Gettin’ The Blues
Iintroduced this topic with some scales to prime you in last issue’s Blues And Beyond, so today we can get straight into a study piece I’ve prepared on the topic of Django Reinhardt’s timeless approach to the blues.
I have recorded this piece at a moderate 100BPM (beats per minute) with the aim of making it achievable for all players. Theoretically, there’s a lot going on, but let’s not get too bogged down in the theory. Just listen to the notes and utilise the tracks. If you want to reapply the ideas yourself, use the chords as your reference sound and your ear as your guide, and you’ll get somewhere – I promise! Also, utilise alternate picking where possible.
EXCERISE #1 (BARS #1–4)
This is essentially a blues in the key of C with some interesting twists. However, a nice and simple C major pentatonic scale couldn’t start things better. The first beat of Bar #2 sees us bend into an F natural – the root note of F. It’s pretty obvious, but it works! Then we utilise an F major 6 arpeg gio before resolving to the E in Bar # 4.
The E is the third note in a C major scale, which is the most important chord tone, and works similarly to the same way we may resolve to the root as we did in Bar # 2. We use a C major 6 arpeggio to roll into Bar #4, which also happens to be an A minor arpeggio, anticipating the next bar and chord. The D# or Eb that we use here is more or less the blues note from an A minor blues. To use it this jarringly is very Django.
EXCERISE #2 (BARS #5–8)
A great little trick to working with major chords is to think in terms of the relative minor. F major and D minor are the relatives we are talking about here, so I use a D minor arpeggio, which also gives us an F major 6 arpeggio. On the next bar, we utilise the diminished scale I showed you in the last issue, before resolving back to the root of the C in Bar # 7.
Really get to know the chords if you want to understand the melody we are using – it’s where most of our cues come from. Leading into Bar #8 with an A harmonic minor, we play a simple A minor pentatonic lick before heading into the final turnaround.
EXCERISE #3 (BARS #9–12)
If it sounds good, do it again! I utilise the same minor arpeggio or major 6 arpeggio as in Bar #5, before descending and ascending a G# diminished scale in Bar #10, complete with some embellishing. Bar #11 arrives on the 5th of the C chord or the note G.
A melodic use of major pentatonic rolls Bar #11 into #12, and we utilise chord tones from a G# diminished and a simple little melody to set up our return to Bar #1. I have bent from an F# into a G, so there’s no need to analyse the F# – it’s the note we arrive at that was the goal, and where the inherent melodic idea lies. The bend is just a little embellishment.
I think that colour and beauty are two of the things that can get lost in a modern musician’s repertoire, in favour of technical proficiency. The timelessness of this piece is owed to the selectivity that would have come from years of dedication to playing the right notes, to find the right emotion to match the chords. After all, isn’t that the whole point of music?