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  1. #1

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    That thread with everyone playing the Blues (can't recall the name now....) really got me thinking. I enjoyed all of the performances posted and I was trying to figure out why some really registered with me and what approach was taken.

    I am getting older and I am not quite as crazy about fast playing, so maybe that is why some of the slower to mid-tempo performances seem to move me a little more. They were closer to traditional Blues, which I am a big fan of. Heck, I even think some of you guys used some well-worn lines from great Blues songs.

    Getting back to my question, do you mind sharing your approach? Do you go more for repetition and maybe use "codified" Blues Language? Do you lean on those "blue" notes and the Blues Scale or Pentatonic Scales? Do you find yourself using more Mixolydian as the basis of your solo? Any thoughts will be appreciated.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I pick a starting note, usually from the opening chord and its consonant extensions.

    Then, I know I have to get from there to an upcoming chord.

    Say it's Fmaj to Em7b5. Maybe I start on A.

    I can prehear that I want to play a chord tone on the Em7b5 and I think G and Bb are good. So, from the A, I have to make it to G (or Bb). I'll make up a little scrap of melody to get there. I'm likely to hit the Bb on the last eighth note of the first bar. That gives it some forward motion.

    And, so on. Trying to think of melody that gets from one chord to the next. And, for a jazz blues, which is likely to be quite familiar harmonically, I'll do it by ear and maybe by keeping the chord tones in the back of my mind, even though I can hear them.

    Or, at some point, I might make a point of not playing all the changes. Then, I might use a bluesy lick and let the chords change underneath it.

    I know this doesn't give you the kind of info you're probably after. I just can't put it into words any better than this. What was I thinking? I wa trying to make melody and avoid clams. So I scat-sing aline in my head and try to play it. If I want it to be a chord tone, I know what they are and I can find them on the fingerboard.

    Hope that helps just a little.

    I've asked the same question and been told, "a better question would be to ask what the player practiced to be able to do what you heard".
    In my case, it has been different stuff over decades. I can't really give a good answer to that question either.

  4. #3

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    there is such a rich library of blues..all instruments and vocals..and all the variations and tempos..

    for me its a chromatic exploration with harmonic support..static or chord tone movement

    the solos on ALL BLUES still get me..Evans chords..and JC playing a simple scale making it sound so cool

    there are countless guitarists that take the blues beyond harmonic limitations and others just play three notes and kill it..

    my first intro were the chicago masters -- howlin wolf..muddy..buddy guy..alot of Albert King..had the great opportunity to

    see him live five or six times...a few in fairly small clubs...

    these days Scofield and Carlton are good studies..pure taste and always some surprises

    on the tech side...experiment with basic and exotic scales..rip them apart and use the chords that are embedded in them...the diminished and augmented scales are rich with harmonic possibilities

    one structure I work with alot is using minor third intervals

    G13 -Bb13 | Eb9 -C9 | F9 - D9 | G13 - Bb13 etc

    just some ideas...

  5. #4

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    I think the first thing is learning the sounds of the progressions, recognizing the changes, and hearing the musical pressure that expresses where the thing is going. Once you get some Jazz-Blues changes under your fingers and in your ears, you can better explore and develop your musical judgement in forming melodic lines.

    A lot of Jazz chords don't sound "right" or "useful" when heard in isolation, but are "just right" within the context and movement of a progression... which means you kind of have to play them before understanding them.

    Here is an example of a Jazz-Blues in G that has some of those chords, where despite that they readily suggest lines. Try exploring lines that express your musical judgement.

    (E) (A) (D) (G) (B) (E)
    ........................


    I chord
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)
    (x) (9) (10) (10) (11) (x)
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)
    (x) (8) (9) (8) (11) (x)


    IV chord
    (x) (7) (8) (7) (8) (x)
    (x) (7) (8) (6) (8) (x)


    I chord
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)
    (x) (9) (10) (10) (11) (x)
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)
    (x) (8) (9) (8) (11) (x)


    IV chord
    (x) (7) (8) (7) (8) (x)
    (x) (7) (8) (6) (8) (x)


    I chord
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)


    ii chord
    (x) (10) (11) (10) (13) (x)


    iii chord
    (x) (7) (7) (7) (8) (x)


    biii chord
    (6) (x) (6) (7) (8) (x)


    ii chord
    (x) (x) (5) (5) (5) (7)
    (x) (7) (7) (7) (8) (x)


    bVI chord
    (x) (9) (10) (9) (12) (x)


    V chord
    (x) (15) (16) (15) (18) (x)


    turnaround
    I chord
    (x) (14) (14) (14) (15) (x)


    VI chord
    (x) (12) (13) (12) (15) (x)


    ii chord
    (x) (11) (11) (11) (12) (x)


    V chord
    (x) (9) (10) (9) (12) (x)


    I chord
    (x) (8) (9) (9) (8) (x)


    VI chord
    (x) (7) (6) (7) (8) (x)


    bIII chord
    (6) (x) (6) (5) (5) (x)


    ii chord
    (5) (x) (5) (5) (5) (x)


    bVI chord
    (x) (6) (5) (6) (6) (x)


    V chord
    (x) (5) (4) (5) (6) (x)


    bii chord
    (4) (x) (4) (3) (3) (x)


    I chord
    (x) (2) (3) (2) (3) (x)

  6. #5

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    I recommend you go to the other thread and ask specifically about the clip that moves you the most. Everyone over there is super helpful and I’m always asking questions like this on their clip.

    In my approach I would agree with pauln. For me it’s all about the chord movement. I love the different jazz blues options. It’s jazzy yet bluesy. I use a lot of mixolydian and try to hit some classic blues licks here and there. I think one of the ultimate jazz blues is Miles Davis Pfrancin off the album someday my prince will come. I try to emulate everything in that song on any blues I play.

  7. #6

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    Play chord tones. Swing. Play through the chords. Pay attention to how the chords connect.

    Learn all the different variations and play the ‘wrong’ variation over the written chords.

    minor over major. Diminished over minor. Boppers like major 7

    it’s all about bars 8-10. Play as much blues vocab as you like, but play a big phrase there outlining those chords and you will sound like a jazz player.

    I don’t think there’s any language/vocab difference difference for me between blues and standards. I want to be able to play changes on blues, and blues on standards.
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 06-10-2021 at 08:40 AM.

  8. #7

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    Oh here’s a good tip. Try Im6 on I, rather than the usual blues scale.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Oh here’s a good tip. Try Im6 on I, rather than the usual blues scale.
    Make that Im6/9 and play some T.Bone...

  10. #9

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    The minor pentatonic is your buddy...but watch your thirds. On the three man chords, nailing those thirds when outlining your changes is crucial.

    Could not agree more that bars 8-10 are the ones that make you sound like you're playing jazz. Outline those chords and you're golden.

    Bar 6 to a certain extent, is a "hit the change and whoa, that sounded like jazz" bar, but you can float it a bit more.

    Another thing I do on a jazz blues a lot is play the chromatic note a bend in a "Chicago blues" would go through.

    So in a Chicago blues in Bb, I might take an Eb and bend it up to F (passing through E) then bend a Db up to "almost" a D and end on Bb.

    In a jazz blues, I might play Eb E F Db D Bb.

    I like to build my solos a bit...kind of a forumula, I guess, but I try to generally outline more and more chords as I go. So I might start playing much more pentatonic, or blues scale...introduce some 9ths and 6ths...and by the third chorus or so, start nailing changes more and more.

    After that, It comes down to ARTICULATION.

    And oh, I don't think I've consciously used a mixolydian scale on a blues in my entire life.

    You should 100% join us over in the Improvisation subforum for the Virtual Jam Session.

  11. #10

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    Call and Response is mighty important in Blues. Look at the 12 bar form as three sections of 4 bars each. The call happens in the first two bars plus one or two beats of each section followed by the response. Make the call sound more important than the response and your solo will start to sound structured.

  12. #11

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    Highly recommended:


  13. #12

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    Stylistically, b7 on the blues scale is not always the best sound; depending on what style you are shooting for. b5 and b3 always sound great.

    Another thing- blues is a great etude for learning to play changes. So certain things that sound great - I minor blues on a IV chord, I major blues on a I, sound great in qany tune. For instance, you’ll find a IV #IVo7 I prog in many standards (and one version of the blues, and this is a fantastic place to play a minor blues scale, really focussing on b5 or b3.

    Other things; diminished chords and chromatic passing tones. Take Blue Monk for example. This stuff is so bluesy, but if you only think in terms of blues guitar licks you might miss it. But so many classic blues guitar cliches feature these devices, it’s just a matter of turning them into lines.

    Josh Smith started doing this after 40 years of wall to wall SRV licks and everyone thinks he’s some sort of genius haha
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 06-10-2021 at 12:40 PM.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve View Post
    Highly recommended:

    Being the lesson slut that I am, actually went to TrueFire and downloaded Tim Lerch's Blues Pathways ( I think that was the name), as that Virtual Blues Jam actually inspired me.

    Thanks for all the responses, everyone. Lots to chew on - some I already was aware of, some new.

  15. #14

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    I echo a lot of what was said above, plus a few more thoughts;

    setting blues licks and phrasing aside just for a second:

    (firstly, adding some colorful chords will force you into playing some things that could be substituted over simpler changes, but never mind that for now)

    SO,

    given I-IV-V, plus maybe a II chord or even I VI II V in the usual bars;

    play chord tone outlines with direct voice leading,

    add some vanilla chord scale tones from mixolydian, Dorian, aeolian, as appropriate

    then build lines using the minor pentatonic, blues scale, and bebop scales. In other words play chord outlines drawing upon any/all of those scales and chord tones as you see fit, while taking care to voice lead between the I and IV chords in particular.

    then add chromatics wherever you want,

    Then make use of 2 and 3 note approaches to any/all chord tones on any//all chords - for some more sophisticated sounding lines

    then add in some bebop line cliches from your favorite players,

    then remember all those basic blues licks and phrases

    by this point your palette is rich enough for you to sound like a “jazz” blues player.

    parting shot - if you can collapse any of the above steps, power to ya, if not, then just enjoy the journey.

  16. #15

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    You know something? Its clear that I had one big issue with my Blues improvisation.

    I don't know if I want to sound more like a Blues Player or like a Jazz player. Mr. B and Tommo had examples that IMHO were more towards traditional Blues, and it pulled at me the way that Old Blues tends to do.

    And there are some forms of Jazz Blues that remind me of a movie set in the 1920's and someone getting pulled in a horsedrawn cart in the South. Those types use a lot of major sounds, especially that sixth note, which my ear hears and depending on my mood, leaves me conflicted.

    For now, I am going to experiment with 6, 9, and 13 chords - Ragman gave me some great tips. I may just be one of those guys who doesn't really chase chord changes as much when playing the Blues.

  17. #16

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    AlsoRan -

    Sorry, I should have asked you this before. Are you just playing chords? Or singing and playing? or playing a solo over a backing? Or just playing blues tunes by yourself? Or more than one of these?

  18. #17

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    So it's a little embarrassing... I mean what happens when you play blues, generally you use blue notes. And generally those Blue Notes imply harmonic movement. (your not just playing the changes).
    I'm skipping the typical common chord tone movements, common tones and pedal tone effects... the linear approach.

    What generally is implied when using a b3 or #9 and b7 is the V7 chord... the altered or V7#9b13. So if you expand those blue notes to imply.... a chord(s). You begin to have many more possibilities of very standard and organized note collections to develop your improve from. You'll expand your ears.

    Embellishment approach works... but tends to be very One Dimensional... that vanilla thing. Anyway, start using harmony or chords to help expand your Blues approach. One chord, then chord patterns... then you might even start using Functional organization to help with expanding your improv. It's like using Subs but with many more choices with musical organization.

    Yea I might be expecting we all understand... more than I (you) know. If you need examples I'll gladly do the baby sitter thing. But you get more from figuring out details on your own. There are no secrets just understandings.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    AlsoRan -

    Sorry, I should have asked you this before. Are you just playing chords? Or singing and playing? or playing a solo over a backing? Or just playing blues tunes by yourself? Or more than one of these?
    Actually, all the above, ragman.

    I am really seeing how the chord progression will drive what I am trying to do. So if I don't like the chords chosen (i.e. a typical Parker Blues), then I am not going to fool with it right now. I am playing my chords, more or less classifying the sub-type of blues, and then improvising accordingly. I am not going to spend time on a progression that I don't like or have the ability to improvise on.