TEXAS BLUES 10 Texas Ti­tans

Jon Bishop dips his toe into siz­zling wa­ters with con­trast­ing pieces in the style of 10 ti­tans of Texas blues gui­tar. Stuck in a rut? This fea­ture could be just the re­fresher your play­ing needs.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Jon Bishop goes for hot and spicy this is­sue with a look at the siz­zling style of some Texas’s hottest play­ers: Billy Gib­bons, Al­bert Collins, Jim­mie and Ste­vie Ray Vaughan among them!

Wel­come to this ti­tanic Texas blues gui­tar fea­ture. The aim of this les­son is to take a look at the style of 10 of the big­gest blues names to come out of the Lon­es­tar state. Once the tech­niques of these great play­ers are un­cov­ered you can in­cor­po­rate the key el­e­ments into your own trick bag. Both rhythm and lead gui­tar ideas are no­tated and we will be mostly work­ing in the fa­mil­iar set­ting of the 12-bar, ma­jor blues for­mat. How­ever, to pro­vide va­ri­ety and stylis­tic accuracy the tonal­ity and feel of the back­ing tracks has been tai­lored to suit.

One of the key rhyth­mic feels in the Texas blues style is the shuf­fle. This is epit­o­mised by songs like Pride And Joy by Ste­vie Ray Vaughan and Tore Down by Fred­die King. In the shuf­fle, the pulse is di­vided into qua­ver triplets. A bar of 4/4 would be counted 1-&-a, 2-&-a, 3-&-a, 4-&-a. In mu­sic no­ta­tion we can save on the triplet brack­ets and write this with a 12/8 time sig­na­ture (Ex­am­ples 2 and 9) or just write it in 4/4 with a note that the quavers are swung (Ex­am­ple 1). Over­all, the Texas blues style has more jazz and swing in­flu­ences in it com­pared to the other blues styles.

Each of our 10 fea­tured artists has a stylis­ti­cally ap­pro­pri­ate back­ing track. There are four bars of rhythm and then we turn our at­ten­tion to the lead work. Some of the key fea­tures of the Texas blues style are a hot tone com­bined with an ag­gres­sive at­tack and solid tech­nique. Amongst the ar­tic­u­la­tions needed are string bend­ing, ham­mer-ons and pull-offs, fin­ger slides and fin­ger vi­brato.

String bend­ing is a great way to add ex­pres­sion and feel­ing to your lead play­ing. By bend­ing a string (pulling down or push­ing up while fret­ting a note) you in­crease its ten­sion and there­fore the pitch rises. The abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late notes on the fret­board this way is a great as­set, and means you can ac­cess all those mi­cro­tonal in­ter­vals not avail­able on other in­stru­ments like the pi­ano. It’s these very traits that make the gui­tar unique, and which means the tini­est change in ap­proach can create dif­fer­ent feels and sounds, and lend each player an in­stantly recog­nis­able mu­si­cal fin­ger­print.

If you want to create an up­ward glis­sando (a smooth up­ward glide in pitch) then sim­ply bend the string up to the de­sired tar­get note at the de­sired speed. If you would like to create a down­ward glide then you can pre-bend the string and then re­lease it. Once the string is bent to pitch you can add fin­ger vi­brato to help with in­to­na­tion, and add in­ter­est, feel­ing and per­son­al­ity.

One of the key prob­lem ar­eas when de­vel­op­ing the string bend­ing tech­nique is in­to­na­tion (bend­ing in tune).

A pop­u­lar method of de­vel­op­ing your abil­ity to bend to pitch is to choose a tar­get tone. E Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scale pro­vides some fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, so let’s choose the notes D and E with which to prac­tise. Fret the note D on the 15h fret of the sec­ond string with your third fin­ger. You can place fin­gers one and two be­hind the third fin­ger for added strength and sup­port. The E note is the tar­get tone you are aim­ing for when bend­ing (17th fret on the sec­ond string) and it’s a sen­si­ble idea to fret this be­fore bend­ing, for ‘ref­er­ence’. Now bend the D up (15th fret on the sec­ond string) one tone (two frets) un­til you think you have hit the E. Re-check in­to­na­tion by play­ing the fret­ted E. It’s al­ways vi­tal to mem­o­rise the pres­sure it took to achieve the cor­rect pitch, and also the sound of the in-tune E note, if your bend­ing is to be­come sec­ond na­ture. Use this method for semi­tone and tone-and-a-half bends, too.

Many thanks to Univer­sal Au­dio for the loan of the Apollo in­ter­face for the record­ings. Have fun and see you next time.


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