Americana Roots: Progression

Genre and Style Guitar Course from Keb' Mo'

Hello, I’m Keb' Mo' — Welcome to the "Progression” Edition of Americana Roots! I’m excited to have this opportunity to pass on to you what I’ve learned myself over the many years that I’ve been playing guitar, songwriting, recording, and performing on stage. I’m using my songs as the framework for the entire series — it's the best way to give you a true feel for my guitar playing, songwriting, and creative process. Each edition focuses on a key stage of my development as an artist. For this "Progression” Edition, we're going to explore 9 song performances from my The Door, Big Wide Grin, and Suitcase albums. I'll perform each song, show you how to play them, and share the songwriting approaches I used when creating them. And with the interactive tools provided, you'll be able to practice and play along with me. So, grab your guitar and join me on this musical journey!

15 Lessons

Complete course with step-by-step lessons and practice examples.


Course filmed with 6 cameras for the perfect angles.

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Full Course Breakdown


Introduction to Americana Roots: Progression

Keb introduces us to to Americana Roots: Progression

1:00 Runtime

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The Door

I absolutely love this song because I had the pleasure of writing it with the late Leon Ware, a great songwriter who wrote classics like "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" by Average White Band and the entire Marvin Gaye album, "I Want You." He was my neighbor in LA for a while, and we worked on this song called "The Door" together.<br></br>It has a very spiritual undertone to it without actually saying anything about it, which is what I love about it. The changes are fantastic, with blues, gospel, and even some smooth jazz chords. It's a fun thing to play over.<br></br>When we were working on it, I remember Leon always had his head in the clouds and would go out onto the balcony of my apartment and just think about things. That's just the kind of person he was.<br></br>The song starts with blues changes and then goes into gospel. There's also a whole tone, half tone, and a "big whammy" every now and then. It's hard to explain, but I see the shapes and the chords. It's a simple key of A minor with an occasional A major chord thrown in for fun.<br></br>Playing this song always reminds me of Leon and the spiritual nature of it. It's truly one of my favorites.

22:40 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Gospel Inspiration

Let’s talk a little bit about the musical journey of my life. Music for me started at church, where my mother insisted that I go every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not. But that builds a spiritual foundation for you in your life, wherever you're going. It's about acknowledging something that is more profound than you are. So when I’m playing music, I’m always looking for the purpose that it serves.

3:46 Runtime

1.5 Difficulty



This song is a bit of a conundrum with its mix of licks and the key of E. It's about a janitor who has a crush on his boss but knows he doesn't have a chance. He wrote a little song about it called "Anyway."<br></br>It's a bit complicated, but the chord progression is E to A7#9 to G#m7 to C#7b9.<br></br>So, that's a bit about the song and the chord progression. It's just a fun little tune with a bit of a complicated pattern.

15:54 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Fingerpicking Approach & Exercise

I want to be careful with this, because there’s classical fingerpicking that you might want to go to a real professional teacher to learn. But I’m gonna tell you what I did to learn how to fingerpick.

7:40 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Loola Loo

This song is really special to me because I had the chance to co-write it with Bobby McFerrin early on in my career. We wrote two songs that day, this one and another called "A New Beginning." I was freaked out the whole time because Bobby is such a genius musician, but we put this song together with his changes.<br></br>The chords are a bit different than what I'm used to playing, but they sound great. The turnaround is funny with an E chord that's capable of moving up three frets. In the key of C, that puts us in the key of E flat. So the first chord is E flat, then E flat again, A flat, back to E flat, then A, B flat, A, A flat, G flat7, F7, B flat, E flat, B flat, E flat, B flat, E flat.<br></br>The bridge has some more traditional chords, like the F minor 9 chord and the E flat major 7. I added these because the sequence was already so expansive. The rest of the song is just putting it all together and figuring out the parts.<br></br>Feel free to change the chords or alter them to make it your own. I'd love to see what you come up with. Good luck!

23:21 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Infinite Eyes

This is a song called "Infinite Eyes", inspired by seeing things in a different way and the connectedness of everything in the universe. It's intended to be a godly song and played on a steel guitar using open detuning. The lyrics use a phrase from the blues called "way behind the sun" and connect to the blues. The music is meant to match the feeling of wonder and slide guitar is used in parts. The song talks about how everything is a miracle and how the infinite eyes can see everything. It's a poetic and spiritual song about the beauty of the universe.

12:29 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Resonator Guitar Talk

I'm gonna talk a little bit about this particular guitar I'm playing now. This is a National Resophonic ResoRocket. And what's unique about this guitar is that it has a cutaway, which is great for slide.

2:21 Runtime

1.5 Difficulty


America the Beautiful

The next song I'm going to play is "America the Beautiful" in the key of D, played on my National Steel Restonic guitar in the open position. This song is very special to me and holds deep meaning. It's actually one of my all-time favorites. It starts with the verse that Ray Charles used to sing.<br></br>Ray Charles sang it in a bluesy, gospel-style tradition, but I brought it down a notch and put it in the Delta. I wanted to give it that gritty, down-home feel where we could truly appreciate it. I believe it's one of the most profound songs ever written in America.

16:07 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


I'll Be Your Water

The song I'm about to play is "I'll Be Your Water." It's a co-written piece by Mr. John Lewis Parker and me. We've collaborated on many songs together, but this one is particularly special to me. Although it didn't gain much popularity, I still enjoy playing it because of its unique harmonies that come together in a cool way. I understand that not everyone will appreciate it the way I do because everyone has different tastes. Nonetheless, I find this song very special and meaningful. So, without further ado, here it goes.

17:50 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty


Life is Beautiful

One day, my friend Colin Linden came over to my house in LA. Colin is a famous Canadian songwriter who's now based in Nashville, and he's a master of the blues. We both live in Nashville now, and we were just sitting around with our guitars when we started writing this song. It's called "Life is Beautiful" and it's one of my more popular songs and seems to really resonate with people.<br></br>Colin's knowledge of the blues is impressive. He knows more about blues legends like Reverend Gary Davis, Howlin' Wolf, Charlie Patton, and Skip James than I ever will in 10 lifetimes. We added some expensive chords to make the song a little more fun, but we kept it in the old southern picking or country blues style.<br></br>The song is basically a take on an old country blues vibe with a few added modern elements. I think people like it so much because it feels homey and has a slightly modern twist to it. There's one line in the song where we say "all the most important thing is that I love you," which is actually illegal in blues music, but we went all the way with it anyway.

24:32 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty


Open Tunings

Open G tuning is a popular tuning for slide guitar playing. It allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity in your playing. If you're just starting out with slide guitar, open tuning can be a good place to begin because it introduces you to the technique. Once you become comfortable with the technique, you can start exploring different tunings and experimenting with your own style. With open tuning, the guitar takes on a completely different feel and sound, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your playing. So, give it a try and see where it takes you!

1:49 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Remain Silent

The next song I'm going to play is called "Remains Silent." It's one of those songs where you have to attach your own meaning to it. For me, it's a fun song, but it's up to the listener to interpret it. The lyrics go, "Don't stand there lying straight to my face. You're not a lawyer, you got no case."<br></br>The inspiration for this song came from an old song by Pigmeat Markham called "Here Comes the Judge." In that song, the defendant says to the judge, "Don't you remember me? I'm the one that introduced you to your wife." And the judge replies, "Life, you son of a gun." So, "Remains Silent" is based on that.<br></br>It's just a fun, lighthearted take on the idea of someone lying to your face and thinking they can get away with it. The line "you're just a criminal" adds a bit of a punchline to the end of the song.

19:14 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty



The song I'm about to play is called "Rita," and it's about a significant relationship that was coming to an end while a new one was beginning. The names have been changed to protect the innocent involved.<br></br>The song is about running back to Rita, and I'm going to play the first part before layering the second part on top of it. Check it out.

36:17 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty


Course Wrap-up Americana Roots: Progression

Hey everyone, I just wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for joining me on this journey and letting me share my tools with you. I like to call them tools - they're things I use to express myself and create, you know? And it means a lot that you appreciate them too. If you want to know more about me, Keb' Mo', you can check out or just look for me anywhere - maybe even in your local supermarket. Who knows? I might be playing on the radio while you're grabbing some snacks.<br></br>But seriously, thank you for going on this journey with me. I hope something I shared has helped you on your own musical journey, and I encourage you to keep at it. Music is a beautiful thing, and it can bring so much joy to your life. So let's make it a part of our lives, yeah? Again, I'm Keb' Mo', and thanks again for being here.

1:00 Runtime

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  • Nashville, TN
  • Playing since 1970
  • 221 lessons at JamPlay

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