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!
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.