BOOST YOUR BLUES
Jon Bishop demonstrates how you can turbo charge your blues playing by introducing a touch of arpeggiation.
Using arpeggios is one of the most effective ways to outline the sound of the underlying chords when creating melodies. Many of the most successful melodies ever written have been arpeggio based, but we as guitar players can be guilty of not using arpeggios as often as we could.
This feature is designed to work specifically on your ability to articulate minor, major and dominant 7 arpeggios, and to keep things simple we’ll be using the major and minor 12-bar blues forms as a familiar playing field.
From a stylistic standpoint blues guitar players often like to construct solos using a combination of minor and major pentatonic scales. These core scales are embellished with techniques such as bending and vibrato.
In this workout we are going to use the blues form as a foundation to practise using arpeggios with a view to incorporating these ideas into future solos and improvisations.
Figure 1 ( page 28) outlines four, easy-touse arpeggio fingerings for major triad chords; Figure 2 outlines four popular arpeggio shapes for minor triad chords. You can relate these arpeggio fingerings back to the open chord shapes they fit with for reference - the ‘C shape’ arpeggio fits with the open C shape chord etc. These shapes can used in any position on the neck and will adopt the name of the note they are played from (if C shape arpeggio is played from a G note it will be a G major arpeggio) but still in essence retain the open C shape.
Adding in the minor 7th interval to these
Using arpeggios is one of the most effective ways to outline the sound of the underlying chords when creating melodies.
foundational triad shapes will provide minor 7 and dominant 7 fingerings; Figure 3 and Figure 4 demonstrate this ( see page 28). These 7th chords provide extra colour and are only one note short of our much loved pentatonic scales.
It is a good idea to tie together a chord shape and its arpeggio and scale shape into one position as this helps blur the line between rhythm and lead playing. This concept allows the guitarist to pick and choose what to play, while staying relevant to the overall harmonic context.
Once you have digested and practised playing these arpeggio shapes you’ll find you will be able to use them to navigate the blues form and sound instantly more focused.
Step one is to slowly walk through the 12-bar form using the appropriate arpeggio and then change to the next arpeggio at the correct time. As you do this you will start to find the areas where the arpeggios link up nicely. Examples 1 and 3 in the tab and audio demonstrate this approach using simple quaver (8th note) rhythms. Try learning these examples first and then branch out into your own improvised versions. Remember this is a ‘boot camp’ style exercise to force you into playing chord tones (arpeggios). You probably wouldn’t choose to play a blues solo in this way for a performance but it’s a great exercise. To make the transitions between the chords as smooth as possible some passing tones are added. These add colour and link the arpeggios so they don’t sound like exercises.
Step two is to incorporate some of these arpeggio ideas into your performance solos and this concept is demonstrated in Examples 2 and 4. You may find that alternate picking arpeggios will help you establish a better feel with good timing (see technique focus for more details). At faster tempos sweep picking (playing notes on adjacent strings with a single stroke) is more efficient.
The picking strokes have been notated on the exercises and sticking to these may feel a little awkward at first, but will provide the most consistent results in the long run.
As ever, have fun using arpeggios in your blues solos and I’ll see you next time.