Guitar Challenge (Improv) - Layla style Backing Tracks

Welcome to the Guitar Challenges. Each ‘challenge’ is basically an open invitation to anyone and everyone to play a song, an improvisation, a study-piece etc and post a recording – just for the fun of it.

So, whether you are a relative beginner learning the basic chords and strumming pattern of a song, a more experienced player adding a little fancy fretwork, if you want to do a little finger-picking, or you want to sing and play at the same time … you can join in with these challenges.


  • The challenge is to yourself.

  • These are not competition threads.

  • There are no prizes for making the ‘best’ recordings.

  • There is no shame for being at the beginner stages.

  • This is for FUN!


If you do want some constructive advice and feedback on your playing then that is cool. Just ask. Otherwise this is all about positivity, encouragement and having a go.

This challenge is prompted by several members all having some fun and taking the same lady out for an evening of fun.

It involves playing a little improvisation over a Layle-style backing track.

The main focus for simplicity is using the D minor pentatonic scale.

The chords progression is: ||: Dm Bb C Dm :|| Am C

To get adventurous, use the D minor pentatonic and occasionally add some flavour with either the 2 or the b6.

For a full minor immersion, use the D minor scale (D Aeolian).

Backing Track

During the week the intro/chorus riff wormed it’s way into my musical mind, after watching a YT video that explored some of the tricks and magic of Clapton’s soloing in the Unplugged acoustic performance. Followed that up by looking at Justin’s lesson on the intro riff and solo.

Saturday came and it was time to fire up the looper for a second go. I recorded a Dm Bb C Dm loop and had a jam in Dm pentatonic. No attempt to copy the rhythm of of Clapton’s performance or learn to play any of his licks in the solos.

Before I put you to sleep reading, here’s the noodle which may do worse than put you to sleep (Have to apologise up front for the length, I need to have a timer running or I get a bit carried away. It is a little longer than is ideal.) :laughing: Dreaming of Layla - YouTube

Now for some more about the noodle and at the end of the post, some musical background about the inspirational song, Layla.

Firstly, this was an opportunity to firstly play in a different key. I usually noodle in A and am reasonably comfortable with the notes in the scale and on the neck in that key. Felt a little weird playing up the neck in D minor pentatonic. A signal to do more noodling in different keys.

Secondly, I have focused my deliberate practice on blues lead, which initially focuses on string bending, vibrato, and 5 basic licks from minor pentatonic position 1. Practice is going OK, progress is slow which apart from anything else is to be expected given the frequency and duration of practice (you can check in on that in my #community-hub:what-are-you-learning topic), and using what is learned in practice in the ‘heat of the moment’ is another matter altogether.

So overall my self assessment of this noodle is positive. I have used more of the techniques and experimented with some licks that are at least close to those I’ve been trying to learn than previously. But still can see how the application of the good technique I am trying to learn suffers in the moment.

I realised afterwards that I could have added in the Bb which is not in the D minor pentatonic. Something to think about before commencing a jam … take note of the chord tones and make a point of targeting those notes that are outside the scale when playing over the specific chord.

Was happier with the backing track vs lead tone. I don’t have an Fx Loop on my amp or any other pedals so the tone dialed into the amp is the same for the loop and the jam. I am creating distinction using pickup selection and guitar volume and tone controls. This time I used the split coil feature on the neck pup as well as rolling off volume to clean up the backing tone.

For those of you who only know the song from EC’s MTV Unplugged show and album, this song was originally recorded in 1970 by Derek and the Dominos. The band was formed during a troubled period of Clapton’s career and life post the breakup of Cream and a brief stint with Delaney & Bonnie as a member of the backing band. In this line-up of musicians who regularly play/played with Clapton was Duane Allman, playing slide and lead. The band name chosen purposefully to keep it from being all about Clapton.

The song was part inspired by an Arabian love story that moved Clapton and part by his love for Patti Boyd, then his great friend, George Harrison’s wife.

Personally, I think it is a superb album, including Layla with a fabulous outro instrumental, their rendition of Nobody Knows You and a cover of Little Wing. If you never listened to it and enjoy blues and blues-rock I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a play.


Haha David. Much like most of your posts this was looooong and I have to confess I stopped at about 3 minutes. Don’t be disheartened though, I doubt I’d listen to an EC solo for 5.40 mins. :joy:

Seriously though, that was very good and beyond me to offer any advice. As you know from our discussions on the other thread, this is exactly the chord progression I’m working on so I’ll study your version and steal what I can! :smiley:
Introducing a B flat note is an interesting thought.

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Thanks for the encouragement, Gordon, perhaps I should have edited out the middle, as I think some of the best bits were at the end.

As for ‘stealing’ from mine, I’m sure there are better sources of inspiration :laughing: I’ve not done too much than apply some of the basics plus some of those pattern 1 licks Justin teaches.

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Hi David, It was very well played. It is clear that you really enjoy and feel the music. You get those feelings across when you’re playing. Onwards and upwards. Keep up the good work.

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Thanks for taking a look and for the encouraging comment, James; much appreciated!

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True that. However; I could and have listened to Duane Allman solos for hours.
But this thread is about David’s playing. I enjoyed the noodle. Noodling is sometimes the best part of ‘practice’ !
@DavidP, do you have any desire to learn to play with a slide?


Robert, thanks for taking a look and listen, commenting, and glad you enjoyed it.

He was special. And there are others that I can listen to for extended periods. Though I guess lengthy improvs can also become self-indulgent. I think to a degree that was the sense Clapton began to have towards the end of the life of Cream.

In this context I see noodling as taking the theory one is learning, the technique being practiced, and putting in into use to make music. And it is especially challenging since it demands some individual creativity, producing something original that makes uses of the licks learned.

Oh yes, most definitely. I have a resonator guitar and aspire to eventually play finger-style blues with slide on that instrument.

That was great David, I can clearly see the progress especially with bends those are getting more and more in pitch. Vibratos I still think need some work, you could try to apply some more gain perhaps I would hear them better over my phone speaker.

I liked how you started with the slide and I liked this little section where you barred with first finger first few strings, I guess a bit more of those accents would be nice :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: doing great there David keep going!

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You are coming along nicely my friend! A lot to like here. I’m impressed that you are just doing your own thing and it sounds good. Extra points for playing with your own loop. Well done!

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I’m celebrating my return to being back online by making your noodle the fiest thing I take in David. You’re getting gorgeous, rich tones with some on pitch bends and vibey vibrato. Well done. :guitar:

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Fabulous job… just gets better all the time

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That was really impressive David!!
Sounded beutiful all the way.

And that blue colour on your Les Paul… :fire::heart_eyes:

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Nice stuff David and really interesting to see how you are progressing and improving as you practice more. Not sure what positions you are working on but you want to look at tying in Position 1 and Position 4 of the minor Pent they’ll really get you up and down the fret board.

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Another thumbs up, David. Great job!

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Thank you all for taking the time to give it the old look and listen and the encouraging comments. It means a lot.

@adi_mrok Good to hear the bending is getting better. As for more gain to hear the vibrato the tricky part is being able to clean up the backing on the looper and get a good tone on the lead. Maybe a little delay will also help? The double stop works well, is essentially two notes from the Dm chord.

@CT the looper is such a great addition, adds more fun and stretches one’s playing. Having a lot of fun working on this (while continuing strum a dum dum songs for live play and sing)

@batwoman I think there are likely better ways to celebrate, but I’m celebrating the progress and glad to hear tone, bends, vibrato are coming along

@SandyMusic and that’s my ultimate, to just try and keep improving.

@tRONd yeah, I do think that blue and the gold knobs are gorgeous. That gave rise to the guitar’s name Vincent Blue Beast. I love my acoustic but can’t deny there is something cool about rocking an electric, either rhythm or lead and I’m having such fun working on this.

@Rossco01 I was mostly in the starting position, position 1. I think next up the neck is position 2, playing there just on GBe strings. I believe that is often called the Albert King box. And move a few more frets up the neck to find the BB King box, which I gather is neither major nor minor pentatonic

@pkboo3 Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you still enjoying your electric.

Hey Mr Ps got his guitar face on, great expressions on this one David. Where do I find Justin lesson on guitar gurning. Nicely played and well in keeping with the original style, coming along nicely.


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:rofl: no lesson on the gurning, Toby, just set yourself a goal, find the related lesson, and try something that is a little bit beyond you. That brings on the intense concentration faces :laughing: Perhaps one day the concentration will be blended with feeling the emotions of what one is trying to say through the playing. And in this case there Justin’s Layla lessons and many others.

I watched again and my reflection on this is that I have a bunch of words, sometimes cleanly articulated, and some mumbles. With those I’ve rambled off on a loooong monologue, somewhat incoherently. Next step is to hone those words and string them together in a few sentences. Try and say something that sounds sensible.

Love it!

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That’s the way! I have been waiting patiently for you to come up with something like that; you’re well on the way now! Your playing is becoming more fluent but it seems that you have a bit of verbal diarrhoea :joy: don’t worry about that, it’s easy to learn self control. Look at this as if you’re actually playing a solo and time it accordingly; if need be if you feel the need to present more, play more than one solo but maybe to a different backing track.