Secret Sounds Found in Blues Harmony...

Even if you're brand new to jamming on the Blues it doesn't take long to notice that in Blues, just because a scale tone fits well with one chord doesn’t mean that it will necessarily fit well with the others...

Basic blues revolves around three primary chords. There are sometimes others, but for now let’s consider the primary three as the core of the blues universe. They are known as the "I-IV-V," Blues progression chords, and they are normally performed as Dominant 7th.

Have a look at the progression shown below. It is what we commonly refer to as the "12-Bar Blues Progression." This one is in the key of "C Blues."

Example 1). click on any image below to enlarge...

In a majority of cases, the typical guitarist would play the "C Blues Scale" over all the chord changes in example one. And, while that would sound "OK," it doesn't truly highlight the sound of each chord.

For instance, the B that is found in the G7 chord isn't in the "C Blues Scale." And, if we added it in, it's sound is actually completely inappropriate for the C7 chord, because the C7 chord has a B♭, and these tones conflict.

So knowing the chord tones helps, but doesn’t complete the full story. A better (and more interesting) approach is to learn scales that connect with each chord of the 12-bar progression.

For each of the blues chords, there is a scale of pitches that fits. This scale is known as the the mixolydian scale.

The Mixolydian mode, is the fifth of the seven musical modes. It is similar to the major scale except for having a lowered seventh. The Mixolydian scale is the scale that is generated when a major scale is played with the fifth note (fifth scale-degree) as the root. Thus, a C major scale played from "G" is a G Mixolydian scale. This is why the term "mode" is more appropriate than "scale".

The G Mixolydian mode is the same as a C major. So what's the difference? There is no difference; it's the chords that create the magic. Playing a G Mixolydian scale over a C major chord will sound exactly like playing a C major scale (because they are identical). However, playing a G Mixolydian scale over a G major chord will sound "Mixolydian."

Learn the following "Mixolydian" modes that can cover each of the chords from our 12-bar blues in example one.




When analyzing these scales what we notice right away is that each Mixolydian mode's natural blues structure tends to give us a bit more tolerance for notes that may not fit perfectly. If we played some of these sounds outside of the blues, they could sound off. But in the blues they sound great.

Most improvisers will use either a C major pentatonic (C, D, E, G, A, C) or a C minor pentatonic (C, D, E♭, G, A, B♭) over the C blues.

However, if they use the C minor pentatonic, they will often bend the E♭ up to E, especially over C7 tonic chord. And in addition they will sometimes encounter licks that use the other pitches we’ve talked about. But in reality, you can use both C major and C minor pentatonic scales over the same blues.

Pentatonic Major + Pentatonic Minor
(The Blues Combined Scale)

When dealing with a blues situation, you can generally draw on the Combined Blues Scale as a primary source of pitches. Then you can add color notes to the blues, which are generally context dependent. Color notes are any notes that we discussed already, but which are not in the Combined Blues Scale.

Repeating the ♭3 to ♮3 effect in many cases, opens the door for other “twists” and re-uses of the same idea in another contexts of the 12-bar progression. The ♭3 to ♮3 of the blues (E♭ to E in our example) is one case of this. Because the Combined Blues Scale is very heavily defined by the sound of a ♭3 of the I7 resolving up to the ♮3 of the I7, this relationship can also be used on the other chords.

In the case of the C blues, the F7 has “A” as its ♮3. This note is sometimes preceded by A♭, emulating the relationship first established on the tonic chord. That introduces a new note, A♭, into the blues. The same can happen for the V7 chord, in this case between B♭ and B, but both notes were already in the blues, so no new pitch is added, and it’s a little less special.

The “Blue Note”
We still haven’t talked about the famous “blue note”. This term is most often used to describe another color note that has similar properties as we've noticed from the scales discussed above. The blue note is between 4th and 5th of the tonic chord. (G♭ in our example below).

The "C Blues Scale"

The blue note (circled above) is almost always approached from below the 5th. (G in our example). The application of the blue note is almost always done as a very short duration, not long enough to sound dissonant, (often performed as a grace note).

The blue note almost always resolves up to the 5th of the key, or back down to the 4th. However, using the term “blue note” to refer only to this note is a bit of a misnomer. Actually, many notes that we’ve talked about can be thought of as blue notes.

4 Steps to Understanding Fingerboard Layout...

Learning all the notes on the fingerboard is one of the most important steps you can take as a guitarist to elevate your playing up to the next level...

Before you curse us out for recommending such an arduous task, consider the following: a doctor must know the body’s anatomy, an accountant must know basic arithmetic, and a webmaster must know the code that makes up a webpage.

Knowing the fundamentals of the instrument will make it easier to tackle the more difficult aspects of playing that you’ll encounter down the road. You’re probably familiar with the adage that you must learn to crawl before you can walk. That saying can be applied here as well.

Besides, learning the neck’s notes isn’t very difficult if you follow the simple steps in this lesson. As you’ll see, some of the information in here is about things you already know—we’re just including it to help put all the knowledge into perspective.

So put on your thinking caps and let’s get cracking.

The chromatic scale is a series of 12 tones that ascend or descend in half-step increments, or one fret at a time. In other words, this scale names every note on the neck, one by one, in succession.

Before you put it into playing terms, it’s a good idea to memorize the scale itself without playing the notes on the guitar. There are two simple rules to follow when memorizing the chromatic scale.

First, the notes follow a sequence that starts on C and ends on B (C D E F G A B). Second, between these notes you’ll find sharps (#) or flats (b). A sharp raises a tone by one fret, and a flat lowers a note by one fret.

There are two exceptions to this rule: the note pairs B-C and E-F are just a half step apart, so there is no sharp or flat between them.

By using these two rules you should arrive at this scale spelling: C-C# | Db-D-D# | Eb-E-F-F# | Gb-G-G# | Ab-A-A# | Bb-B. The only thing that may change is your starting pitch, as the chromatic scale can start on any note.

FIGURE 1a, is a complete grid of the notes on the fretboard, ending at the 12th fret. Notice how the notes at the 12th fret are the same pitch as the open strings on which you started? That’s what is known as an octave—the same pitch, only one register higher.

At this point, the scale recycles itself up the rest of the neck (for example, the 13th fret has the same note names as the first). When committing the note names to memory, be sure to use the markers on your fretboard as landmarks, assigning specific note names to particular areas of the neck.

FIGURE 1a). (click on image to enlarge)

Once you have an understanding for the entire neck as seen with every tone, it is important to move on to viewing the neck as how a single tone may be organized. In FIGURE 1b, you can see how an "E" tone sits across the neck in various locations. Memorizing the locations of a single tone is important for finding the root notes of chords and scales.

FIGURE 1b). (click on image to enlarge)

Now that you’re familiar with the chromatic scale, and with how a single tone is located across the neck, let’s focus on applying this newfound knowledge of the neck to different keys.

FIGURE 2 is a list of the notes in each key, both major and minor. The only thing that differs between the two scales on each line is the starting point. For example. C major starts on C (C D E F G A B) and A minor starts on A (A B C D E F G).

FIGURE 2). (click on image to enlarge)

Now that you know the note names in each scale, try to find them on the neck one string at a time. FIGURE 3 is a two-bar phrase, this time centered in the key of E major (row 5 of FIGURE 2).

Here the open high E string functions as pedal tone in between the other scale tones. Angus Young of AC/DC often used this clever technique in his solos, and you should feel free to apply it as well when devising your own licks, as long as the open string you’re using as a pedal tone is in the same key as your solo.

FIGURE 3). (click on image to enlarge)

FIGURE 4 is a mirror image of the previous figure, but this time it’s written in E minor, the relative minor in the key of G (row 2 of FIGURE 2). Try to find the notes in each key listed, string by string, until you get acquainted with their locations on the fretboard. You may want to record yourself strumming the root chord of a given key and then play along using the corresponding scale. This is fun way to not only learn the scale but also get your creativity flowing.

FIGURE 4). (click on image to enlarge)

By now you should have a pretty clear visualization of the neck in a string-by-string horizontal fashion. So let’s move on to vertical scale patterns.

FIGURE 5a), is a G major (row 2 of FIGURE 2) scale pattern in 3rd position. In this case you’re learning the scale across all six strings rather than focusing on one string at a time. (To include the high E string, play the notes A-B-C on frets 5-7-8, respectively.)

FIGURE 5a). (click on image to enlarge)

One of the most beneficial aspects of pattern-based scales on the guitar is that they are movable. In FIGURE 5b), the TAB from FIGURE 5a), is shown as a neck pattern on the guitar fingerboard. Being capable of visualizing the scale as a geometrical shape is extrememly valuable for moving the scale elsewhere on the neck.

FIGURE 5b). (click on image to enlarge)

If you take the pattern played in FIGURE 5b), and shift it up two frets, you would have an A major scale. Simply sliding the shapes along the neck allows for new keys because the scales are seen as geometrical patterns on the fingerboard.
Try to move this pattern to different areas on the neck, improvising over all the respective keys listed in FIGURE 2.

If you’d like to play over one of the minor keys, say E (the relative minor of G), FIGURE 6 offers a popular scale pattern.

FIGURE 6). (click on images to enlarge)

Remember: You can move these patterns to any key simply by shifting the entire pattern in a different position along the neck. There are endless possibilities when combining the horizontal and vertical patterns, so explore as many avenues as possible.



Join Now

How to Find More Time to Practice Guitar...

Like anything in life worth our time (and guitar is certainly is worth it), practicing the guitar will all boil down to effective time management. Here are some tips to help you find more time and progress further...

Many of us are leading busier lives than ever, with work and family commitments being our most time consuming priorities. Finding time to practice guitar is becoming increasingly difficult as hobbies and recreational pursuits get pushed down the "to do" list.

This article is not about promoting a big change of your lifestyle, rather, I'm going to assume that the only thing you're discontent with is the amount of time you have to practice the guitar. I'll assume you want to become a better player and you feel the only way you'd have more time to practice is if the days were a couple of hours longer. Fortunately changing the amount of time in our day can be done in a few interesting ways through good /smart planning systems.

It's time for a simple change in perspective on what constitutes "enough practice" and "free time." You could spend 3 hours per day practicing and still make dismal progress, or you could spend just half an hour per day (e.g. before bed, or even early in the morning) and make phenomenal progress. How? By practicing smarter!

Smart practice is about planning your time based around specific playing goals and prioritizing what you practice to give you the shortest possible route to fulfilling those goals. Without this, it doesn't matter how much time you find to practice, it will never be enough.

Laser like focus your practice time based on key personal goals and you'll need far less time to attain that satisfying sense of accomplishment. The truth is that you could be wasting as much as 50% of your practice time. I strongly recommend you start planning what little practice time you have with a smarter, more focused approach, and start this right now.

Many guitarists are under the illusion that the more hours/minutes they clock up in each practice session, the better. Well, this may only be true if those sessions are regular. But most of us don't have several hours per day.

In reality, the number of hours you practice in one sitting is not so important. It's far more effective to practice 30 minutes every day than 4 hours at the weekend and nothing in between.

I know what you may be thinking: "I don't even have time for 30 minutes per day!" - I'll come to that. The point here is that regular practice will help internalize what you learn much faster than sparse practice, no matter how long those sparse sessions are.

Things like muscle memory can only develop properly with persistent and repetitive motion and pressure. Leaving practice for the time-rich weekends is like taking two steps forwards and one back. Similarly, the brain also benefits from frequent repetition of exercises such as memorizing the fret-board, finger positions, scale patterns etc.

Think back to when you were preparing for your exams, it was far better to study over the course of two weeks before the exam, than cram everything into the few nights before.

Why? So your brain has a chance to process and organize the information it's being fed. Small chunks of information are easiest for the brain to process and internalize. So the first thing to understand is that short and regular bursts of solid practice will develop your skills faster than long but infrequent sessions.

There may be more free time available during a typical day than you initially realize, especially once you get home from work or wherever it is you've been. Everyone's life is different, but if you don't spend much time at home then a travel guitar might prove a good investment. They are lightweight, portable and can be taken on planes, walks and make the perfect hotel room companion.

If you're a 9-5'er, your free time will predominantly be in the evenings... Perhaps it's not your turn to cook dinner tonight - pick up the guitar. Perhaps the significant other is putting the kids to bed - pick up the guitar. The significant other may be watching one of those crappy TV shows you hate or s/he's on the laptop, reading or soaking in the bath - pick up the guitar (in another room of course, whether it's the bedroom or bathroom, it does not matter where).

If you're a single parent and your responsibilities are not shared, the most obvious time for a short practice is after the kids are in bed and before they wake... Get into the habit of rising a mere 20 minutes earlier in the morning and going to bed a mere 20 minutes later at night - that's an extra 40 minutes practice per day. Do not underestimate how this accumulated practice can speed up your progress.

To put it into perspective, that's over 240 hours of extra practice per year if you can stick to it. Use an unplugged electric guitar (or with a headphone amp) during those quieter times. There is still so much that can be done before you work on things like volume and tone. It sounds silly, but ask yourself if are you absolutely certain that you can't find a quiet place in your office to practice guitar at lunch? Sure you can, because even if your work-life and physically playing the guitar at work - just won't mix, there can be other alternatives.

For example, lunch time at the office is precious time for reading up on theory - how notes and intervals work, scales, fret-board memorization and getting new ideas together for your practice sessions. You could also read up on how software works, how to make better home recordings, gear operation and so much more.

Whenever you find yourself in a period of free time whereby whipping out a guitar would be wholly impractical, then could you use that time to prepare for your practice periods?

Give yourself small goals based on specific skills you want to learn. If you have access to the internet, bookmark (or email to yourself) some good resources, whether that's videos, charts or text based lessons. Spend your practice time playing, not searching for what to play. Make sure you reflect upon each day of practice honestly and openly.

Have you identified any weaknesses? What do you need to work on? Do you need more information on something? Always be thinking about your next session, whether it's for gathering information or physically picking up the guitar. The easiest and most effective way to plan your practice is to use a good practice schedule. That way, each session will be personalized and specific to your goals and current progress. Having a practice schedule will also save you a lot of time allowing more time for your fingers on the fret-board.

I'm guessing when a lot of people say "I don't have time to practice", they are reserving part of their time for reading, surfing the net, watching TV etc. While it would be presumptuous of me to suggest you ditch all these in favor of guitar practice, the idea of compromising a little in favor of more time with the guitar needs to be put out there.

If you like to watch a couple of hours of TV in the evening, try and cut it to one hour and give your guitar the other. Record shows to help you switch off the TV. If you like to surf the net, make more of your surfing around guitar to inspire you to pick it up there and then. Make guitar a part of your relaxation ritual and your half hour per day will soon turn into an hour, two hours... perhaps it will keep you up late.

You can worry about the effects of that when it happens! Have your guitar nearby and in sight so you're reminded of the wonders that are waiting to be discovered by plucking the strings and investigating the fret-board. If the weather's nice, I like to take the guitar outside and practice there. Different settings can spark new ideas.

You'll also find, (especially when you're engaged in practice), guitar takes your mind off things just as well, if not better than the more passive forms of relaxation. This is because your thoughts are completely occupied with negotiating the strings and fret-board. There's no space for your mind to wander back to the stresses and worries of everyday life. That's why I find guitar one of the most truly relaxing yet productive pursuits - you can sit down, rest your bones, and forget about this mad world, but at the same time, the creative and problem-solving parts of your brain are firing on all cylinders.

If you're truly passionate about guitar, you shouldn't have much trouble making time for it. That's a statement almost too obvious to make. Your passion for guitar will inevitably grow with your skills and you'll miraculously find more and more time to practice, just as you would with any other pursuit that you were impassioned about.

Don't frustrate yourself by thinking you're "not practicing enough" right now. What is "enough" anyway? Creeping progress is still progress, and progress is what truly matters. If you can find just half an hour per day (and don't worry if you miss a day or two now and then) to practice meaningfully and efficiently, based on your goals as a player, in a years time you will be surprised at just how far you've come.

Just keep it regular and keep it focused, and never be afraid to take your guitar with you to some unusual places.



Join Now

Developing Better String Bending Technique...

Bending is a great technique that will go a long way to help bring your guitar playing alive. If you cannot bend well, then it's high time that you learned how...

Think of any accomplished lead guitarist – all of them will use bending at some point. Bending will breathe life and expression into guitar playing in a way that very few other techniques can.

Bending notes is one of the classic sounds of lead guitar. Players such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen are all great note benders. Bending helps to add emotion and intensity to the music, as well as giving your playing a more vocal-like quality.

A bend is achieved by fretting a note and then pushing the string sideways across the fret-board towards the adjacent strings, (either up or down depending on the string). One important point with bending notes is to use a supporting finger behind the finger you are using to make the bend. This gives you more strength and better control.

When bending notes, it is also helpful to have the thumb of the left hand right up over the edge of the neck to help push back against the pressure of the fingers. The TAB symbol for a bend is a curved arrow accompanied by the symbol “B”.

Try the following bend:

How did that bend feel? Was it tough to push on the note? If you found it difficult to accomplish a smooth feel for that bend, you'll need to more fully understand a few of the basic principles of bending.

Here is an exercise for developing a better ability for bending notes.

STEP 1). Hand Position... Set up your hand position at the 3rd string on the 5th fret.

This is where we will establish our first bend. Set-up your hand position as shown in the image below:

STEP 2). Testing... Test the feel of the string you have your fingers on by pushing on the note you have fretted. See image below:

STEP 3). Leverage... Getting ready to play a bend lick accurately requires leverage. Move up to the 7th fret of 3rd string. Develop more leverage for the bend by hooking your thumb over the neck. See image below:

Make sure you reach /target the 'exact pitch' that you are trying to bend to. In this exercise you are trying to bend from the D to E on the third string. How does this feel? How is your pitch accuracy? 

Listen carefully as you practice making the bend to make sure that your bent "E" note is not too sharp or too flat. Try recording yourself bending some notes and then listen back to check the pitch of your bends.

Now we will try an "accuracy" bend lick that targets a tone between two strings. This will be excellent for self-testing your overall bend accuracy. Try the example shown below, where an "E" tone on the 7th fret of the 3rd string, is bent and then another "E" is played on the second string. See TAB below:

Be sure to target the sound of the 5th fret of the 2nd string while pushing on the 3rd string 7th fret. You'll want those tones to meet and form an "in-tune" response. this way you know that your accuracy level is matching the two tones properly. Your fingers need to be set-up on the neck properly for achieving the best sound. See image below:

Now, let's start having some real fun by trying out how to play through a couple of bending licks.

LICK #1). In lick example one, there are two bend ideas shown. Starting at the first measure, a slight bend is performed off of the 5th fret of the 3rd string. And then, in the tail end of the lick a 3rd string "bend and release" is performed off of the 7th fret. Listen to the audio clip to fully comprehend the sound of this line.

LICK #2).  The next lick moves through a two bar phrase that has an 8th fret bend on the 3rd string in measure one. In measure two, the lick wraps up with a bend up at the 11th fret of the 6th string. This lick demonstrates the importance of learning how to control bends on any guitar string. Once the feel has been developed, the bends will become more natural. Listen to the audio of this bend idea and spend time working at playing each bend as smoothly as possible.

Listening and practicing many different licks, in all kinds of guitar styles, will make the biggest impact on the overall success of bending for you. Have a look through the "QwikLicks" series in the Creative Guitar Studio members area. This series of QwikLicks lessons is free to general members and can go a long way help introduce many guitar techniques (including bending). Become a member today to take advantage of everything the site has to offer.


Join Now

Easy JamTracks for Guitar Solo Practice

GuitarBlog: Easy JamTracks for Guitar Solo Practice

The main reason why scales are all too often forgotten by the practicing guitarist is generally due to the fact that the guitarist never works through JamTrack progressions for applying each scale...

Once learned, scales need to be applied (as soon as possible), under a few related chords. This helps to solidify their use musically in a realistic musical situation. 

The best way to record a JamTrack is through creating simple looped recordings. If you are unfamiliar with what a JamTrack is, (or how to create one), then this lesson should be quite helpful to you. 

JamTracks are most often a short group of chord changes played on a loop, (4, 8, 12, or 16 bars in length). They can be recorded through home recording software, programed through the use of a loop pedal, or created in DAW software such as, "FL-Studio." 

This lesson will run through some of the basic ways that a JamTrack can be created in either major or minor keys.

PART ONE: Our lesson begins by introducing the general music theory behind creating progressions based within a key signature. Our first jam (example one) operates over a common I-IV-V progression within the key of "D Major." The JamTrack uses small 3-note triads built from the 4th to 2nd strings to establish the harmony.

Example two switches over to the minor tonality with a track in the key of "D Minor," that once again applies the harmony of the I-IV-V. This time, the harmony functions in a slightly different manner using a drone off of the open 4th string "D." The triads are constructed between the 3rd to 1st strings.

PART TWO: Example three expands upon the basic (I-IV-V harmony) chord progression by stretching out to the use of other diatonic chord types. The chord progression for the ex.3 JamTrack applies a harmony of I-V-VI-III to a progression in "E Major."

Example four changes tonality with an "E Minor" progression. The harmony is unique in how it has been extended to include an "add2" extension. This "add2" extension highlights each of the chords in a very different way. The impact of this sound is dramatic and will cause the melodies and improvisations associated to the JamTrack to change as well.

The JamTracks shown in this lesson plan showcase how any selection of chord changes from a key center can be composed in a way that highlights certain attributes. Even common I-IV-V chord changes can be used in ways that produce very interesting results. After developing the various chord changes shown in this lesson try creating some of your own JamTracks using similar ideas. Enjoy the lesson!

Easy JamTracks for Guitar Solo Practice

Related Videos:

RELATED VIDEOS for: Easy JamTracks for Guitar Solo Practice

Simple Blues Phrases and Learning to Improvise

How to Practice Scales



Join Now