Jungle Love

Weekly Newsletter #20

December 27, 2021

Today I’d like to change things up a bit. 

I want to show you how to play one of the greatest riffs ever written. You probably aren’t going to guess it, but it’s Jungle Love by The Steve Miller Band. 

I know many of you may not be the biggest SMB fans, but let me assure you, this will challenge each of you to rise above your current playing level. 

To begin with, I’d like you to take a listen to the song, and right away I’m sure you will recognize the iconic intro. That is what we’ll be learning today. 

As we go through it, please follow along in the tab and video lesson here. 

From the very beginning you’ll notice that you need to be able to stretch to play the first 6 notes. This is where those stretching exercises from Newsletter #9 come in handy. 

The song is in the key of Bb and begins with an F mixolydian scale, which ends on a G (the relative minor). 

From there we enter into a series of power chords and triad shapes that change rapidly. In measure 5 we must quickly descend using 6th intervals, which end on a Bb triad in the Gm pentatonic box. 

With these 6ths it is crucial that you be able to visualize them as they relate to the Gm pentatonic box, which is where the final Bb triad ends. Think of them as a horizontal extension of the box…this will be immensely useful in all styles of playing. 

From there we play another stretched out shape starting on Bb of the low E string and finish the main riff with an F and Eb power chord for the first 3 repeats. 

On the fourth repeat we begin on an F power chord just as in the previous repeats. However, we finish the last bar of the verse with a power chords climb up on the D string. We go from G5 to A5 to Bb5 before having to rapidly shift back down to the Gm pentatonic box. 

The challenge in a lot of this song is having to very quickly switch positions. I know that many of you have apprehension at shifting quickly because there is a chance you miss the target. Learning how to move quickly with sharp movements is a must for any guitarist, and it’s my hope that learning this song will help cure you of the fear of moving very fast on the neck. 

Once the chorus begins we continue the same rhythmic motif, but now we are using triads exclusively. 

It would be very useful for you to read Newsletter #6 on triads before attempting this section. 

We begin on a Gm chord on the top four strings, which is contained within the Gm box. We then break up that four-note chord into the bass note on the D string and the upper three notes before moving to an F triad (which is the D major chord shape, root on the B string). 

Finishing that phrase, we play a four-note Bb chord within the Bb major pentatonic box. Alternatively you can see this as the upper four strings of a Bb bar chord. 

Just as in bar 1 of the chorus, we then break that Bb chord into the bass note and the upper three notes, however we must embellish it with a hammer-on using the pinky on the B string, which actually creates a Bb6 chord or a Gm/Bb. Although this chord is not held long enough to warrant a new name, it’s best thought of as simply an embellished Bb chord. 

Following this embellishment we release the pinky finger, which gives us the same Bb chord before returning to the F triad. 

The end of measure 3 of the chorus utilizes simile, in which the rhythm and embellishment of the Bb chord is repeated using the F chord. 

For those looking for a harmonic analysis challenge, can you name the chord that’s created using the embellishment on the high E string of that F triad? 

The first repeat of the chorus ends with a simple Gm pentatonic lick, and the second repeat with a simple Gm triad on the upper three strings. 

The bridge uses basically only two chord shapes, but they shift up the neck. It starts with an F triad on the 10th fret D, G & B strings before playing a Bb triad on those same strings. No shifting is needed here; you just add your middle and ring fingers to the bar you are using to play the F chord. 

After switching back and forth you slide up to an Ab triad 13th fret (same shape as the F triad we just played). 

*Bonus points for anyone who can figure out what is happening harmonically here (hint: it moves from one key to another momentarily). 

Once in the Ab position, the same shape change repeats itself. 

From there the bridge finishes with a series of F chords followed by the original F mixolydian scale from the intro. 

I realize this may be daunting to many of you, but I must say it is absolutely worth your time to go over this material. As I said before, one of the biggest obstacles to intermediate players is the unwillingness to force themselves to move fast around the neck. Opting for slow and accurate (which is most often very important), it can actually work against your progress. 

In a way it is like not wanting to remove the training wheels on your bike when you were a child. It’s safe and less dangerous to move slowly and accurately. Moving fast will certainly cause errors and dead notes, but just as with a bike, if you do not force the issue, you will be stuck with training wheels for the rest of your life. 

I hope this brings you a challenge and a few hurdles that you can use to improve your playing. At the very least, it is a really fun song to play and I know you will enjoy it once you get the riffs under your fingers. 

Until next week, 

Take off those training wheels! 

-Max Rich