Blues-rock Power!

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!

Guitar Techniques - - Play: Blues-rock -

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.

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