Looking to beef up your parts and fill out the sound? Jon Bishop could have the feature you’ve been waiting for, as he examines how great Power Trio guitarists make their bands sound huge!
In this feature we aim to showcase a variety of techniques and concepts to help the guitar to fill out the sound and function with just the bass and drums as a backing. The blues-rock power trio format really took shape in the late 1960s with bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream fusing blues and rock with loud amplification. Many other notable guitar players have been inspired by these late-60s innovations, and our 10 notated examples showcase some of them with a view to you incorporating them into your own tick bag.
To give you a chance to try out these rhythm and lead ideas there are three backing tracks complete with tabbed parts. Our first track features 10 examples that isolate a specific element of the blues power trio style. Some of the techniques are so effective that they occur in multiple examples. In the trio format the idea is to imply the harmony and fill out the sound. Large five- and six-note chords can be used, but two- and three-note fingerings can sound just as effective if played in the right place. We’ll be looking at concepts such as using open strings, unison notes, unison bends, octave melodies, 7#9 chords, double-stops, pedal tones, arpeggios, tremolo picking and chords with a thumb bass note.
Our examples are recorded and separated by a two-bar drum break to give you a chance to change pickup and effects. Once you have learned the examples you can practise playing along with the backing track.
The first jam track puts some of these ideas into context in an all-out, Jimi Hendrix style blues-rock jam solo. The first jam uses the same tempo, key and feel as the examples and is in the ever-friendly key of E. The bass line is left deliberately ambiguous in tonality, so as not to force you down one particular route, so
Major and Minor Pentatonic scales can be mixed and matched and seasoned blues-rock improvisers like Eric Clapton have mastered the knack of changing between the two at the right time.
there’s plenty of scope to try out new ideas.
For jam track number two we are going to test out the ideas using a Stevie Ray Vaughan style quick-change dominant 12-bar blues - also in the key of E. It’s a Texan shuffle and the chord progression looks like this. || E7 | A7 | E7 | ‘/, | A7 | ‘/, | E7 |‘/, | B7 | A7 | E7 | B7 ||
We can also refer to each of the three chords in the blues as a Roman numeral. E7 is the I chord, A7 the IV and B7 is the V chord. This numbering allows us to label the ideas that fit each of the three chords and then easily transfer them to other situations such as playing in a different key.
As the 10 examples and the two jam tracks are in the key of E, the vocabulary we will be learning is mainly constructed from two core scales. These scales are E major pentatonic (E, F#, G#, B, C#) and E minor pentatonic (E,G, A, B, D). These two pentatonic scales can be mixed and matched at will, and seasoned blues-rock improvisers like Eric Clapton have mastered the knack of changing between the two at just the right time.
Why not try constructing or improvising your own power trio style solos using some of the techniques and concepts showcased in this article. Then try them out over backing tracks, at your own gigs or in blues club jams.
Many thanks to Owen Martin for performing the shuffling drums on jam track two. Have fun and see you next time.