Lesson with blues icon
Some new vocabulary is guaranteed for even the most seasoned blues player.
KEY: D Tempo: 60bpm CD: CD-ROM
Will im prove your
String-bending technique Slow blues lead Blues-guitar vocabulary
Following on from last issue’s article focusing on how Bernie would typically tackle a minor-blues progression, this month, we see him in dominant seven mode. For those of you who may have missed last month’s instalment, Bernie is probably best known for his work with Whitesnake, and his rich, blues-orientated style has won favour with many guitar fans around the world. When we caught up with Bernie, he was kind enough to play two solos: last issue’s was a minor-key blues, this issue, it’s a major-key blues.
The chord progression used in Bernie’s Dominant 7 blues track is constructed from chords I, IV and V of the harmonised D Major scale. The Major scale has the following intervals: root, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, maj7th.
If one harmonises the A Major scale in 3rds, the following chords are produced: Dmaj7, Em7, F#m7, Gmaj7, A7, Bm7, C#m7b5. As you can see, the chords I, IV and V are Dmaj7, Gmaj7 and A7. To make this collection of chords sound more bluesy, and provide more options for improvisation, chords I and IV can be changed to D7 and G7 (Dominant). This gives us the classic blues chords of D7, G7 and A7.
The 12-bar sequence Bernie uses in his backing track is often referred to as a quick-change blues, and this is how the changes stack up: D7 / G7 / D7 / – / G7 / – / D7 / – / A7 / G7 / D7 G7 / D7 A7 /. From a soloing standpoint, the D Minor Pentatonic scale (D, F, G, A, C) is a solid ‘home base’. Many of Bernie’s licks and phrases have this scale at their core. D Minor Pentatonic can be used over D7, G7 and A7, so it is a solid choice. To add variety, D Major Pentatonic can be used over the D7 as well as D Minor Pentatonic. Mixing these two scales is a dyed-in-the-wool blues technique, and is a concept used by many of the finest bluesmen.
String bending and finger vibrato are key articulations, along with finger slides. Bernie adds these articulations to pretty much every phrase, while also varying the dynamic (how loud or soft the notes are played) and his pickup selection. A key aspect of this solo is the use of space and pacing. Bernie never gets carried away with long phrases or lots of fast notes. Everything is placed in a considered fashion, and the emphasis is on melody.
Before learning this solo, it may well be worth playing through each of the five D Minor Pentatonic shapes as notated in examples one to five. These fingering patterns provide the foundation of this solo, and learning them will help you to unlock the neck and appreciate the nuts and bolts of the phrases. Knowing where all the D Minor Pentatonic notes are will also help you to work out when and where Bernie is adding in extra tones, such as those from D Major Pentatonic.
The notation contains all of the fingerings, articulations and phrasing from the video performance. Take a close look at the way Bernie fingers and picks the phrases, but don’t be intimidated by the look of the notation. It may seem busy due to the tempo and 12/8 time signature, but the ideas are straightforward – it’s Bernie’s articulation that makes them sound rich and musical. If you find a lick you like, then memorise it and incorporate it in your own playing, for use in future solos. Have fun, see you next time.
Bernie plays a major blues for us this time