How Did Stevie Ray Vaughan Learn to Play Guitar?

Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the biggest influences on modern American Blues. Modern Blues greats like John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. attest SRV as their largest influence on their playing, especially early on. I sought to find out how SRV learned to play guitar.

How did Stevie Ray Vaughan learn to play guitar? Stevie Ray Vaughan learned to play guitar by listening to records of Blues legends he admired. He dissected each note of every song by ear and played along with the album. Stevie was primarily self-taught through this method.

Continue reading to learn more about how Stevie Ray Vaughan learned to play guitar.

How did Stevie Ray Vaughan learn to play guitar
Photo by: Katie Haugland

Was Stevie Ray Vaughan Self-Taught in Guitar?

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a self-taught guitarist. His brother Jimmie Vaughan was a professional guitarist just as Stevie was honing his craft as a kid. Although, Jimmie was often away from home playing and growing his career. At the time, Jimmie was considered the best guitarist in Texas. So wouldn’t Stevie learn from him? Not quite. Because Jimmie was away all the time, Stevie had no mentor. His brother would come home and teach him a few things early on, but nothing consistent. That being said, Jimmie was Stevie’s biggest role model. Stevie wanted to be as good as Jimmie to be able to truly play alongside him.

Stevie did have two uncles that would come by and show Stevie some chords. This was very early when Stevie was around eight years old.

Discover What Strings Stevie Ray Vaughan Used to Achieve His Unique Tone

In addition to not having many in-person mentors, Stevie couldn’t read music. His ear was impeccable and he was able to pick up the key without even knowing what key it was in. He would just play it.

Like many great Blues guitarists before him, Stevie taught himself guitar by listening to albums he loved over and over again. Luckily his brother Jimmie would constantly give him albums to listen to and Stevie would dissect them down to each note.

When Did Stevie Ray Vaughan Start Playing Guitar

Stevie started playing guitar at the age of seven. His mother had gotten him and Jimmie Roy Rogers starter guitars. Stevie’s had pictures of cowboys and cows on it. Most standard guitarists have a revival story. Where they get a guitar at a very young age, use it like a toy, stop playing for years, then pick it up again and go all in. This was not the case for Stevie. He did not put the guitar down, thanks to Jimmie who continuously gave Stevie inspiration to keep getting better.

How Did Stevie Ray Vaughan Learn Guitar

When Stevie got his first starter guitar at the age of seven, he was hooked immediately. Stevie and Jimmie Vaughan got these starter guitars together. Their uncles would then come over and teach them their first chords and licks. Their names were Joe and Jerrell Cook, their mothers brothers. Neither were considered “blues guitarists” but were instrumental in giving the brothers a foundation to work off of.

Jimmie Vaughan brought music to Stevie, showing him guitar greats to look up to. Stevie remarked how “Jimmie turned me on to a lot of different stuff, and I just watched him play. I remember him bringing home Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King.” Stevie would study these albums and try to nail his favorite parts of each song. Even if there were multiple guitars on the song, he picked out each one and eventually would play the part perfectly. All by ear. He would be inspired by the feeling of the blues. Saying “between listening to the feeling in the music and watching my brother, and how much feeling he had with it, I picked up big-time inspiration.”

Find Out What Pickups SRV Used On His Main Setups

Stevie now had a wide variety of music at his fingertips and was able to learn from each album. He started developing a massive collection of licks that he would pull from when he performed.

Arguably one of the biggest influences on Stevie’s career was Clifford Antone. If you do not know who he is, then you will likely Google him and see that he was not a professional guitarist. Instead, he was the founder of Antone’s Blues Club in Austin Texas. Even before Stevie was the powerhouse we know and love today, Clifford would let him go up anytime he liked to play.

In fact, Clifford managed to convince Albert King to let Stevie sit in with him. The reason this was so wild is because it was unheard of. Albert King was notorious for not letting anyone sit in with him. Especially someone he does not know. After some convincing, because of Clifford, Stevie got to play with one of his biggest blues idols and influences. Albert and Stevie would joke later on how Stevie was ripping off Albert King riffs when they played together and Albert put his guitar behind the curtain saying “honey you shouldn’t see this”.

Clifford Antone was instrumental in getting Stevie to play with blues legends. Legends like Albert Collins, Albert King, Buddy Guy, etc. Clifford guided him and helped him play with the right people. This masterclass of playing with these blues legends at such a young age skyrocketed Stevie’s playing abilities. Had he not played at Antone’s and not met Clifford, Stevie would have been nowhere as good as he was.

Stevie took what he learned from hours spent practicing alongside Hendrix and King albums with real life performance experience with these very legends (not Hendrix of course). He then started developing his own style that mixed all these guitarists together to create his unique sound.

How Many Hours a Day Did SRV Practice

SRV lived, breathed, and ate guitar. He practiced over five hours every single day. He sacrificed having a productive social life and sleep for this passion. The result of which was rapid progress and fine tuning his style with every practice session.

Stevie brought a resurgence of blues to the 1980’s, thus helping fellow blues players who had been forgotten. Young fans learned what the blues were from Stevie and Double Trouble. His unique playing style, intensity, and accuracy of his playing now regards him as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. How did Stevie Ray Vaughan learn to play guitar so effectively that he was able to become extremely proficient in such a short period of time. Thank you for reading how did Stevie Ray Vaughan learn to play guitar. Subscribe if you would like to be notified when a new article is posted.