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Learning Blues Improv


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#21 OFFLINE   deltabluesman

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 06:40 PM

You know I get just a little bit annoyed when people try to make playing the blues so technical. Tell me this, How many scales and modes do you think Robert Johnson knew? What about old Son House? Those are 2 of the greatest blues musicians you'll ever hear, as a matter of fact, Son House never even learned to read, and as important as that is, why would he ever bother learning scales or modes? He didn't. The key to playing great blues guitar is knowing where you are on the neck of your guitar, once you know where you are on the neck all sorts of things become open to you. Most of the early blues musicians never even played in "standard" tuning. The main trick is to make your guitar "talk" for you. If you want to sing the line "my baby left me down by the road" once you've sang that line use the chord you're in and pick out the notes that will make the guitar sound like it's answering you back, ie, "lawd oh lawd". My advice is to sit down and listen to a wide range of bluesmen, believe you me you'll be able to hear it in their playing.
You may bury my body down by the highway side
So my ole evil spirit,
Can get a Greyhound bus and ride.

#22 OFFLINE   solidwalnut

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 02:37 PM

chorizo said:

As a sanity check - if i wanted to change from the Em pent to the G blues scale, would i move the minor pent box shape up 3 frets and with added "blue" notes? If so, can this minor pent shape be moved elsewhere and still work? hope this make some sort of sense.

That is basically what you can do. But instead of thinking that you're moving the box, think that you're moving the chord shape and choose your tones from the chord shape. Sing while you play. Think melody. Don't get stuck on thinking 'in the box'. Make the guitar sing.
Steve Cass
Solid Walnut Music/ASCAP

Becoming a great guitarist has less to do with fancy moves than it does becoming a master of the basics and learning musicianship.
It's not what you can't do. It's how you play what you already know.


View my lessons here at GfB&B


"Rhythm guitar is a trip that alot of people miss" -- Tom Petty


#23 OFFLINE   chorizo

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 08:02 PM

Thanks Solidwalnut, when i improvise I guess i see a static key signature running the length of the fretboard behind the different boxes and can play the notes where i choose, and if i think about it, i can pick out the common chord shapes within the key's notes along the fretboard. But i don't usually think in terms playing over the chord shapes, my ears and fingers are familiar with those boxes and the sounds that can be made from them. Seeing and using the chord shapes is something i would like to do.

To help me can you describe/distinguish the difference (or benefits) of thinking of a moving chord shape as opposed to the "boxes".

Deltabluesman i enjoyed reading your comments and can understand your annoyances. My ultimate aim is to just play my guitar and make it sing, I really don't want to think about boxes, notes, scales, but i believe that all guitarists even the greats had to go through a period of finding patterns and rules that worked, for them it was done on a more personal individual basis (that plus a large dose of natural talent). For someone like me without their natural talent and soul these tools are the means to move slowly towards my aim.

#24 OFFLINE   solidwalnut

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 11:04 AM

chorizo said:

Thanks Solidwalnut, when i improvise I guess i see a static key signature running the length of the fretboard behind the different boxes and can play the notes where i choose, and if i think about it, i can pick out the common chord shapes within the key's notes along the fretboard. But i don't usually think in terms playing over the chord shapes, my ears and fingers are familiar with those boxes and the sounds that can be made from them. Seeing and using the chord shapes is something i would like to do.

To help me can you describe/distinguish the difference (or benefits) of thinking of a moving chord shape as opposed to the "boxes".
Great response. I often feel like you in regard to your comments to Deltabluesman. It's the entire 'journey' aspect, and just using the scale/box mentality sometimes as a framework in working towards playing with total feel.

For me personally, my struggles have always come in playing lead. It's all relative. I've been playing for so long that my lead playing is, really, pretty good. But it's most definitely my weak point as I see it.

I say it's my weak point because I grew up in the guitar world believing, and I still do, that becoming the best rhythm guitarist you can be will lead you to becoming a strong lead player. As a result, I am a strong lead player. Not fast, but solid. I've developed musicianship and understand it's not what you play but how you play it; knowing when not to play.

So, the direct answer to your question is something that you may have heard plenty of times here at GfB. The benefits/difference between thinking about moving boxes and moving chords forms is that moving chord forms contain the basic tones (1, 3 or 3b, 5, 7, etc.) while boxes contain all the tones that may or may not work with they melody. I remember reading this somewhere from a post Kirk did a while back, so don't think this is something I made up!! Blame him ;) This also leads you to begin to think about common tones between the chords used in the song.

My problem is that I began my lead playing with the box mentality. I switched my thinking on this probably only 12-15 years ago (which is really only a third of my playing days) and it has been difficult at times for me to translate that into chord form mentality.

There's nothing wrong with the box mentality except for how that might keep you from thinking chord tones.
Steve Cass
Solid Walnut Music/ASCAP

Becoming a great guitarist has less to do with fancy moves than it does becoming a master of the basics and learning musicianship.
It's not what you can't do. It's how you play what you already know.


View my lessons here at GfB&B


"Rhythm guitar is a trip that alot of people miss" -- Tom Petty


#25 OFFLINE   Kirk Lorange

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 06:49 PM

chorizo said:

To help me can you describe/distinguish the difference (or benefits) of thinking of a moving chord shape as opposed to the "boxes".
The simple answer to that, chorizo, is the fact that chords and melody are really the same thing, they're not separate. If you're following the chord shapes of the tune, you're always seeing the essence of the moment. If you know what the boxes consist of note-wise, great, but if you're simply following fretboard patterns without knowing their content, not so great.

Once you start breaking things down into numbers, you'll find that you begin to literally hear the numbers. That's when you can start to play exactly what you want to hear, not what some box forces you to hear. You should be steering the melody lines, the phrases ... not the pattern.

Melody loves chord tones ... so if you can see the fretboard as the chord, you're also seeing the endless melodic possibilities. You just need to see the notes not as clusters to play together as chords, but as single melody notes waiting to be joined together as melody. Other notes (ALL other notes, not just other scale/mode notes) can and do come into play, but underpinning it all are the chord tones ... they glue the lines to the chords, to the piece of music.

Does that help?

#26 OFFLINE   chorizo

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 06:05 PM

Thanks Kirk, I think it's beginning to sink in and fit together.

I've got to know the boxes quite well enough that i can grab many sounds that i choose out of them add other scale notes at will. I also see how they relate to chord shapes and the scale.

I don't always think about the chord shapes when i play. I do see how this would be a very flexible and solid way to view all types of music on the guitar so i am really interested in improving this skill.

I'll try to explain where i am at the moment. I think one reason for me not seeing the chords immediately is due to the way i play/approach guitar. I find it fun to just "join" a song i'm hearing (on the radio, a CD or with a fellow guitarist) without knowing the key or chords in advance. My musical ear is far from perfect (e.g. I can't reliably tell a major from a minor chord and i definitely can't hear a chord and think oh that's a G). So this is the order i go in.

1. Start from the notes to get the key signature
2. Find the "strongest" note (i think this usually turns out to be the root note of the song)
3. Once i have that i know where i am in terms of possible notes (i know they're all possible but u know what i mean).

OK! this is where the old box shapes would come into play, now i can play with some feel. yeh! now i'm starting to have fun woohoo! :D

At this point i generally know the key of the song and have a good idea for the feel of the song, my notes seem to fit with the chord progression even though i don't necessarily know it.

4. Now I can start to think about chords.

**btw The above 4 steps usually takes me 10-15 seconds**.

I guess thats why chords hasn't been 1st and foremost in my mind, this is the order of things i have got used to. Now i think i need to start doing things the other way round i.e doing its "properly" and knowing chords first and keeping them at the front of my mind and working with them, they contain the information (Especially when the off key chords pop up of the song changes into another key altogether). I think i need to spend time with some simple songs and just see the chords changing.

Regarding my approach to guitar above. Some people may consider this approach lazy or whatever but it works fine for simple progressions and i enjoy the little 4 step process above and still get a mini hit of joy every time i do it even after all these years.

btw I just bought tickets to see Peter Green (and friends) The Pigalle Club, London Dec 8th :)

#27 OFFLINE   chorizo

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 09:58 AM

...I have been practicing for a couple of days with the following progression:

Am,D,F7,G

To me it seems D is an odd chord but concentrating on seeing each of the chords as they appear and fitting it in with the notes and so far so good. Still slow in seeing shapes at first but feels like i've added another string to my bow (or guitar :laughingg: )

#28 OFFLINE   chorizo

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 07:22 AM

So to improvise using the chord tones of the chord of the moment is fine, it will be safe. But if i want to vary the sound more by adding additional notes and extend those chords i think you need a very good understanding of where the COTM fits in with the notes of the key (for example you need to track whether you are playing and A G-shape as a I,IV or V chord or whether it is an "odd" chord for the key) because the addional notes will depend very much on that. Does that make sense?

#29 OFFLINE   solidwalnut

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 02:49 PM

chorizo said:

So to improvise using the chord tones of the chord of the moment is fine, it will be safe. But if i want to vary the sound more by adding additional notes and extend those chords i think you need a very good understanding of where the COTM fits in with the notes of the key (for example you need to track whether you are playing and A G-shape as a I,IV or V chord or whether it is an "odd" chord for the key) because the addional notes will depend very much on that. Does that make sense?

I think I understand what you mean. But I think you may be limiting yourself in thinking that only the fingerings available within the chord. Yes, this is a great start. But, the idea isn't about finding a static physical chord 'safe zone' necessarily but rather beginning to hear the musical chord structure of the tune. The melody of the tune is within the musical chord structure. All 'possible' harmonies to the melody exist within the musical chord structure. Therefore all the melodic and harmonic possibilities on the fretboard (where the physical chord form is) exist within the musical chord structure of the song.

CAGED and other physical structures on the fretboard exist to provide us a map for the possibilities, not to dictate how and what we play. For example, when following the COTM of the progression and thinking about each chord, frozen in time, we look at the roadmap to see the possibilities. Not just from the fingerings of the COTM and how each shape is connected with one another, but also the available notes provided by the chord form. This is why it's important to have a good understanding of the major scale and it's intervals.

From the major scale comes the available pool of tones where we find the melody. From the major scale we find the available pool of tones where we find the harmony notes. When you put the melody together with the harmony notes, we make musical chords. These are the same musical structures we play, only we also call them physical chords because they have a structure to them which is represented on the neck.

So, we think of all the possibilities that the structures of the musical chord presents itself on the fretboard with the COTM. We see the possible melodies, the possible harmonies presented by the connected physical chord shapes. This becomes our canvas. And this becomes the pool of tones from which we can draw.

All of the above is only set-up work. All of the above is learning the craft so the craft can serve the inspiration. It's like describing a box with tools but the artistry is left up to us. It's also second fiddle to just hearing the melody and playing with the that. The melody of the song is the true driver, whether sung or played or both. It's true that the melodies will fit within the chord structures of the song, but it's how we play with the melodies that count, not how technically correct we are. It's about keeping it simple and complementing the melodies. It's about learning to hear the numbers of the intervals of the components of the chords (the notes) and how they fit together and complement the melody.

So a guitarist would need to keep less track of the shape they're playing from and pay more attention to the melody and the intervals of the major scale. The music portion only exists in our mind but we somehow have to translate that to the neck!

I know, you say, 'but the chord is minor'. You can play a major scale interval melody over that. It really depends on the melody.

Is that getting closer?

Steve
Steve Cass
Solid Walnut Music/ASCAP

Becoming a great guitarist has less to do with fancy moves than it does becoming a master of the basics and learning musicianship.
It's not what you can't do. It's how you play what you already know.


View my lessons here at GfB&B


"Rhythm guitar is a trip that alot of people miss" -- Tom Petty


#30 OFFLINE   chorizo

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 09:25 AM

thanks solidwalnut, i see you have put a lot of thought in. I will need a bit of time to mull it over.

Because the way we all learn/approach guitar varies so much it's hard to describe.

Generally i am fairly happy with my improv. esp over Blues based songs and i think i can express a lot of the "feel" i want. If i compare my style of playing to others i jam with it would be - how can i put it - less of strictly following the melody and more creating tension against the backing chords/melody using bends/holding notes and repeating notes and pairs of notes - you could say i like my sounds to be more "Dirty" and you could definitely say i'm at the opposite end of the scale from "shredders" i think this works well with blues.
So generally when playing blues i don't stay on the chord tones for long as they are more neutral - If i think chord tones i end up searching around them but not on them.

When i play more cleanly over different styles where my "dirty boy" playing doesn't work, i.e songs involving odd chords, i am aware that i am missing some possible notes which i would be using if i played using COTM but have trouble seeing them in time.

#31 OFFLINE   amicof

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 04:13 PM

Hi,

Blues is a language. If you have a favorite player great!
Spend some time transcribing a few short licks and understand their relationship with the chords they were played over.

If you are looking for an amazing course on blues I have just come across a course called "Playing Through the Blues" that I will teach you to play blues in tons of styles. It's incredibly practical and you don't need to be able to read music to study it.

You'll find a quick review clicking on the site that appears in my signature.

Good luck man!

Francesco

#32 OFFLINE   beanking

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Posted 06 June 2010 - 04:48 AM

Think melody!

#33 ONLINE   micky mac

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 03:24 PM

View Postkrissovo, on 03 December 2007 - 01:55 PM, said:

Cannot help you too much but try this site for inspiration and ideas:
Slowhand Blues Guitar - Clapton Style Blues Guitar Tutorial And Forum

Apart from that treat your self to looper, learn the blues scale and prepare for lots of blisters from practicing morning, noon and night
I just had a quick look through that site looks cool has lots of good ideas for lics thanks for sharing
The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

#34 OFFLINE   martyj

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 10:19 PM

have a listen to this guy- great blues in my opinion



#35 OFFLINE   jeremyjuicewah

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 04:00 AM

With scales use the minor pent and shove in the blue notes or not. Use the relative majors (three up and two down). Use roots on the sixth, fifth and fourth strings. Watch what you are doing and see where the common notes are. Learn where all the duplicate notes and octaves are. Remember the sevenths and minors. (flat 8 and flat flat 8 and flat third.)Put on Clapton Unplugged or whatever does it for you and use all those notes, and LISTEN to them. Guarantee youŽll find out in a couple of goes what works and what dont. Its not that hard to make progress, set aside about three years and youŽll be pretty pleased with yourself. There are other ways of going at it too, but its just different directions to get you to the same place and none of it is magic.
Whelks are like guitars. They are safest in hard cases. Guitars are not really very much like whelks though.

#36 OFFLINE   carol m

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 08:04 AM

Whelkom to the site Jeremy.
One good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain - Bob Marley

#37 OFFLINE   jeremyjuicewah

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 02:29 AM

View Postcarol m, on 09 August 2010 - 08:04 AM, said:

Whelkom to the site Jeremy.
Heh heh I nearly missed that one Carol. Hi.
Hey Deltabluesman no offence but that there Robert Johnson, if he could play blues and I believe you that he could,
knew most of that stuff, though he may not have known that he did. If you learn scales, you are picking up all the building blocks without having to work them out for yourself. As a starter you only need a couple and you can chuck your own stuff in on top and they are very very easy to learn. I have seen a Planetalk book, that works too, but if you know your Planetalk stuff then you know your scales, though you may not realise it at first.
Whelks are like guitars. They are safest in hard cases. Guitars are not really very much like whelks though.





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