40 BLUES INTROS & OUTROS Top and tail your solos
Never be short of ideas again with this essential guide to opening and closing a blues solo with both panache and authority. Richard Barrett is your guide...
A good entrance and exit is vital if you are to leave your audience impressed. Richard Barrett reveals the secret to great intros and outros.
ROBERT Johnson’s fingerstyle acoustic Blues employed unusual diminished voicings and chromatic movements to lead from One place to another
What do Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and countless others have in common? No, there isn’t a punchline: the answer is a knowledge of the basic blues format and the ability to blend it into their own contemporary styles.
The first thing you often hear on any blues record is a ‘taster’ of what is to come, courtesy of some fancy or soulful licks. Sometimes this is called a ‘turnaround’ – the bit at the end of a 12-bar progression when everything is gearing up to go round again. You could say it’s like starting with an ending.
Check out some of our intros and compare them with their outro counterparts. Often the only major difference is that the outro finishes with a very final I (‘home’) chord, as opposed to the intro, which usually features the V chord (for example, B major in the key of E), setting our ears up to believe – correctly – that there is more to come. There’s something rather compositionally elegant, too, about ‘book-ending’ a song in this way. It sounds more deliberate, rather than just bluffing through and coming up with whatever you fancy (that has its place too, but you know what I mean).
There are exceptions to every rule and some of these are featured in our extensive catalogue of examples. John Lee Hooker and Elmore James often ‘vamped’ on one chord or riff, beginning and ending a song in much the same way. Robert Johnson’s fingerstyle acoustic blues employed unusual diminished voicings and chromatic movements to lead from one place to another. And modern electric players, like Eric Johnson and Scott Henderson substitute unusual chords throughout the 12-bar progression, giving a jazzy feel to proceedings.
Whatever the territory, if you’re looking to improve your library of ‘stock’ licks and fills, there is something here for you. Starting with intros (of course), there are both easy and more advanced ideas in a variety of keys and styles, from acoustic to full-on distortion. The outros follow a similar template – first a simple idea, and then something a little more advanced over the same backing tracks, which are included for you to experiment over.
Some of these licks will be useful for general soloing vocabulary as well. So, whatever happened when you Woke Up This Morning, you will be able to express it far better in song. Good luck... one, two, three...