A 12 Bar Blues Master Lesson.
I've kept this Blues Master Lesson to a very straight forward 12 bar progression. I'm not one of those players who is an expert on the different blues genres or the history behind the various flavors. I'm not a purist, in other words. I couldn't tell you if my life depended on it whether this is a Delta Blues, or Chicago Blues, or any of the others, I suspect that it falls into no particular category. It's just a blues.
The progression for this one consists solely of the I-IV-V chords, and it's in the key of A, so we're looking at A (I), D (IV) and E (V). They move in and out of various extensions, but they are all , at their core, dom7th chords. I'll get into that a bit later on.
The progression is:
| I - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - - | IV - - - | - - - - |
| I - V -| I - - - - | V - - - | IV - - - | I - - - | - - V - |
| A - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - - | D - - - | - - - - |
| A - E -| A - - - - | E - - - | D - - - | A - - - | - - E - |
So you can see that, apart from that half bar of the V chord in measure 7, it's a standard 12 bar progression.
Underlying the most of the 12 bars is steady quarter note bass line. Sometimes it's a single note, sometimes a power chord and I've mixed up the way I attack them: single thumb pluck, thumb strum, back of the fingernail strum. This sets up a nice texture and keeps it all interesting to the ear. The order is not important. Play around with different combinations. You'll see and hear in the commentary movie that I play it differently each time. It's the variety that matters and I think you'll find that it's most effective when no regular pattern is ever set up. There are a couple of places where the steady bass switches to short bass riffs, leading into the next chord, but it returns to the steady quarter notes as soon as those riffs are finished. It's important for the overall feel to keep that relentless bottom end pumping away so make sure you learn it as a separate part.
The rest of it is a series of figures that sit on top of the bass part. They're a combination of melody lines, chord stabs and double stop lines. I go into each in some detail in the commentary movie, so I won't repeat myself here. I suggest that you learn each of those 'top' parts individually and then join it to the bass part. Between the tab, the animated fretboard and the voice over you should be able to assemble it all without too much trouble, but remember that none of them are set in stone. If you feel more comfortable changing any of those parts, go for it. The blues is all about feel, not particular riffs or lines, so always make that priority number 1.
One thing to take note of: The whole thing is very staccato. Hardly any notes ring out, almost all notes are muted. I do this mostly with my picking hand. The thumb and fingertips keeps coming down on the strings to keep everything short and compact. A certain amount also comes from the fretting hand by releasing the pressure on the strings, but most comes form the right hand. Watch the videos to see how it's done.
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