Learning Blues Guitar
With this book, my goal is to relate the scales with chords and rhythms as opposed to just learning solos or licks and having no idea how to apply them. Good rhythm playing and knowledge is crucial to good soloing and vice versa. This comes through understanding the relationship between chords and scales. This book provides that important foundation.
The book is unique in the fact that each chapter is based around a different key signature and an open (contains unfretted notes), pattern of the pentatonic scale. There are five chapters covering the key signatures of E, A, D, G and C, and the five open ‘box patterns’ (scale patterns) of the pentatonic scale. Eventually all the box patterns are covered, from the open strings to the fifteenth fret.
There is no endless scale practice or useless licks to learn. Instead, each chapter begins with a chord progression, moves into various rhythm patterns derived from the chord progression, and then culminates with solos based on the scale and key covered. These solos tie in with the chord progression and rhythm patterns to form a complete lesson for each chapter.
The book is progressive. Upon completion, the student will have a solid foundation in blues guitar, and will understand the rhythm, lead connection.
The book is best studied from beginning to end, without slighting any material. All theory is explained in the simplest terms. There are fretboard diagrams for the scales, chord grids, and photos of hand positions as well as videos posted on YouTube to aid in the learning process.
It is best, but not necessary, to have a knowledge of barre and open chord shapes before beginning this course. All the chords have fretboard grids associated with them.
Good luck and have fun. Music is a celebration. Enjoy!
Lorne K. Hemmerling
- Learning Blues Guitar
To purchase a pdf copy, please follow this link.
I needed an arrangement of this song for solo guitar as accompaniment for vocalist Elizabeth Storms. We perform this as a duo. I rewrote the entire piece as a fingerstyle or hybrid (pick and fingers) arrangement, adding bass and chord fills to keep the rhythm and full sound flowing. With this style of playing you can make one guitar sound like two or even three. For pianists, bass, chords and melody combinations are commonplace, but this style of playing can be a daunting task for guitarists. Most often, I have kept the bass notes as the root of the chord. The song is in the key of E Major, a very common key for blues. The 'one, four, five' in this key is E, A and B. I have employed the open E (sixth string) and the open A (fifth string), throughout the song. The only fretted bass note that you have to deal with is the B.
Measures one, two and three are similar to the original version. Fretting the E on the second string, fifth fret, then playing the open E on the first is a very common blues technique. Let the open E on the sixth string ring for the entire measure.
In measure two, the bend is ½ or one fret from G (grace note) to G♯. This is the third of an E Major chord. Perform this bend while holding the B (the fifth of E Major) on the first string. Another very common blues sound. Quite often instead of holding the bend, the note is bent up on each pluck. This results in a scooping sound. Once again, let the open E on the sixth string ring for the entire measure.
In measure four, the song kicks into the normal twelve bar format. I pluck the bass notes with my thumb while employing the middle for the second string (B) and the index finger for the third string (G). Instead of letting the bass notes ring, cut them off with palm muting. The hammer on and pull off at the end of the measure is quite fast. Use the first and second finger for this.
Measure five moves into a common blues phrase. Play this with your thumb, employing a brush stroke across the two strings. The two note E5 to E6 (and E7), has been well used in this format. There are many variations. In between the dyads (two note chords), the movement is back to the riff from measure four (minus the first beat, the open E). Playing the chordal measures without muting, then moving back into palm muting for the single notes adds a great contrast in dynamics: loud to quiet. A huge amount of soul or feel can be achieved this way. People are always commenting on the way Elizabeth and myself 'read' each other when we perform. When she adds more force to her vocals, I follow by getting louder with my playing.
The turnaround in measure fifteen and sixteen is used throughout the song. I could have added a different turnaround for each section, but it is better to establish continuity in the piece. Use the thumb for the low note and the middle finger for the upper interval. Pluck the B7 at the end of measure sixteen with the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers.
I arranged this as either a straight fingerpicking sequence, hybrid picking or (since there are no two notes played simultaneously until measure twenty), a flatpick passage. When fingerpicking the E7, use the thumb for the sixth and fourth strings, the middle finger for the second string and the index finger for the third string. The notes in measures seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty three and twenty four outline an E Major to E7 chord. Overall tonality would be E7. Alternate between an open E Major and E7 with the flat seventh (D), voiced on the second string. Always setup the entire chord even though the notes are picked arpeggio style. I have seen many students try to fret the notes as they come up. It is much easier to place the whole chord. In this section try to palm mute the flat picked notes of the chords (or if you are using your fingers, the notes played with the thumb). This creates a percussive sound and simply sounds better than letting all the strings ring together. For E7, I use the pick for E on the sixth and fourth strings, the ring finger for B and D on the second string, and the middle finger for the G♯ on the third string.
In measure twenty, there is a common chromatic climb up the the 'four' chord, The A7. See Blues Guitar Solo • 13 Blues Turnarounds In E, for more on the structure and use of these chords. You will have to execute this with hybrid picking or the fingers, unless you mute the open B string out for all of the shapes, when playing with a flatpick.
The A7 shape in measures twenty one, twenty two and twenty six have the flat seventh (G) voiced on the top of the chord (third fret, first string). The B7 in measure twenty five is a normal open shape for this chord. The turnaround in measures twenty seven and twenty eight is the same as the intro turnaround.
This verse combines the same arpeggiated chords from the first verse, with chordal sequences. Measures thirty and thirty four are the same movement from the intro.
Measures thirty two, thirty six and thirty eight, add a seventh two note chord to the progression. The pattern descends from the seventh to the sixth and down to the power chord, before finishing with a triplet note lick. The notes in between all these chords come from the combination scale. Use the fingerpicking pattern from the first verse, along with the thumb brush stroke from the intro for the in between measures.
A common musical slang term used in blues, the 'stop verse' means just that, breaks in the playing where the whole band rests. This produces a very dramatic sound and is used in all genres of music. The first beat of measures thirty one to thirty three are a short staccato E5 chord. Cut the sound off quickly (even shorter than the eight note), by placing the palm of you pick hand across the strings after placing them with the thumb. Follow this by the same hammer on and pull off sequence format the intro. Perform the chromatic climb from the previous sections into the A5 chord in measure forty five.
The rest of the stop verse is the common shuffle pattern found in other sections of the song.
'One, Four, Five' with Tritones
For example, chord structure for E7 is D, G♯, D. These two notes are the ♭7 and 3rd intervals of an E7 chord. Counting up from D to G♯ to D:
D (whole step) to F♯ (whole step) to G♯ (whole step) to A♯ (whole step) to C (whole step) to D.
Tritones are used all the time in blues. The beauty is that an A7 tritone is one fret down from an E7 and a B7 tritone is one fret up. In this manner you can play a whole three chord progression with the same shape on three adjacent frets. Once again, palm mute the bass notes while plucking with your thumb, and play the tritones with index, middle and ring fingers.
In measure sixty two, pick the B, D, and E of beat two with the index, middle and ring finger, use the thumb for the rest of the notes, and finish with the index picking the E on the first beat of measure sixty three.
Solo number two starts the same way as the intro. Pick the open E on the the sixth string with your thumb, let it ring as long as possible. Pick the second string with the index and the first string with the middle finger.
The A7 and G♯7 in measures sixty nine and seventy are second inversions of the chords. Chord spelling for A7 is:
E (fifth), G (seventh) and C♯ (third). There is no root for either of these chords.
Measures seventy one and seventy two are my favourites of the whole arrangement. Based on dyads from the E Major and E Mixolydian scales, this is a very cool sound! In measure seventy one, pick the first note of beat two (G♯) with your thumb, sliding into it from any fret on the fifth string, then play the dyad pairs (B and E, D and G, C♯ and F♯) with your index and middle fingers.
Play measure seventy two the same way. The open B and E strings in measure seventy two aid in the execution of this lick and are a staple in country lead guitar.
In measures seventy three and seventy four the 'sliding sixths' (these figures are very common in blues, country, and R&B), make the transition into the turnaround. When we perform this tune, we go back into the 'Stop Verse' here, the same as the original recording.
This is the same as the 1st verse, with the turnaround ending on the 'one' chord (E9). It is very common to approach the 'one' chord from a half step above or below.
Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Oshawa on January 22, 2014:
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