When the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their fourth studio album Mother's Milk in 1989, it was their first with new guitarist John Frusciante who replaced founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who had died from a heroin overdose the previous year.
Their first single for this much anticipated album was a hard rocking cover of Stevie Wonder's 1973 funk hit "Higher Ground". John Frusciante and bassist, the incomparable Flea, are absolutely on fire for the entire track. It was a great way for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to introduce their young new guitarist to the world.
When learning how to play Higher Ground on the guitar, the most important element to concentrate on by far is the groove. Without that constant groove going, the whole song will completely fall apart.
The intro contains some serious hard rocking funk guitar playing that will require you to have a solid grasp of double-stops, string muting, hammer-ons and more.
In this lesson I will demonstrate how to play this intro but also how to do all the variations that John Frusciante plays within this riff throughout the rest of the song. The idea is to understand the different ways he is beginning and ending the riff, then just randomly use those different variations in any way you want. That is how John Frusciante approached it himself during the recording and live performances. Nothing is set in stone with that riff, he basically plays it a bit differently every time and as long as you understand how to mix up those variations, you can do the same.
The next riff is a hard driving power chord rock riff. The fast muted low E string notes will be the most difficult thing to master with this riff. Feel free to experiment playing those open notes with both all downstrokes or alternate picking.
It is quite obvious that many sections of "Higher Ground" contain multiple guitar layers. What I do in this video lesson is teach you how to play Higher Ground by always focusing on the part that is the most prominent in the mix and has the most impact on the sound. Playing it that way will enable you to do a convincing version of the song with just one guitar player.
The rest of the song contains a multitude of hard driving riffs using a liberal amount of funk double-stops, power chords, slurs and more. Take your time putting all this stuff together. In fact, I think you should spend quite a lot of time on just the intro riff alone. If you can play that properly it will give you a much better understanding of how to approach the rest of the song and enable you to get it under your fingers more quickly.
So have fun learning this killer cover song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and remember to keep that groove going! Carl...
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