Gettin’ The Blues
If you haven’t seen the Blues Brothers movies, stop what you’re doing and go watch them now. Even if you’re at work. Just go home and do it! The movie pays homage to great blues players from the ‘50s and onwards, and the guitar work you’ll witness from the one and only Matt Murphy will inspire you to pick up your guitar and have a go at the solo included in todays column.
If you happened to look up “Sweet Home Chicago” from the Blues
Brothers, you would find a very similar solo to the one transcribed here at around the 1:40 mark. Of course, you can make use of the tracks provided online, but I recommend checking this out!
One of the things this solo highlights is the importance of knowing more than just your pentatonic blues scale. The masters all use a combination of concepts, from the blues scale to understanding key components of various chords. I strongly suggest getting familiar with the chords and relating what’s happening concurrently with the solo.
I have performed this for the tracks at 100 beats per minute (bpm) – a moderate tempo that should facilitate learning. The original would slot in at around 125bpm, so start here and work your way up.
You’ll find this guitar solo littered with subtle, but clever ideas. The challenge with this opening lick is keeping the third fret on the second string fretted and ringing as you pull off the third fret on the first string. A subtle bend of the double stop chord in the first beat of Bar #2 gives it that bluesy twang, and then we descend the lick chromatically before resolving back to an E7 based lick.
Going into Bar #4, we rip viciously into a minor pentatonic lick, before setting up the shift to the A or 4 chord with a harmonised lick. I would use the pick on the fourth string and my second finger to pluck the second string for the final lick of Bar #4.
The crotchet triplet unison lick here is cool! Get a feel for this as it’s a great device in all styles of music. Bend hard on the fourth fret, release it and pull off to the second fret on the third string. This bar repeats exactly in Bar #6, because if it’s worth saying once, it’s worth saying twice. In Bar #7, we build on the initial power of the unison double stops with a triple stop lick using notes from the E minor pentatonic, giving it that really open bluesy flavour.
Bar #9 uses a classic blues device where we mix minor pentatonic and borrow the major third of E to resolve the idea. Setting up the turnaround going into Bar #9, Matt Murphy anticipates the B7 with a lick that essentially outlines the approaching chord. D# is the major third of B, which is an important ingredient in any chord. It pays to be aware of more than just your pentatonic scale and root key.
By Bar #9, we have well established the B7 as we step into the more complex arena of chord tones, before we slip back into what feels like more of the original E minor pentatonic to finish the bar.
Bar #10 is another aggressive E minor Blues lick over the A or 4 chord. In Bar #11, we again use the major third chord tone amidst pentatonic licks to add sweetness and resolution, before finishing with a classic style chromatic walking line under a pedalled E note on the first string. Finishing with a harmonised double stop back, step into key notes from a B7 to set up the next 12 bars.
Many players get by using the good ol’ blues scale, but if you’re serious about developing your blues playing, get a teacher and learn about chord tones. 1/1
Pentatonic scales work over an entire blues form, but arming yourself with the knowledge of chord tones will raise your level of blues playing closer to the legends like Matt Murphy. Who wouldn’t aspire to that?