Many blues guitarists use primarily just the minor pentatonic scale when learning to solo. Thankfully, this scale brings newer players up to speed quickly, lending to some easy, great sounding playing. However, when you rely too heavily on the minor pentatonic, you quickly realize something is missing. There’s something that GREAT blues players are doing that you are not. Finally, we discover the missing piece… playing the changes!
In his course, BluesSpeak: Playing The Changes, Matt Schofield fast-tracks you on this rite of passage. The awe-inspiring realm of ‘playing the changes’ is just a click away!
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Guitar Lesson – Albert Collins – Approach
One of my earliest and biggest inspirations, from Texas: The Iceman – Albert Collins! Albert’s unique, inventive and exciting playing contains so much to be inspired by. In this lesson, we’re going to focus on how his use of a unique tuning brought out the sound of the blues scale with the added 6th degree. This can lead us to a fresh sound in our own playing, and melodically tie the first two changes in the blues scale together very nicely, and start to bring out the sound of the IV chord.
Guitar Lesson – Albert Collins – Demo
Let’s take a funky blues groove in the key of D and have go playing with the minor pentatonic with the 6th degree instead of the dominant 7th. We’ll keep it simple to help our ears learn the sound of the scale, and where that 6th really really fits. We should always be following our ears and not just our fingers!
Guitar Lesson – Albert Collins – Playalong
Now we’re going to trade back and forth using this sound of the pentatonic with the 6th. I’ll play a “Collins-ish” line and try and play it back to me. We’re keeping it simple and focusing on phrasing, timing, and subtle variations to develop a theme. And making sure we land that 6th in the right spot!
Guitar Lesson – The Diminished Device – Approach
The diminished arpeggio is also a great device for connecting the changes, and adds a little “outside” spice to your playing. It particularly useful coming out of the IV chord, in the second bar before we go back to the I. It’s implying to extended blues harmony, even if the diminished chord is not being played underneath. It always makes for a great resolution device to get us home from the V chord to I.
Guitar Lesson – The Diminished Device – Demo
Here’s a little pass on a shuffle where I demonstrate where we might use our diminished arpeggio. It’s a head turning musical device, but best used sparingly for maximum effect.
Guitar Lesson – Putting It Together – Demo
I’m going to improvise through a couple of verse of the extended Bb blues progression. I try and include all the ideas we’ve looked at so far, making sure to target all the chords in my single note playing.
Guitar Lesson – Putting It Together – Analysis
Despite this progression having several more chords than our traditional 12-bar blues we’ve been working with up until now, we can still get around the entire progression using the simple dominant 7th triads. Being able to navigate the progression like this is very important when we come to solo over it.
The next step when playing over it, is to keep it simple and reach for the good notes. The ones that really bring out the melody contained within the chords.
Guitar Lesson – Putting It Together – Performance
Sometimes it’s good to break it down and see just how simply you can play something. Here the sole focus is on making each change with the simplest move as possible. As I always say, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy, and being able to do something simply and effectively is an art until itself.
Guitar Lesson – Lucy’s Blues – Overview
Time to get down and dirty on an drivin’ 12/8 blues in A – one of my favourites to play over. We’re very much keeping the mighty Albert King in mind here. Grab the big notes and go for it! Starting out with a very direct minor pentatonic approach and starting to bring out the changes as the track moves along.
Guitar Lesson – Lucy’s Blues – Performance
Now, I’ll perform this one for you at full speed so you can get a feel for how it sounds. Then, we’ll break this down more slowly!
Guitar Lesson – Lucy’s Blues – Breakdown
Let’s break this down. We’re using the A minor pentatonic, and our playing is very deliberate as we play the changes.
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