The MLP Blues Guitar Course

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by sliding tom, Feb 16, 2009.

  1. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Thanks for all your enthusiastic replies. Due to the fact that there is plenty of interest, we can have an early start here.
     
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  2. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Since Blues is one important if not the most important cornerstone of modern rock and pop music, a good understanding of how to play it wouldn’t hurt anybody.
    Rock guitar is literally dripping with blues and if not in licks or choice of notes being played then definitely in playing techniques like bending, vibrato, slides and slurs etc. that have been developed in large part by (black) blues players.
    I will try to walk you through what’s involved with playing blues guitar, mostly on the technical side of things but we might even delve into some other stuff. What you will do with it is up to you - even those who might be bored with “old school blues” and rather listen to whatever they prefer can benefit from a little knowledge of this.
    We might not deal as much with playing technique in detail here as I would like to because it is hard to put across when only using words but maybe here and there we might touch upon it. Depends in part on how I will be able to handle things like a little tab or illustrations here and there. I will have to check how much of this can be handled as attachments.

    We will cover the basics, like the 12 bar progression, the changes that come with it with all kinds of variations, chords and their voicings, other blues song forms like the so-called “blues ballad” type, then we will go into single note playing, soloing and improvising and what else is involved with that, more details as we go along and depending on what might be requested by you.

    I’ll start with the very very basics because I want this course to be complete and there are players who don’t know much about these basics and need to learn them so I’m asking the more experienced players who already know this stuff to be patient.

    I will try to keep the individual posts rather short so that they are easier to read and work through. Some of the material we will go into will need a little more space so I will divide it into several posts.
    Another note: I’m not sure if all my explanations of things will be clear to everybody - even the simpler things can be hard to grasp sometimes if not explained properly - what works for one brain, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So don’t be shy to reply and ask questions.

    I’m expecting quite a few questions from you so to keep this course clear and uncluttered (especially for those who might join later) I’d like to ask you to post questions that are not directly related to the material presented here in the accompanying Q & A thread that will be set up. I will try to answer your questions there the best I can.

    I will post new parts as my time allows and as soon as I have them reread and edited and ready to go.

    So let’s get started - I hope you all will have some fun and benefit from what I have to offer.
     
  3. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    You can hear some folks whisper from a distance: “Oh, that old 12 bar blues progression -come on! It’s so easy and so boring and overdone - no challenge at all - I can do that!”
    Fact is: over the years I have sat down with quite a few guitar players who thought that way - good players who maybe could play a ring around your head with more “challenging” stuff but when asked to lay down a straight 12 bar blues, a lot of them simply fail and get lost somewhere in this deceptively “easy” progression, not to mention they can’t get a solid groove going that you can slip into like into your favourite pair of well-worn shoes.
    Being able to play 12 bar rhythm guitar comfortably in different keys, tempos, grooves with varying chord voicings, chord change variations and feel without having to think: “Where in the hell are we now?” is equally essential to playing blues guitar as is the knowledge of “scales” ( I prefer the term “note choices”) up and own the fingerboard.

    So let’s start with the basic three harmonies required to play the song form called “blues”.
    These are not blues specific but turn up in thousands and thousands of songs in all kinds of other musical genres, too. They are one of the building blocks of classic harmony. Why? -they just sound good when used together.

    These three harmonies (or chords) are:

    the tonic (also called the I chord), which also defines the key you are in.
    the subdominant (also called the IV chord) and
    the dominant (called the V chord).

    So - how do I find these chords? It’s pretty easy even if you are not able to tell your IV and V chords for a given key. Count up 5 frets from your chosen I chord and you have your IV chord, count up 7 frets from your I chord and you have your V chord. So for the key of A for example we have:
    A - tonic (T or I), D - subdominant (SD or IV) and E - dominant (Dor V).
    It will not take you long to memorize the IV and V chords for at least a couple of popular keys like E, G, A, C or D.

    If you have trouble figuring out your IV and V chords, there’s a neat little tool you can use that you may have heard of: the cycle of fifths



    [​IMG]



    Here’s how to use it to find your chords: choose any key you want to play in as your tonic (I) chord, then go back one step and you have your subdominant (IV), go forward one step from your tonic and you have your dominant (V) chord.
     
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  4. gui524

    gui524 Senior Member

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    I suck when dealing with theory ... but you're doing a nice explanation ... now i'm starting to understand what i'm playing lol
     
  5. Kapeji

    Kapeji Junior Member

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    I've been playing 12 bar for years, but I am not going to miss a word, you can always learn something new, or see thing s from a different perspective.

    ST, was, or is there meant to be a diagram in the gap under your reference to the cycle of fifths? because I am only seeing a gap. Using Opera as a browser.
     
  6. slowhand0461

    slowhand0461 Senior Member

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    This is gonna be good!!!:applause:
     
  7. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Yes, you should see a diagram of the cycle of fifths. So if it doesn't work with Opera, just google pictures for the COF- there's lots of illustrations on the web.
     
  8. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    So now that we have the three basic chords, there’s one important thing about them that we need to know: in blues all of he three basic chords are dominant 7th chords. If you play straight major chords, you won’t sound “bluesy”, but corny or “folky” instead - not a desirable sound for blues. Also: try to avoid your garden variety “campfire” open chords except for the E and A shapes, a C shape C7 will work fine most of the times, though. If you don’t know it already: extended chords like 9th and 13th are also dominant 7th chords, so these can be substituted for each other - they all have a different flavour to them, the more complex they get, the more “uptown” or “urban” your backing will sound.
    Straight 7 chords are great for more “downhome” styles, while you’ll want to voice those cool 9 chords for B.B.King or T.Bone Walker style blues for example.

    Now let’s move on to the song form itself blues uses most of the time: the 12 bar progression. As the name implies it consists of 12 bars per chorus, which are divided among the three chords. The absolute basic progression that you will find for example in downhome style blues, but also sometimes in jazz, is as follows (let’s stay in the key of A for now):

    I chord.....................IV chord...I chord....V chord....I chord........
    | A7 | A7 | A7 | A7 | D7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | E7 | E7 | A7 | A7 ||
    1......2......3....4......5......6.....7......8.....9....10....11...12......
     
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  9. brimay

    brimay Senior Member

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    May i say, anyone who can master the blues, is champion in my book.



    Also i would like to add, i've been playing all kinds of blues a year after i started playing and let me just say it is not easy, it is in my opinion the hardest form of music.




    Cheers, and thanks for making this great thread tom.
     
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  10. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    The first variation of this will occur in bar 10 where the IV will be substituted for the V:


    I.............................IV............I.............V.....IV.....I......................
    | A7 | A7 | A7 | A7 | D7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | E7 | D7 | A7 | A7 ||
    1......2.....3.....4......5......6......7.....8.....9.....10....11...12

    Next variation occurs in the last two bars - something which is called a “turnaround” which closes one chorus and leads to the next. Instead of two bars of the I chord we divide those bars into 2 beats of the I chord and two beats of the IV chord in bar 11 and two beats of I and two beats of V in bar 12. We get:


    I.............................IV............I.............V.....IV.....I..... IV . I... V
    | A7 | A7 | A7 | A7 | D7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | E7 | D7 | A7 D7| A7 E7||
    1......2.....3......4.....5......6......7.....8.....9....10....11.......12


    One more variation that is very common is the so-called „Quick Change“ where in bar 2 the IV will be substituted fort he I:


    I.......IV.....I...............IV...........I..............V.....IV....I.....IV..I.....V
    | A7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | D7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | E7 | D7 | A7 D7| A7 E7||
    1...... 2..... 3..... 4.....5.....6.....7.....8..... 9.... 10...11...... 12
    .
    Although consisting of only three different chords, this last progression is already pretty sophisticated, what do you think?

    So these are the basic 12 bar progressions. Play through them to get a feel for them until you don’t have to count bars anymore and at all times know where you are in the progression. We might deal with some more complex changes later in this thread but if you have these down you are on your way.
     
  11. Last

    Last The Cleaner Premium Member

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    I will be watching closely as well.

    Thank you sliding tom.
     
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  12. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    „Oh, rhythm again -hey Tom, I want to play some cool solo stuff!” - I hear you! (smiley)
    Still I can’t emphasize this enough: without a good sense of where the changes go, you will be just noodling around - no matter how fast your fingers can move around your fretboard and without a good sense of rhythm you won’t get good phrasing in single note playing either. Just take it from an old fart like me and trust me. The single note stuff will come much easier to you and will make much more sense in terms of melody (oh, yes, there is melody in blues solo guitar as there is life before death) and phrasing when a 12 bar blues is running like a prerecorded backing track in your nervous system.

    We now have (hopefully if you have followed me so far) got a good grasp of the 12 bar progression with its changes and I showed you a set of good sounding chord voicings.

    Now you need to get a rhythm going and a sense of rhythm for blues.
    Rhythmically, Blues and Rhythm & Blues have a decidedly different feel to them compared to, say C & W or most rock music.
    No matter how slow or fast a blues tune is, be it a slow burner or a fast shuffle- the underlying rhythm - even if it’s not accentuated that way is the triplet. Now what is a triplet? It’s three notes to a beat. We have to get into a bit of theory here but don’t let that scare you away; it’s not that difficult. I guess you know your basic quarter and eighth beats, don’t you?
    If we play straight fours and eights our rhythm will sound kinda corny. So we will put a triplet feel into the quarters. If you are not familiar with (playing) triplets (some of you already may be), start slowly and work your way up to any desired tempo. Like mentioned above, eighth note triplets are three “eights” per quarter beat, sometime written as a time signature of 12/8. Here’s how triplets work:

    triplets: -----------------1-2-3 -- 1-2-3 -- 1-2-3 -- 1-2-3
    over your basic: ----------1--------2---------3--------4----four beats/bar


    when practicing, count: 1-2-3 - 2-2-3 - 3-2-3 - 4-2-3 - and emphasize the first count.

    This type of underlying rhythm will carry over into your solo playing to your advantage as soon as you’ll get a solid feel for it.



    [​IMG]



    .
     
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  13. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Putting the triplet feel into your rhythm playing: Pretty easy - playing a slow blues for example you can just play your chords playing triplets through the progression, strumming rather lightly, preferrably only downstrokes and not hitting all five or six strings but only the three or four in the middle. Accentuate the first triplet eighth a bit and you’ve got a solid rhythm going. You can colour your comping nicely by sliding into the first beat of every other bar from one fret lower.

    The next rhythm pattern that comes out of the eighth note triplet is the “shuffle”.
    Bet you all have heard a shuffle before, even if you didn’t know that this is called a shuffle.
    I’m not sure but I think the name comes from the rhythm that is made when you shuffle a deck of cards - it's very similar.

    Here’s a master of the Chicago blues shuffle, Mr. Jimmy Reed:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry8IAL1o3R4&feature=related]YouTube - Jimmy Reed - Left Handed Woman[/ame]

    You play a shuffle by leaving out the middle eighth of every eighth note triplet:

    ---------1--x--3----1--x--3----1-x-3-----1--x--3----------
    ------------1-----------2----------3----------4--------------

    sounds like : da-----da da-----da da-----da da-----da

    Alternatively for a lazier feel you can let the first eighth of a triplet ring until you hit the third one: daaaaaa da daaaaa da daaaaaa da daaaaaa da

    And all shades and variations in betwen, off course.

    Again the master of lazy shuffles - Jimmy Reed


    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO8blq8i3L4]YouTube - Jimmy Reed - Down in Mississippi[/ame]

    I hope this make sense to you?

    (I’d like to incorporate some tab to make things clearer but haven’t found a good way to do so, yet.)
     
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  14. paulygates

    paulygates Senior Member

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    Excellent thread, Tom. I petition it to be made sticky. Sliding Tom for VIP!!
     
  15. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Thanks, paulygates - way too much honour! Appreciated, though! :)
     
  16. dennistruckdriver

    dennistruckdriver V.I.P. Member

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    I'd like someone to explain it to me. Can you post a diagram and tell us how it works? I have tried to figure it out, but I am not a true 'musician', and get confused easily.
     
  17. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    The diagram in post #3 seems to be gone for whatever reason and I don't have access to my own post to edit and replace it....:hmm:

    Reposted (hopefully this time it will show up for everybody and not fade away...):

    [​IMG]

    The COF can be useful in several ways (determining your number and sequence of #s and bs for example) but for this thread you'll need it only to find your basic I-IV and V chords for any key you choose. You want to play in G - that's your I chord. From the G go one step counterclockwise in the COF and you have your IV chord (C), go one step clockwise from G and you have your V chord (D). Works the same for any given key.
    O.K.? :)
     
  18. TrinityFive

    TrinityFive Senior Member

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    Great thread, what is particularly useful is the links to the You Tubes. Don't know about others, but I can grasp and learn much faster by listening than by looking, keep it coming!
     
  19. Phil47uk

    Phil47uk Senior Member

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    Nice thread Tom....:dude::dude:
     
  20. sliding tom

    sliding tom Senior Member

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    Thanks, Phil - very much appreciated! :)
     

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