BLUES THE­ORY

Jon Bishop pulls out the in­gre­di­ents used to cook up some hot blues. If you’re look­ing for an ex­tra layer of taste in your solo­ing or rhythm play­ing, then this fea­ture is sure to spice things up!

Guitar Techniques - - TALK BACK -

Jon Bishop ex­plains all of the nuts and bolts be­hind blues gui­tar solo­ing, and more, to take your mu­si­cian­ship to the next level.

The main idea we’ll be ex­plor­ing here is us­ing var­i­ous scale and chord con­cepts as jump­ing-off points to pro­vide our­selves with a some­what more in­ter­est­ing vo­cab­u­lary within the blues id­iom. The aim of study­ing each of the ex­am­ples is to in­crease both your solo play­ing and rhythm gui­tar po­ten­tial.

early blues fea­tured a very much, ‘hand-me-down’ tra­di­tion of learn­ing, with each gen­er­a­tion in turn be­ing in­flu­enced by the last. many of the great blues­men of the 20th cen­tury ex­ten­sively played by ear, and prob­a­bly knew very lit­tle in the way of for­mal mu­sic the­ory. how­ever, mod­ern blues play­ers like Robben Ford, Larry Carl­ton, John mayer and Joe Bona­massa have raised the bar of what is ex­pected from the blues gui­tarist, and there has never been a bet­ter time to ex­pand your pal­ette of har­monic pos­si­bil­i­ties.

There is a popular ur­ban leg­end that a knowl­edge of mu­sic the­ory in some way in­hibits cre­ativ­ity. While it is no doubt in­con­travert­ible that some of those great blues play­ers knew just enough to get by, the fact is, knowl­edge is power, and will only ever give you more op­tions should you choose to use them. in this les­son we aim to show­case a va­ri­ety of scales and chords to help your blues gui­tar work get to the next level - or the next!

in or­der that you can try out to­day’s rhythm and solo­ing ideas i have pro­vided you with four full back­ing tracks, com­plete with tabbed-out gui­tar parts. The first two tracks fea­ture 10 ex­am­ples that iso­late a spe­cific scale that is of in­ter­est to the blues soloist. First you’ll hear a demon­stra­tion of the scale fin­ger­ing fol­lowed by a cool-sound­ing lick that ex­ploits that sound. The chord sec­tion fea­tures some use­ful blues shapes, and puts them into con­text in a rhythm study - this is a great deal of fun to play, just on its own.

Fi­nally we have two blues so­los, again com­plete with back­ing tracks. This will give you a chance to con­tex­tu­alise the ex­am­ples and hope­fully de­velop ideas of your own clearly the ul­ti­mate goal.

The 10 recorded scale ex­am­ples are 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 to the back­ing tracks. The 12-bar mi­nor blues chord pro­gres­sion we are us­ing looks like this. ||am7| / | / | / |dm7|/ |am7| / | |Fmaj7|e7#9|am7|e7#9|| The 12-bar ma­jor blues chord pro­gres­sion looks like this. || a7 | d7 | a7 | / | d7 | / | a7 | / | e7 | | d7 | a7 | e7 || We can also re­fer to each of the three chords in the blues as a Ro­man nu­meral. a is the i chord, d the iV and e is the V chord. This num­ber­ing al­lows us to la­bel the ideas that fit each of the three chords. it is then eas­ier to trans­fer them to other sit­u­a­tions such as play­ing in a dif­fer­ent key.

in the in­ter­est of ac­ces­si­bil­ity the 10 ex­am­ples and the two jam tracks are in the gui­tar-friendly key of a. When you be­come familiar with a new idea it is im­por­tant to move it into other keys as well. On the gui­tar this is sim­ply a case of shift­ing fret po­si­tions, but flat keys like Bb, Db and Eb can still be a bit con­fus­ing to use at first.

Why not try con­struct­ing or im­pro­vis­ing your own mi­nor and ma­jor blues so­los us­ing some of the tech­niques and con­cepts show­cased in this ar­ti­cle. as ever, have fun and i’ll see you next time.

Knowl­edge is power and will only ever give you more op­tions should you choose to use them.

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