyle to follow?
This lesson is simply awesome. I love JJ Cale since I’m 16 . I was very sad when he passed.
Love JJ. Superb lesson Brian. We often go through all of his albums in our home. So melodic and man did you capture it.
Thanks Brian this is a great lesson love your work!!!
sena g says
Finally a practice inspired by JJ Cale. Brian, when we shall hear one of your songs. Thank you for this
Michael Allen says
Thanks Brian. I love the lesson. Being from New Orleans, I just love that tshirt
@sena g - these are all originals :) although I guess they’re not really “songs” - more like jingles 🙂
@Michael Allen - just got back from NOLA about a month ago - had a blast!
Mike Keinan says
Thanks Brian for Another cool rythm and lead part to practice on 🙂
Thanks, at last! No more nagging - promise.
Is it my imagination that the first bars of the E part the tab do not conform to the tab?
Thanks Brian .The first time I seen JJ Cale on Crossroads with Eric I fell in love with his music
Another Great Lesson Brian
Thanks Brian! I had been hoping for a JJ Cale lesson and the rhythm part is just the sort of fingerstyle lesson I’ve been looking for.
sena g says
Your red Gibson guitar - the exact name of it, this is not too much to ask ?! Thanks in advance
@Sena it’s a Gibson ES-335 (Dot series)
JJ Cale. Another guitarist I came to far too late….
One of the coolest guitar-slingers who ever walked the Earth.
I know you cannot do direct copies of tracks but this one takes my mind and fingers directly to Danger (?)
Much more of the same please.
jez ward says
Thanks to all you Active Melody members who requested a JJ Cale style lesson. I’m getting so much out of it. Thanks Brian, great job.
I’ve just ordered the DVD “To Tulsa and Back”
Just had to sign up as a full member after seeing this.
I love that J.J. Cale tone. I once heard a guy getting that beautiful fingerstyle tone on a Tele in a guitar shop; it was mesmerizing. Now, thanks to you Brian, I can do it too.
I was struggling with the phrasing of the rhythm part until I paid more attention to the call and response nature of the piece. Because the E chord leads the way in the 1st and 5th measure I was mistakenly trying to make all the rest of the E chords lead as well when they’re actually supposed to be responding to the G-A call. It really fell into place when I figured that out. Duh!
@ b2g Most of J.J.s guitar work on “Call Me The Breeze” is in the minor pentatonic scale
Christopher P says
Great stuff, but can you transpose the Rythm finger work into the key of E? . All recordings I can find are in D. Am I missing something?
Thanks Brian, love simple styles like JJ. Question…..On “Call Me The Breeze”, does JJ use the major or minor pent when he solo’s? I try switching between both.
Great lesson. I signed up as a member after I heard this lesson. Love laid back jj cale
I can forget the rhythm part.. I can’t do that finger style stuff, never will be able to. I don’t even bother trying it anymore..Sounds good tho…
You have a gift for explaining why things are done instead of just how. Finally found lessons I can actually use. Thanks. Chip
good lesson but your tab is lacking all the HO and PO. I had to take notes along the way.
keith h says
are there any songs that use this progression I would like to sing I wonder if Cajun moon could fit ?
Ignacio S says
I did it in 1 say!! Thanks a lot, JJ is my favorite musician and I don´t find many themes in internet. I know this is yours, but could be from him!
I was wondering what key the song is since it uses E major, A major & G major according to the tab?
Milan Simek says
Nice lesson. Very much like Eric Clapton also!
I hate fingerstyle it just feels awkward but so does having a guitar on my lap and no pick to play it with so i decided i weren’t going to give up no matter if i died of old age trying . Brian was right it will come and does get easier he makes a good teacher because he can still relate to how hard it can be when he learnt . Picked up the axe several times a day kept at it working the different sections for days and bang i broke through the wall Eureka ! . The Rhythm part is awesome .
Forgot to mention the sore fingers tips as well but no pain no gain they soon toughen up
Felicia S says
Thanks Brian. I have just joined Active Melody and I chose JJ Cale as my first lesson. I have come from a career of bass playing and I think you are a great teacher for me. I know roots music well, but as I have little theory and scale knowledge, I am learning heaps already. I love the way you describe where the notes and what you play comes from. Great work!
Francisco M says
i love jj cale! thanks brian!
Jean H says
Great and beautifull lesson, Brian.
So, from france , I have some problem with english language and I don’t understand all you say but I tried to learn all your music.
A lot of thanks,
Jon G says
Great lesson Brian your lessons are so detailed and very enthusiastic all different styles….I dont get the practice time I need but your lessons are also very much fun as I’ve told you before I love playing the guitar one might say I’ve had a love affair since I was a boy…..watching Lawrence Welk players and Arthur Godfrey ….just standing there memorized as an 8 yr old kid and my Grandma laughing as I couldnt take my eys off the TV…BLACK AND WHITE I MIGHT MENTION…..now heres the humorus part but shows hoiw much I loved the guitar……MY GRANDMA FOUND A LARGE PIECE OF FLAT CARDBOARD AND DREW A LINE THE SHAPE OF A GUITAR …DREW A SMALL CIRCLE INTHE MIDLE ATTATCHE A PIECE OF YARN AND…
THERE I WAS IN FRONT OF THE DINING ROOM MIRROR PLAYING MY VERY OWN CARDBOARD GUITAR…..SHE’D LAUGH FOR HOURS WATCHING ME….HERES THE STRANGE PART I COULD HEAR MY MUSIC……..well she told me one day I’d play guitar because I loved it so much….;later during Jr. High dad & mom got me a Airline acoustic guitar much like the parlor guitars Kay made…well they got me lessons..but I wamnted to play the boogie woogie stuff I’d learnd from seeing others so …didnt learn much…well here I am 50 some years later
still taking lessons…BUT I CAN PLAY SONGS I LOVE AND BAR CHORDS ECT……..
SO BRIAN YOUR LESSONS HAVE INSPIRED ME TO KEEP PLAYING MY CARDBOARD GUITAR IF YOU WILL …but now there is real tunes coming out to hearTHANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR KEEPING THE FIRE AND PASSION FOR ALL OF US WHO LOVE THE GUITAR
Great lesson. As someone coming from fingerstyle acoustic into electric it’s amazing how many great guitarists there are who play fingerstyle electric – Knopfler, LIndsay Buckingham, JJ, Jeff Beck, Setzer (some of the time), Ry Cooder (some of the time). just getting into jj cale songs now and this lesson is a great introduction.
Stephen M says
A really interesting lesson, thank you. The chords you use here are E, G and A and sounds very much like it would fit with “Don’tTalk To Strangers”.
I’d like to use it in “After Midnight” which is D, F and G. Is it simply a matter of playing the same pattern over those three chords? Do you have an “After Midnight” lesson anywhere, incidentally?
Dennis R says
I have tryied Manu times,differens teachers.. Im danish ,so please dont se when I Write wrong.. or in a languesss u vant understanf likenthis… hahahaha
cillian d says
Love JJ and never thought I’d get to manage to play his style, but you make it accessible and understandable. Thanks. Plenty to work on now\1
Jacob D says
Love love love some JJ, so subtle and perfectly understated…. love the lesson.
This is a FANTASTIC lesson, Brian, wow. Absolutely love JJ Cale and you capture his melodic and mesmerizing style perfectly, plus you make it accessible to early-stage learners like me, which is remarkable.
Pierre G says
JJ Cale is the proof that sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to do. 50 years since I have been trying to play like him and I still can’t. But thank’s to you I didn’t say my last word ! Why didn’t I know you 50 years ago ?
Alison F says
Hi Brian; I know this is one of your older lessons but I’m greatly enjoying it. The lead is definitely easier for me than the rhythm part. I’ve always been a messy fingerpicker, changing up which finger plucks which string whenever. I’m concentrating on keeping the thumb going, which is quite difficult for me to learn correctly. Really appreciate this lesson.