Back for more of the blues,
Good deal – let’s get crackin’…
As I sit here typing this, part of me already wonders if the whole ‘class 103’ school style of title is right for articles about blues guitar playing. Are we giving this massively important subject its due respect?
Maybe we should be taking a more reverential approach – preaching the blues gospel. “Welcome to the church, sisters and brothers – please open your hymn books to page 48 – the Reverend Blues will begin the service in a few moments – can I get an AMEN!?!”
Excellent! Let’s get started then…
We’ve previously discussed the 12-bar blues in some detail, which covers the most important structure and chord pattern you’ll need for blues playing. But that’s just the harmony side of things – what about the melody? What about the tune? What about those blues solos and riffs?
Solos and Riffs? What’s the difference?
If you’re throwing out a collection of your best riffs/licks/chops (use whichever term you like) over a nice long section of music, then it’s a solo. This could last for hours.
If you’re just throwing in a couple of nice little musical tricks in here and there, perhaps just filling in those breaks in the lyrics to keep things interesting, then it’s a riff.
But first let’s find out what notes to build our solos and riffs out of. And for that we need to understand the Blues Scale…
Introducing the Blues Scale
Wikipedia tells us that “a scale is any set of musical notes ordered by fundamental frequency or pitch. A scale ordered by increasing pitch is an ascending scale, and a scale ordered by decreasing pitch is a descending scale”.
Very academic – sounds like the sort of thing my old music teacher would bore me with. But unnecessarily complicated – let’s just call the blues scale “a collection of notes that, regardless of what order you play them in, will probably sound like the blues”. We’ll be asked to edit the next edition of the Webster’s Dictionary before long, just you wait and see…
The Blues Scale is built upon (and nearly identical to) the wonderfully simple Minor Pentatonic scale, shown here in E and G;