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04.05.17: New video lesson uploaded: MiniGrips. Check it out here!!

05.01.16: REFERENTIAL PLAYING EBOOK NOW AVAILABLE!!

02.10.16: Started recording audio examples for my ebook... the end is in sight!!

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02.25.14: Hey guys!! Been a while. I've been enjoying playing, teaching guitar, and teaching music theory and ear training at Vanier College (Mtl, Qc). Back to work on my Referential Playing Ebook shortly.

05.18.13: Here's a discussion on using guide tones while improvising!!

05.12.13: Part 2 of "Some Blues Basics" is now up - check it out here!!

05.03.13: I've uploaded the first of a two-part lesson on basic blues soloing - check it out here!!

03.04.13: A new article discussing pentatonic uses in the blues, featured on Jazzguitar.be - check it out here!!

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SOME BLUES BASICS (Part 2)

Let's begin by recapping what we discussed in the previous lesson, which introduced the concept of using specifically-timed "target notes" while improvising on a basic 12-bar blues chord progression. The basic idea was that target notes could help to provide coherence in our improvisations by specifically outlining the underlying chord changes. [*Remember, a convincing solo is one in which you can hear the underlying changes even if you're playing without accompaniment.]  In "Some Blues Basics (Part 1)," our target notes were the roots of the chords used in the progression (F, Bb, and C). Since these are all included in the F Blues Scale, we realized that we could generate a convincing solo over a basic 12-bar blues progression using only this scale. Playing the target notes at the moment when each of the respective chords begins should help you to "hear" the progression in your head while you're improvising.

Following this, we discussed embellishing our solo by using notes other than the targets. Specifically, we described using simple passing and neighboring notes (described in "Some Blues Basics (Part 1)"). Example 1, below, revisits this idea, and includes target notes (TN) combined with a variety of passing (P) and neighboring (N) notes. This example is very similar to Example 5 from the previous lesson, except it's been slightly spiced up by adding a couple of leaps (L) within the scale, and by varying some of the rhythms used.

Example 1: Using target notes, embellishments, and rhythmic variation

One technique that is used consistently throughout the example, you'll notice, is playing the target notes slightly early—that is, playing them just before the corresponding chord begins. Anticipating notes in this way helps to propel your lines forward and, as a result, creates an element of "swing".

In this lesson, let's now explore the idea of bringing in notes other than those included in the Blues Scale. For instance, in Example 1, the very last passing note (identified as "P!!" in measure 11), which is the note E-natural, is not a part of the F Blues Scale that is being used throughout the rest of the solo. It could be possible to analyze this note as a chromatically-altered scale note that is filling in the whole step between Eb and F in the scale. This interpretation supports the linear, or melodic direction of the line, since we likely hear the melody Eb—E—F occurring at this moment (despite the intervening leap back to C). What is significant here, though, is that the note E-natural is a note that is part of the underlying chord, C7. In other words, E-natural is a chord tone. So, despite the fact that it's not included in the F Blues Scale, it is a valid note choice because it is consistent with the chord that's being played over.

Chords, generally speaking, are constructed in thirds beginning with the root (a third being the interval that separates one chord tone from the next, immediately adjacent chord tone). Therefore, in "Some Blues Basics (Part 1)," our target notes, which were the roots of the underlying chords, are also understood to be chord tones. In this lesson, we will extend this concept by incorporating the remaining chord tones, from root to seventh, as shown in Example 2.

Example 2: F7, C7, and Bb7 played as arpeggios (2 octaves each)

Example 2 shows the three chords from the 12-Bar Blues in F, played as "broken chords," or arpeggios. In each case, the respective arpeggio includes a root, a third, a fifth, and a seventh. The chosen fretboard position is only one way to play each of these arpeggios, but is located around the F Blues Scale that we've been using up until now (see Example 2 in "Some Blues Basics (Part 1)").

The idea here is that, once you get these arpeggios under your fingers, you can begin to combine them with the F Blues Scale in order to achieve more diverse lines when improvising. Example 3 does this, and uses the F Blues Scale, passing and neighboring notes, and a variety of chord tones (plus a few extra chromatic notes). Note how, in the example, the original target-note approach is maintained, since the root of each chord is played as the respective chords begin. Eventually, though, any chord tone can start to be heard and used as a target note.

Example 3: Improvisation over a Blues in F, using F Blues Scale + chord tones

Hopefully the material included in "Some Blues Basics," parts 1 and 2 can help you to start building the kinds of solos you're after. Many of the concepts discussed here carry over into other musical styles, including jazz and rock. Also, remember that many of these examples can be practiced along with the backing track provided in Example 1 of "Some Blues Basics (Part 1)."

Thanks, and enjoy!!

Scott

PS. To download a pdf of this lesson, click here.