B.B. King Couldn’t Play Chords? Do I Need To Learn Chords?

Do I need to Learn chords to play guitar?

So I was on youtube awhile back, and I saw a video of B.B. King and Bono. They were talking music, and Bono asked B.B. to play a simple chord progression.

No big deal, right?

Well, apparently it was for B.B. — who actually refused to play the chords because he’s (and I quote) “horrible with chords”.

I couldn’t believe it…

B.B. King and Bono “I’m horrible with chords”.

Here’s one of the best players on the face of the earth, and he can’t play a chord progression? It didn’t make sense.

But when I thought about it more deeply, it made total sense. 

King was a SOLOIST. He was a LEAD guitar player — not a rhythm guitar player. Because of that, he put his time into being the best lead guitarist he could. And he left all the other stuff alone.

In fact, at one point in an interview, he said…

“I was determined to be a frontman and I knew if I played rhythm guitar I’d end up backing up someone else, so I never learned how to do it.”


Now, I’m sure B.B. knew how to play some chords. But the point is, he knew what he wanted to play, and he played that.

It’s kind of like a great baseball pitcher. How often is that pitcher also playing outfield, or shortstop? Not very often. Usually a pitcher lives and breathes pitching. And that’s it. Spending time practicing in another position would be a distraction.

Discovering B.B. couldn’t play chords was a huge eye opener for me.

It shows that the greats know to focus on what they want to do. And that’s why they excel.

So if you want to be a lead guitar player, then be a lead guitar player. Put your main focus on that.

If you want to build up your rhythm chops, then spend time on that.

But don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not excelling in everything. Focus on what you like to do, and leave the other stuff alone. There’s plenty of time for you to get to it in the future (if you want to, of course).

By the way, whether you want to master lead guitar, or rhythm guitar… you may have all the pieces to the puzzle… but don’t know exactly how to put them all together. I was in the same boat for years. And I know how frustrating it can be. THIS is what helped me finally break through the plateau, and finally connect all the dots (I bet it can help you too):

P.S. The best way I’ve found to truly master either the lead guitar or rhythm guitar — and to excel at it fast — is surprisingly by slowing down. By taking enough time to go through every lesson so it really sinks in. And the best way to make sure you have as much time as YOU need… is to give yourself unlimited time. Here’s how:

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