Ever Dreamed Of Learning Guitar? Get Started With A Free Chord Chart. Enter Email For Chord Chart

B.B. King Box Explained


B.B. King is considered to be one of the greatest blues artists of all-time and certainly one of the most influential guitar players ever.

His signature guitar soloing style can be replicated via what guitar players call the “B.B. King Box” or the “B.B. Box.”

This box refers to a box pattern (section of guitar scales) on the fretboard that players can utilize to play B.B. King’s signature licks.

This box pattern is also great to incorporate into any guitar player’s repertoire as it’s always helpful to know a few licks that can easily mix minor and major pentatonic scales with the blues scale.

In this free guitar lesson we'll show you everything about the B.B. King box!


What Is The B.B. King Box?

Let's get right to it.

The B.B. King Box is as follows:

As you can see, the B.B. King Box can be an extension of the minor pentatonic scale.

In this case, the illustration above is the A blues scale.

The great thing about this is, the B.B. King Box can move with the scale that is being played.

It is always part of the same pattern.

Here it is in comparison with the Albert King and the A Blues Scale patterns:

The B.B. King box is fairly easy to learn and play.

Once you memorize this box pattern, you can apply it to just about every major and minor pentatonic scale. 

Now to put the B.B. King box to the test.

Below are a couple of easy guitar songs you may want to learn in order to practice using this amazing box pattern.


“The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King


This song is the essential guitar lesson for anyone trying to not only learn from the legendary blues master, but to also learn how to play lead blues guitar.

King's solo style is most prominent in this track since it features bluesy stabs and great work utilizing the box pattern named after him. 

“Riding with the King” by B.B. King and Eric Clapton

The song recorded by both guitar players poses a great challenge to anyone learning how to play guitar simply because of the sheer amount of licks present in the song.

Since there are two guitar players on this track, there are two guitar parts, and it's a great guitar exercise to learn both.

Clapton and King have different styles but for this song, the two guitarists play off one another and their jam results in a number of great bluesy licks that take from the B.B. King box. 

For more on the B.B. King style, check out in depth blues guitar lessons like these. Guitar Tricks has in-depth Blues guitar style courses that will take you step-by-step through how to play authentic Blues guitar.


Music Theory Behind The B.B. King Box

The BB King box is more than just a pattern on the guitar.

The musical theory behind the pattern makes it work so well for expressing the blues.

Let’s break it down:

Pentatonic Basis

The foundation of the BB box is the minor pentatonic scale, which is a staple in blues music.

This scale provides a five-note framework (penta means five) that sounds great over a variety of chords, especially dominant sevenths found in blues progressions.

Blue Notes

What makes 'the Blues' sound like 'the Blues' are the “blue notes."

In the context of the BB box, this particularly includes the flattened fifth (or the "flat five"), which adds a gritty, dissonant sound that's characteristic of blues music.

BB's box often hovers around these bluesy notes, giving it that unmistakable sound.

Mixing Major and Minor

This is a big one.

The BB box blends notes from both the major and the minor pentatonic scales.

This mixing adds emotional depth and complexity.

For example, BB often included the major third when playing in a minor context, which gives a sweet, poignant sound amidst the more somber minor notes.

If you need a hand finding these scales, check out a guitar scale finder like this one.

Expressive Techniques

The theory isn’t just in the notes but how they are played.

Bends, vibrato, and dynamics turn simple notes into powerful expressions.

Bending from a minor third to a major third, for example, mirrors vocal techniques in traditional blues singing, bridging the gap between voice and guitar.

Position and Context

The BB box usually sits near the second or third position of the minor pentatonic scale, around the 10th to 12th frets in standard tuning.

This area of the guitar neck allows for easy access to both high and low notes, providing a wide expressive range.

It's positioned to make full use of the guitar's expressive capabilities, particularly on the higher strings where bends and vibrato can be more pronounced.

Emotional Expression

Lastly, the theory behind the BB box is not just technical; it’s emotional.

The choice of notes, their placement, and the techniques used to play them are all designed to convey feeling.

Each note is chosen for its ability to express longing, joy, sorrow, or pain – the core emotions of the blues.

The theory behind the BB box isn't just about scales and notes

It's about expressing emotion through a specific musical framework that mixes elements of major and minor scales, utilizes expressive guitar techniques, and takes advantage of the guitar's sonic range.

It's this blend that gives the B.B. King Box its unique sound and emotional impact!


What scale is the BB box? The "BB box" refers to a unique scale pattern used often by blues guitarist B.B. King. It's not a standard scale, but more of a specific grouping of notes within the pentatonic scale that he favored for his expressive solos.


What are the intervals in the BB box? In the BB box, the intervals typically include the root, minor third, fourth, flat fifth, fifth, and the octave from the minor pentatonic scale, plus sometimes the major third and sixth, adding a sweet contrast to the bluesy feel.


What is the blues box? The "blues box" is a guitar term that describes a fingering pattern on the fretboard, allowing guitarists to play a variety of bluesy sounds and licks. It's a comfortable position where many blues scales and licks can be played with minimal hand movement.


What key is B.B. King in? B.B. King often played in various keys, but he is famously associated with the key of B because of his initials and the bluesy sound that the key can offer on guitar.


What makes B.B. King so good? B.B. King's greatness comes from his expressive vibrato, his clean and precise phrasing, and his emotional depth in playing. He could tell a story with his guitar, Lucille, making every note count with feeling and soul.


Did B.B. King ever play chords? Yes, B.B. King did play chords, but he was much more famous for his lead guitar playing and soulful solos. He often left the rhythm guitar parts to other band members, focusing on his signature single-note runs.


Who taught B.B. King guitar? B.B. King was primarily self-taught, but he was influenced by his cousin Bukka White, a Delta blues musician, who gave him some early guitar lessons and musical insights.


Did Jimi Hendrix play with B.B. King? Yes, Jimi Hendrix did play with B.B. King on a few occasions. While they came from different blues backgrounds and styles, they shared mutual respect and performed together in jam sessions.


What was B.B. King's favorite guitar name? B.B. King's favorite guitar was named "Lucille." The story goes that he named all his guitars Lucille after an incident in which he risked his life to save his guitar from a burning venue caused by a fight over a woman named Lucille.


Who influenced B.B. King to play guitar? B.B. King was influenced by many artists, including T-Bone Walker, Django Reinhardt, and his cousin Bukka White. These musicians helped shape his unique style and approach to the blues guitar.

Get More Tips

More Content by Category