Blues experts, plz help me! :(

AJ Love

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The Blues is a language. In order to solo authentically in a Blues setting, you need to develop your "vocabulary" by learning solos off of recordings and putting those same licks into your own solos. You might begin your solo playing a few BB King licks and end it with some Luther Allison (just as an example). Do that enough over many years and eventually those licks will just become a part of you and your own nuances and style of playing those licks will creep into your playing.

I was taught this by a Grammy Award winning Blues guitarist who toured with Otis Rush. He told me Otis spent hours each day learning licks off of records
 

jkrischan

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I'm certainly not an expert, my advice here FWIW is to concentrate on rhythm , learn all the changes at different tempos. Learn these and practice them over and over until they are completely engrained in your mind. Then start throwing in fills, short and sweet at first, think "feel" here lots of emotion, over flash. The rest will come, it's cliche to say it but it's true, blues is feeling, you can't just learn the notes you need to feel them
 

jefrs

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Scales, sure you've got to learn them because you have to know where all the notes are on the fret board, so when you hear a note you can play it straight away. Major and minor. It's difficult to forget the pentatonic but it's got to be done, it is only a tool and it's like having a piano with only the black keys. Blue notes, and there are more than one in each scale, are actually between the frets, only to be nailed by bending, but we cheat.

Chords, there are more than the major, minor and 7th. Changing one note within a chord changes its sound and makes a new chord. With a little practice you can work out what the new chord name is, and why the change, but they generally stay within the scale being used. Then you can feel the lead lick as being notes within and around a chord sequence. It's mostly feel, and you can feel a bum note hurt. Timing is feel too, blues is rather flexible on timing, sometimes you can come in a long time after the beat, others not.
Beat, rhythm, whatever else is happening, don't loose it.
Maybe learn some jazz-blues standards, there's a bit more going on than in a 12-bar, and study their structure.

Don't let all get too complicated, just ease into it.
 

soulman969

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I think there are an everlovin' ton of great suggestions here but more importantly than anything great blues solos aren't only in your fingers they're in your soul too. You have to hear in your head what you want it to sound like and then work towards doing that.

I've been playing forever but I'm still working my way up the ladder as far as soloing goes. One tip I picked up from Carlos Santana works well for me. He scat sings a line they way he wants to play it then replicates that. Since I'm a vocalist and a soul singer I can do that and it works well for me too.

Find a technique for learning that works for you and apply that wherever you can.
 

TelZilla

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Random thoughts, many of which have probably been expressed above:

~Play with other people as much as you can. This is by far the most important thing. I think being in a band situation (ideally with another guitar player) is really the key to learning improvisation. Band practice and trading ideas with another player over time, figuring out how to fit two parts together, etc. is far more effective than going to blues jams, many of which are just show-off fests. And the other guy doesn't need to be a virtuoso, as long as he's interested in learning new stuff. I've been playing with my brother since we were 12 and 13, and we've each been each other's best teachers. And I can assure you that we were terrible, but we improved together. At a time when playing with Ry Cooder or something would have scared the sh1t out of me...

~pick a song or two that really have lots of cool little licks and stuff and learn them note for note. If you need a suggestion, you could do worse than Love Slipped in by Duke Robillard:


Anyway, learn every lick in that song (preferably by puzzling it out yourself, not reading tab), then break it up into phrases, and purposely try those phrases in different places than they exist in the original song. Play the beginning phrase over the V chord, etc.

~I agree with the posters above that playing along with what used to be called "the record" is far better than using backing tracks. Just put on BB King at San Quentin and play side one.

~When you're learning a phrase/lick, and you can't figure it out, "sing" it to yourself. This always helps me immensely.

~Pick one of the "blues boxes", and try to play an entire chorus (one round of the I-IV-V) just using those 4 notes, in all sorts of various combos. You'd be amazed how many different patterns you can get out of just 4 notes by bending, sliding up to/down to them, vibrato, etc.

~learn the major pentatonic scale and some basic countryish licks. Play those over the I chord and then switch back to the minor pent ("blues scale") for the IV and V chords. This will bring a real sense of variety and a change in mood that's really effective- sort of from happy to dark as you modulate.

~On a related note, learn some Rockabilly. I think those guys are masters, particularly what they do with chord voicings and arpeggios. I think you can learn a ton about what to play over which chord from good rockabilly- they seem to "follow the song" really well. Just get a Stray Cats Tab book or look up Paul Pigat.

~Pick the four or five guys you really like (for me it's probably T Bone Walker, Freddie King, Magic Sam, and Albert King, among a million others). Try to build a library (in your mind, or write it down if it helps you) of licks that are "in the Style of". Then mix and match on purpose. That's often the kind of thing I have going on in my mind as I solo- like "OK, I'll start with that Albert King lick from the Beginning of cross cut saw, then hit some of the low string, close-to-the-bridge stuff T Bone Walker does, etc." After a while, you just sort of have that stuff stored in your head, along with "That thing my brother taught me in 1995", etc. Eventually, you just sort of mix it all together, and it becomes something that's your own.

~But mostly, play with other people, and when they do something you like, don't be shy about saying "Wow, that was cool. Show me that" In my experience, most guys are more than willing to help out.
 

8cpk

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Hi everyone,

So I've been practicing for years, I've learn a lot of licks, I can play the pentatonic and blues scales with no problems, but there's one thing I just can't seem to succeed... Improvising blues solo ... I keep practicing and practicing over backing tracks, playing songs, etc, I've been doing it for years now but I still feel like I have not improved at all, I don't know how to improvise a good blues solo progression, it always sounds bad and I need help !

How did you guys master the blues?
Do you have any dvd or something that REALLY helps master it (I've seen a lot of b***** ahah :$) ?
Please help me I'm about to give up on this !

It seems to me that if you already know a bunch of licks and know your scales you already have the tools, you just need to understand a little better how to use them.

I haven't read all of the posts yet, but all of the advices you were given are great. One in particular will help you a lot, I think - Listening, especially to dynamics.

Analize your favorite guitar players solos. If you take BB King or Albert King or Buddy Guy or any of these guys you will notice many patterns in their solos, for instance all of them usually start slow blues solos with the same lick (each of them play a different lick, but all of them almost always use their particular lick to start the solo), they have certain licks for certain contexts. You will also notice how they will use a lot of dynamics, they may start the solo playing at a normal intensity, and then make it really loud, and then bring it way down. Or how they have a number of turnarounds that they will always use. Or licks that they only play over certain chords.

I think you will benefit a lot if you study how they use their licks to bring the intensity up and down, and also over which chord they use which notes.
It will help you understand the thought process behind the solos they build.
And that will help you play your own solos.
 
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Steveareno

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Maybe you're being to tuff on yourself. Just keep playing. The blues boxes are okay. Get out and play with others (jams at bars, if you can stand it) and keep it flowing. Don't stop and don't apologize. Don't finish a solo with "sorry I need to practice that some more". It probably sounded fine to the audience. You may be tired of playing the same licks over and over, but a fresh set of ears don't know any difference. Will Rogers used to say: "don't be afraid of going out on a limb...that's where the fruit is".
Swang on,
 

daveandshelle

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Stop trying to play fast...milk notes learn licks and then use them or they will be gone..learn to play around the chords AND in the scale of the key you are playing in..and really listen to the song..that will help greatly..there is listening and then there is listening closely and understanding..
 

Mjark

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I find Blues is very hard to play well. Leaving space and not rushing are important.
 

Mr Perch

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I echo Axeman's comment about paying attention to the chords and not just the key. One obvious thing to do as a start is to hit the root note of the chord on the 1 beat of the chord change.

You'll want to flat your thirds when you are at the IV chord. In other words, in the key of C, play Eb instead of E when you get to the F chord. On the V chord (G7) you can play B instead of Bb -- that's optional. Learn to think this way and you are on your way to playing jazz.

But to learn to play blues solos, there is no substitute for actually learning classic blues solos, note for note. You certainly wouldn't be the first one to do that. Eric Clapton even played an entire Albert King solo, verbatim from "Pretty Woman", on "Strange Brew." If you want to learn blues guitar, get a copy of Albert's "Born Under A Bad Sign" album and a couple of BB King albums, and study from the masters. It won't prevent you from developing your own style. It will make your own style sound like actual blues and not some suburban rock wannabe.
 

Lobomov

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Osmosis - you listen to your favorite blues records and try to play along .. and after awhile (a long while perhaps), it starts to fall in place and rubs of.

Also yes .. play with other people !
 

mozzarate54

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Play along with songs and leave the backing tracks behind. Also when you're listening to a solo really pay attention on how the guitar player starts the solo and ends the solo. Also try to focus your playing/soloing in one single position of the pentatonic do go crazy and just do fast runs all over the scale that's something I saw myself doing.

And one more thing use your ear!!! Play shorter phrases and see if your ear can follow or think of another lick.
 




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