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Thread: bluesy... for me, not easy!

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  1. #1
    Weaker Left-Hand
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    bluesy... for me, not easy!

    hi! this is my first post and i have a question that i know you guys can help me out. how do i play blues? i mean, i know my blues scales (pentatonic with added #4 and b7) but it doeson't sound like blues when i use it for improvisation. i hit the right notes of the scale, but then again, it's not that bluesy. whenever i see/hear someone that plays blues and check out what notes their hitting, i know the notes being hit are in the blues scale. how do i do it? what's the secret? any suggestion is welcome. thanx!

  2. #2
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cybermessiah
    hi! this is my first post and i have a question that i know you guys can help me out. how do i play blues? i mean, i know my blues scales (pentatonic with added #4 and b7) but it doeson't sound like blues when i use it for improvisation. i hit the right notes of the scale, but then again, it's not that bluesy. whenever i see/hear someone that plays blues and check out what notes their hitting, i know the notes being hit are in the blues scale. how do i do it? what's the secret? any suggestion is welcome. thanx!
    First of all, there are different variations of the blues. I think the most classic and most widely used Blues proggression is the one where the I,IV and V are all seventh chords. Let's take Blues in the key of A with all seventh chords. If you want to use pentatonic box scales, over the A7, play a box position on the second fret. On the D7 and E7, play the box position on the fifth fret.

    Note, if you want to play the fifth fret over the A7, then you have to modify the box fingering into a mixolidian pattern. Do a hammer-on on the C# note and don't let the C note really ring during A7.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Blues --- Call and response ----- perhaps the best at this is B.B.King. B.B. will sing a phrase (the call) and then answer it (the response) on his guitar.

    Click here for a video of B.B.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    First of all, there are different variations of the blues. I think the most classic and most widely used Blues proggression is the one where the I,IV and V are all seventh chords. Let's take Blues in the key of A with all seventh chords. If you want to use pentatonic box scales, over the A7, play a box position on the second fret. On the D7 and E7, play the box position on the fifth fret.

    Note, if you want to play the fifth fret over the A7, then you have to modify the box fingering into a mixolidian pattern. Do a hammer-on on the C# note and don't let the C note really ring during A7.
    Los Boleros, I'm probably a little confused here on the box patterns. Are you saying play F#m pentatonic scale over the A7 and the Am Pentatonic over the D7 and E7?

  5. #5
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotBacon
    Los Boleros, I'm probably a little confused here on the box patterns. Are you saying play F#m pentatonic scale over the A7 and the Am Pentatonic over the D7 and E7?
    Yes, however it is not really F# minor scale, it's A major pentatonic. Put your emphasis on the A note, the C# note and the E note. You'll have to map it out to see where those notes are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    Yes, however it is not really F# minor scale, it's A major pentatonic. Put your emphasis on the A note, the C# note and the E note. You'll have to map it out to see where those notes are.
    Doh! Didn't think about it long enough. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cybermessiah
    hi! this is my first post and i have a question that i know you guys can help me out. how do i play blues? i mean, i know my blues scales (pentatonic with added #4 and b7) but it doeson't sound like blues when i use it for improvisation. i hit the right notes of the scale, but then again, it's not that bluesy. whenever i see/hear someone that plays blues and check out what notes their hitting, i know the notes being hit are in the blues scale. how do i do it? what's the secret? any suggestion is welcome. thanx!
    How do you do it?

    What's the secret?

    Here's my suggestions, hope they help....

    Use the blues pentatonic scale. You probably already know the fingering pattern for the blues pentatonic scale because it is the same fingering pattern as the minor pentatonic scale. The difference is that the b3 is slightly bent and the b7 is also slightly bent. What you don't play is just as important, if not more important as what you do play.

    Example in E. If you are playing over a traditional I, IV, V progression...

    DO NOT use this scale.

    E minor pentatonic = E, G, A, B, D.

    or this scale

    E Jazz/blues scale = E, G, A, Bb, B, D.

    Those are not the scales that the great blues and blues/rock players use.

    DO Use this scale, practice it. Learn all 5 "box patterns" derived from this scale up and down the neck, paying special attention to making sure you bend the G note every time, and also the D note.

    E blues pentatonic = E, G (bent up a microtone), A, B, D (bent up a microtone).

    Note that the blues pentatonic scale neither a major scale, nor a minor scale because it does not have a major or minor 3rd. Instead, it has a note that is "in between".

    This is important to understand if you want to learn to play blues leads. Blues is not based of western harmony. It is pointless, inaccurate, and misleading to assume that the blues pentatonic scale is derived from any of the western diatonic modes like aeolian or mixolydian. People who are not blues players will often confuse students by mentioning these modes. Forget about them, they do not apply to playing straight blues.

    When playing blues in E, the slightly bent G note is between a minor 3rd and a major 3rd. It's between G and G#. This is known as the blue note. It keeps the melody from resolving into a major or minor sound. The use of this note is a defining quality of the blues genre of music, so it is imperitive that you master it's use if you want your improvised leads to sound "bluesy". Bassically, that's what makes it blues.

    The function of the blue note is to create tension by pulling the tonal center of the music away. It does this by stopping the melody from resolving into a major or minor sound.

    You still finger ther G note, but you cannot let it sustain. You can bend it slightly, you can also apply vibrato to make it go sharp or even do a trill on the G and G#. Playing a minor 3rd over a major chord genereally sounds like crap and certainly does not sound bluesy. It will make your lead fizzle out and lose all momentum because the melody can't pull the tonal center away. In other words, it WILL NOT ROCK!

    I know some of this may be confusing because you have probably heard that the E "blues scale" is the same as an E minor pentatonic scale with the addition of the #4 or b5, blue note. That is what jazz guys call the blues scale. That is used in a jazz context and goes back to the days of bebop jazz. They used the b5 as a blue note, however when playing blues the b5 is not used as a blue note. But it is often employed as a passing tone when switching between the IV and V chords.

    So you see, those blues guys bend some notes because it is required to play blues, it's not just a performance liberty, but is a defining characteristic of the genre. The bent G is a slightly FLATTENED 3rd, not a FLATTED 3rd. And the D is bent slightly to make up for the inaccuracy of equal tempered instruments.

    But anyways, I know it is a bit of a challange to bend certain notes when practicing your scales, especially if all you know is the patterns and don't really think of which note is which when you do it, but I've found that practicing this scale has an added bonus of making students more aware of the intervals they are playing when going through all of their scale patterns, not just the blues scale. Being aware of the intervals you are playing helps improvisation skills tremendously no matter what style you are playing.

    I hope that answers your questions of "How do you do it? What's the secret?". Obviously there is alot more to playing blues leads, but that should help you alot, get you started playing blues, then you can learn more about the push/pull tension/release that makes for barrellhouse burning leads. When I used to give lessons I had alot of students come to me with the same problem you describe, even guys who had been playing for years, and everytime it was because they didn't know the difference between the pentatonic minor scale and the pentatonic blues scale.

    The minor pentatonic scale should generally only be played over minor chords, like when playing what is known as minor blues, don't use it when playing straight blues.

    If you have questions about any of this, feel free to ask.
    Last edited by hairballxavier; 09-28-2005 at 08:41 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered Geek Stratosaurus's Avatar
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    With all that has been said I would like to add that blues is all about the feel and emotion. It isn't so much about theory and getting down to the technical side of playing. Once you got the scale(s) down, and a few turnarounds... you close your eyes, listen to what everyone else is doing, and let your heart pour out over it. I mean, I'll occasionally play the straight minor pentatonic scale... sans blue notes... and it sounds right to me.

    Any famous blues or jazz musician who has ever been interviewed for a magazine or website or whatever have all said pretty much what I've said above.

    Also, blues is meant to be played live. You can sit on your couch and play along with a back track and it'll sound all right. But when you jam or gig blues it comes alive. This is one reason why there are so many open mic blues jams everywhere... it's like practice.

    Basically: Stop worrying about if you are doing it right and just do it. And remember it'll sound better with a live band to play with.
    Last edited by Stratosaurus; 09-28-2005 at 08:40 PM.
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  9. #9
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairballxavier
    This is important to understand if you want to learn to play blues leads. Blues is not based of western harmony. It is pointless, inaccurate, and misleading to assume that the blues pentatonic scale is derived from any of the western diatonic modes like aeolian or mixolydian. People who are not blues players will often confuse students by mentioning these modes. Forget about them, they do not apply to playing straight blues.
    .
    This is hilarious.
    Most blues is derived from Mixolidian and Dorian modes. However it is most commonly played as a five note (pentatonic scale). That does not, however mean that you cannot use the full modes. I most certainly do. The bent note on the flatted third is a fact of life however it only applies during the I chord if a I7-IV7-V7. And it brings out the flavor of the mixolidian scale as I prescribed earlier. (The hammer-on note). Bending this note during the IV or V would bring unpleasing results. During the IV and V, the regular flat third is better.

  10. #10
    Registered User SeattleRuss's Avatar
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    hairballxavier wrote:

    The minor pentatonic scale should generally only be played over minor chords, like when playing what is known as minor blues, don't use it when playing straight blues.
    I'm sorry but I can't agree with this. This is patently wrong information.

  11. #11
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeattleRuss
    hairballxavier wrote:



    I'm sorry but I can't agree with this. This is patently wrong information.
    I agree. In a I7-IV7-V7 Situation, the minor pentatonic works great over the IV7 and the V7. (So does Dorian)

  12. #12
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    Starting out by playing a blues scale over the blues chord progression is a good way to start but you will never sound like a true blues player. The blues scale will not outline any of the chords in the progression and therefore will become boring to listen to after a chorus or two. You will need to move on. The next step is to:

    1) listen to the blues all the time. There are plenty of great players to listen to. Albert King, Albert Collins, SRV, Muddy, Johnny Winter and Robben Ford to name a few.

    2) Copy what they play. Learn how they deal with the three different chords. For the most part they are not playing pentatonic scales as much as outlining the chord changes.

    3) Learn how to play the turnarounds. It is best to steal these at first then come up with your own.

    3) pay attention to timing and phrasing (Ex: When playing to a shuffle, are you paying close attention to the triplet?).

    People tend to think the blues is a simple kind of music but very few musicians can play them convincingly.

    -CJ

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hairball
    This is important to understand if you want to learn to play blues leads. Blues is not based of western harmony. It is pointless, inaccurate, and misleading to assume that the blues pentatonic scale is derived from any of the western diatonic modes like aeolian or mixolydian. People who are not blues players will often confuse students by mentioning these modes. Forget about them, they do not apply to playing straight blues.
    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    This is hilarious.
    Most blues is derived from Mixolidian and Dorian modes.
    What is hilarious is that you've just proved my point. Albert Collins is the man who gave me that bit of advice about 15 years ago, he also showed me how to make a guitar talk without using FX by sliding with my fret hand while simultaneously scratching the strings with my right thumbnail. I guess I respect his opinion more than yours.

    Fact is that blues is not based on or derived from these modes. Fact is that the blues "scale" is derived from traditional African music and is older than the Gregorian modes and the equal tempered scale.

    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros
    The bent note on the flatted third is a fact of life
    Note, neither of the scales you mentioned includes the blue note. That's because the blue note is not in the chromatic scale and therefore is not included in any of the classical diatonic modes. Why anyone would say blues is derived from these modes when they do not even contain the blue note, the very note that defines the genre, the note that gives the blues it's name is beyond me.

    Really, I think what you call blues and what I call blues are not the same thing. Maybe instead of putting down other people's ideas and opinions you should you just tab out your lead in "LosBolerosBlues" from the strictly penttonic thread for the for the guy. Gotta admit, that totally rocks all the way through and dosen't lose momentum after EVERY SINGLE PHRASE. And that has nothing to do with the fact that it never creates any tension or momentum in the first place. It just screams blues from beginning to end. It really shows a mastery of the pentatonic blues scale and how to use it over a blues progression.

    I think to learn to play the blues leads you should first learn the blues pentatonic scale and apply it over a simple root note bass line. You should learn to do that before you play over chords. Start with the basic form. You don't even need chords to play blues. You should be able to pull that off before you move on to other things. Nothing sounds weaker than someone who can't play a simple pentatonic blues scale trying to play blues.

    You need to learn the blues basics before you try JAZZing things up.
    Last edited by hairballxavier; 09-29-2005 at 06:34 AM.

  14. #14
    Registered Abuser widdly widdly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairballxavier
    Note, neither of the scales you mentioned includes the blue note. That's because the blue note is not in the chromatic scale and therefore is not included in any of the classical diatonic modes. Why anyone would say blues is derived from these modes when they do not even contain the blue note, the very note that defines the genre, the note that gives the blues it's name is beyond me.
    The b5 is in the chromatic scale along with most other notes. It's not in the diatonic scales. Also I think the minor 3rd major 3rd play off is more important than the b5th to the blues sound.

    I think the minor pentatonic is a great place to start for blues. Once you have that under your fingers, adding maj3rds, b5 and maj6th's is easy. If you learn stuff a step at a time you will absorb it better and be more aware of the harmonic effec the different notes have.

    I believe developing a real sense of the underlying chord progression is fundamental to good sounding blues solos. I would rather jam with some one who was playing the changes using only a minor pentatonic than someone who was playing blues scale but wasn't following the chords.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by widdly widdly
    The b5 is in the chromatic scale along with most other notes. It's not in the diatonic scales. Also I think the minor 3rd major 3rd play off is more important than the b5th to the blues sound.

    I think the minor pentatonic is a great place to start for blues. Once you have that under your fingers, adding maj3rds, b5 and maj6th's is easy. If you learn stuff a step at a time you will absorb it better and be more aware of the harmonic effec the different notes have.

    I believe developing a real sense of the underlying chord progression is fundamental to good sounding blues solos. I would rather jam with some one who was playing the changes using only a minor pentatonic than someone who was playing blues scale but wasn't following the chords.
    I think you missed a major point in my first post. The blue note is between the 3rd and the b3rd. It is not in the chromatic scale. The b5 you speak of is the blue note in bebop style jazz, not blues. This thread is about blues, not jazz. The b5 is generally only used as a passing note by blues players.

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