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Swing the Blues - (Pennsylvania 6-5000).

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Here's an interesting little piece, a 12 bar jazzy-blues 'study' I've been playing around for the last few days. The melody is very reminiscent of an old big band tune my dad used to listen to (Pennsylvania 6-5000). I don't think it was a 12 bar however.

I say 'study' because it's more of an exercise that anything else, good to free up those fingers and get them moving around the finger board. It's also a good one to listen to and make some mental notes about the blues/jazz genre. I'll get into that aspect down the page a bit.

First of all, it is indeed a 12 bar with a very standard progression:

| I - - - | I - - - | I - - - | I - - - | IV - - - | IV - - - | I - - - | I - - - | V - - - | V - - - | I - - - | I - - - |

We're in G, so the chords are:

| G - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - - | C - - - | - - - - | G - - - | - - - - | D - - - | - - - - | G - - - | - - - - |

You can make that C a C9 and the D a D7.

I run through the 12 bars 3 times. The first time through I just play the melody. You'll quickly hear that it's basically the same melody line repeated over and over with just one note difference over the three (non-existent) chords. It's that little detail that actually lets you hear the 12 bar chord structure, even though no chords are being played. That one little note difference lets you hear the I - IV - Vs.

Over the G, the highest note is B, the 3 of a G chord.
Over the C, the highest note is Bb, the b7 of C9.
Over the D, the highest note is C, the b7 of D7.

The rest of the notes in the melody line, which stay the same for all the chords, are from the G7 scale (the Mixolydian mode to use the Greek name). They're also predominantly chord tones of those three chords. Over the D, the G note in the melody turns the D7 into a momentary D7sus4.

The second time through, I add a little double stop played on the first notes of each melody line. By simply adding that one note to the existing melody note, you can now really hear the 'chords', which are still not really being played. A double stop is not yet a true chord.

Over the G, the double stop is the 5 and 3 of G.
Over the C, the double stop is the 9 and b7 of C9.
Over the D, the double stop is the 7b and 1 of D ... a discordant sound, but it works perfectly in this context. Note that these double stops are all fragments of 'bigger' chord shapes.

The third time through, I add a bass notes -- roots -- to those double stops and we finally hear exactly what's going on, confirming what we knew all along ... that there is a standard 12 bar progression going on. I use my thumb for the G bass note. If you find that too difficult, you can simply barre across the fingerboard, which is what I do over the C9. The D bass note is the open D string.

If you look into this a little more closely, you'll see that the notes we added to make those double stops are the exact same notes that differ in the top of the melody line: B, Bb and C, but in the octave below. Notice how those three notes are separated by just one little semitone.

So that's the main melody line. At the end of each pass, over bars 10 and 11 of each 12 bar block, I play the same little lick over the G7s. It's a familiar sounding bluesy/jazz turnaround line. This is a fun little snippet to play and a good one to get the fingers around.

I end the whole thing on a nice, jazzy G7add13, which is just a G7 with an a 6 added (the 'little finger note' in the video).

So, there you go, simple on the surface, but loaded with good detail. That melody line could be played in a more compact way, up the neck, with less travelling distance, but it doesn't feel quite as 'right' playing it that way. Let your fingers/hand/wrist/arm get the feel for those moves up and down the neck ... try not looking after a while, just 'feel' those distances.

I'll show you some more examples of using these three notes against a 12 bar backdrop in future lessons. It's a little trick that comes up time and time again in 12 bar jazz/blues tunes, definitely a good trick to know.


Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.