Introduction to Blues Part II

MAIN TUTORIAL

INFO & EXPLANATION

CORRECTION!The HANDS video mentions that you can get the notes of the blues scale all over the neck by going to the Arpeggiator and selecting the A13b9 chord. This is not correct. We have now added the "Blues Scale" to the Arpeggiator list. Just open the Arpeggiator and select the A note from the "root note" list and the blues scale from the "chord type" list. You can link directly to the Arpeggiator by clicking here.IT'S A FEEL THING
Being a good blues player is as much about how you play the notes as it is about which notes you choose to play. Some blues guitarists can get more blues "feel" out of 2 or 3 notes than many can get out of 20 or 30. So, if you are a "mechanics only" type of player, you'll never really grasp the essence of the blues style.

So, how do you grasp the essence of the blues style? Listening, listening and more listening to the blues players you like the most is the best way to do that. There are very subtle things that good blues players do that are very difficult to explain in words.

LEARN THE BLUES SCALE
I know what you're thinking, "First you tell me that blues is all about 'feel' and now you're talking about scales and stuff!" Alright, I admit, on the surface it does seem a little contradictory to talk about feel and then introduce a scale to memorize. But, hang in there, because you'll understand how the 2 work together after going through this lesson.

Advanced and Intermediate players alike should understand what they are playing and why it works if they want to improve their ability to make music. Even if you aren't a proficient player, you can still think. Thinking players generally learn faster and more than those who sort of let things wash over them as if they're going to learn everything by osmosis. That raw talent thing will only take you so for and then you've got to kick in with a little brain-power. that means organizing your practice as well as memorizing a few things. The better your foundation in understanding music, the better your ability to execute new playing ideas.

So, if you haven't already, you should dig into the Members Guitar Theory Lessons and quickly get caught up on a few things right now. This will still be here when you get through the theory stuff. Or, you could do that in conjunction with this lesson. At any rate, I'm going to assume that you've studied those lessons from this point on.

BLUE NOTES

What in the world is a Blue Note? Well I'll tell you, it's pretty simple. First we'll start with the A major scale, since the main tutorial uses the "A" blues progression.

A B C# D E F# G# A
Root 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

In order to get the blues scale in "A" you have to alter the major scale in 3 areas:

  1. Add the note that falls between (in the fret between) the 2nd and 3rd notes of the major scale, called the "flat three" (b3) note. In this case you would add the "C" note.
  2. Add the note that falls between (in the fret between) the 4th and 5th notes of the major scale, called the "flat five" (b5) note. In this case you would add the "Eb" note.
  3. Replace the 7th note with the note that falls one half step (one fret) below it, called the "flat seven" (b7) note. In this case, the "G" note would replace the "G#" note.

The results of the above are shown in the table below. The "Blue Note" are C, Eb and G:

A B C C# D Eb E F# G A
Root 2 b3 3 4 b5 5 6 b7 8


Most blues players will gravitate to these notes when playing blues lead. Most often, the b5 note is used as a "passing tone." In other words, you won't necessarily find someone playing that note for very long. They'll hit it and quickly move on to another note of the blues scale. Refer to the use of this note in the main tutorial. The other 2 "Blue Notes" are often used as focal point notes (not a musical term, just plain english). What I mean by that is blues players will often play them as notes of emphasis. See the HANDS video for more ideas on use of blue notes.

Below you see the notes of the blues scale in "A" charted mainly in the 5th fret position.

AUDIO FILES

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PRACTICE AUDIO

NOTATION