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Old 09-16-2004, 12:02 AM   #1
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The Minor Blues: A "Quick" Tutorial

Minor Blues

This is really a combination of multiple conversations and threads and posts on minor blues. It is meant to put everything together for convenience.

Well we all know that a lot of the blues we play are in a major key. Being that all the chords are dominant, and therefore major, we have a major key to them. Typically, you?ll see most 12-bar and 8-bar blues in major keys. Even though we play the minor pentatonic most of the time, it?s still a major key.

Then we have to ask the question, ?What are the characteristics of a minor blues song?? Well, perhaps some of you saw Doug?s post in a blues thread a while back, which has the formula?
|: im7 | ivm7 | im7 | im7 | ivm7 | ivm7 | im7 | im7 | bVImaj7 | V7#9 | im7 | V7#9 :|

? As opposed to your basic major key blues:
|: I7 | IV7 | I7 | I7 | IV7 | IV7 | I7 | I7 | V7 | IV7 | I7 | V7:|

(Note: on both of these formulas, in the second bar you may notice the iv/IV chord. This is often done to break up the monotony of the four straight bars of the i/I chord? This second bar can have either that iv/IV chord or the i/I chord which you see often)

Now, one may notice the big differences in the forumlas. This is simply the way it is done, folks. Try playing a basic bassline over each type of progression and you?ll notice a difference. Next, play the actual chords themselves rather than just root notes. Even bigger difference, no? Sounds different and has a different kind of movement, especially towards the end where that bVImaj7 chord comes in.

Let?s make an example in the key of C.
|: Cm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Fm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Abmaj7 | G7#9 | Cm7 | G7#9 :|

im7 = Cm7
ivm7 = Fm7
bVImaj7 = Abmaj7
V7#9 = G7#9

As you may see, this is all in relation to the key?s major scale (in this example, C major ? C D E F G A B).

Want to move even farther? Well, that will involve tritoning some things and shifiting chords around. Here?s a little trick Doug taught me about reharmonzing things:

Basically, you can tritone any chord (technically) in the minor blues progression. However, doing in that in certain places can sound bad. It usually works best on the dominant chord, but since there?s only one, what else can we do? Well, to say it outright, we?re gonna have to reharm the 4th bar in Cm7 to a ii-V7 in Fm, then tritone both of those chords. The results are quite wicked my friends. The fourth bar is simply:
| Cm7 |

Let?s make it a ii-V7 in F (before you do, remember: the ii chord in a minor key will be half diminished, AKA m7b5):
| Cm7 | -> | Gm7b5 C7 |
(also note that the V7 can be an alt chord? usually is, in fact, for many reasons)

But remember, we must now tritone both the Gm7b5 and the C7?. So we go, in total:
| Cm7 | -> | Gm7b5 C7 | -> | C#m7b5 F#7 | <- your new fourth bar

Now, we?ve got a tritoned ii-V7 in Fm over the im7 chord in C (whew?.). Let?s number the steps to simplify things:
1.) Make the fourth bar in the im7 chord into a ii-V7 of the iv chord.
2.) Tritone both of those chords.
3.) Stick those final two chords into the fourth bar as the replacement.

OK, let?s take a look at this new progression:
|: Cm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | C#m7b5 F#7 | Fm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Abmaj7 | G7#9 | Cm7 | G7#9 :|

What should we be seeing? Simply enough, two transitions: one, the Cm7 to the C#m7b5? interesting change, although it is quite smoooooooth. ; two, the F#7 (or F#alt) to the Fm7? once again, a great trasition, since the F# chord is a dominant chord, which has loads of tension? finally released into a m7 chord. Being a half-step movement, loads of goodies are created. An alt chord moved half a step down to a m7 chord is always a safe bet.

What else we got? Like I said, you could simply just tritone the G7#9 and make it sound good, since it is a dominant chord and all. But there is more, folks. There is also the option of changing that bVImaj7 (in the key of C, Abmaj7) into the ii chord of C?. Remember, the ii chord is a half diminished.
| Abmaj7 | -> | Dm7b5 | therefore? |: Cm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Fm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Dm7b5 | G7#9 | Cm7 | G7#9 :|
(notice i'm going back to the original minor blues format... for now, nothing with the ii-V7 in F for the fourth bar here)
Why does this work? Well, the Dm7b5 is a tritone away from the Abmaj7? going towards the theory of ?tritoning anything to anything.? We?ll be getting to that at a later time?.

What have we got now? Well, it seems to me that the Dm7b5 is a good transition from the Cm7?. However, combine this tactic with tritoning the G7#9, and WOWSERS?.
|: Cm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Fm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 | Dm7b5 | Db7#9 | Cm7 | G7#9 :|

Notice, people, that we go Cm7 ->Dm7b5 ->Db7#9 ->Cm7?. B-e-a-uuuuuutiful chromatic step down in chords. In the major key, remember, where we have this D, we?d have the V7 chord, which creates loads of tension and seeks release, it makes you wanna return down to the key chord?. Same thing here, only a different approach: Step down from a half diminished chord into an alt chord (the Db7#9), oh damn people, then back to the key chord, Cm7?.. that last measure is up to you; remain in Cm7? Go back to the G7#9? Or keep that G7#9 tritoned, and stick in the Db7#9? Options are endless here.

Final list of options presented here for messing with the minor blues:

1.) Make your second bar either the im7 or the ivm7 chord, no matter.
2.) Make the fourth bar in the im7 chord to a ii-V7 of the iv chord?s scale, then tritone that and stick the two chords in the fourth bar.
3.) Tritone the V7#9 chord.
4.) Make the bVImaj7 the iim7b5 of the key chord.
5.) Combine options 3 and 4 for a beautiful chromatic approach.

(Please note that I did each of these options individually in my examples, as you may have noticed; as in, I didn?t do the steps 3 and 4 combined with step 2? I wanted to show them individually, so you could see how each option can affect the flow of a minor blues song.)

What do we play over these things? Well, things are a bit open. Much like in a major key, where we can choose the minor pentatonic or combine it with major-scale notes and making the scale a hybrid such as 1 2 b3 3 4 b5 5 6 b7 7, we can pick and choose.

However, once we start tritoning and messing around with the chords within a minor blues progression, we have to be more chord-specific; I find modulating best, hitting roots over the stranger chords and perhaps attacking the b5th in a chord, for example.

I?ll quote raindog:
Minor blues can seem a bit less free to different scales, but with a little trial and error, I've found it to be about as harmonically open as a major blues. The three main scales I use most are the minor pentatonic, blues scale, and dorian scale. When you move to the ivm chord though, you should omit the 6 from the dorian scale, perhaps using a b6 instead (making it an aeolian scale). Most stuff that I have done in minor blues has been more jazz based, so it might not sound as 'traditional' as you might prefer, but I often change the i chord to a m6 (it is functioning as a tonic minor after all) so I can play melodic minor over it as well, which is a very cool sound to my ears. The bebop dorian and bebop melodic minor are also cool choices. There are many scales available over the dominant chord, you probably are aware of them. Just like major blues, it goes as far as you want to take it. The only notes I think I would think to totally avoid (exept as a passing tone) over the i is a natural 3, though it could be played over a iv if you use a normal minor min/Maj7, or m6 chord, or over the V.

Summing up for him, you?ve got a plethora of options to play over minor blues. Notes to avoid, however, seem to be the major3rd anywhere. Otherwise, trial and error people. Using one scale is a bit dangerous? like if you used the C dorian scale the entire time, that natural 6 is the major3rd of F?. BAD, especially once once we hit the Fm7 chord. The harmonic minor of the I chord (C in my examples) is often used over the V7#9 chord, so in my example, C harmonic minor over G7#9. Even once you tritone that V7#9 chord, C harmonic minor would work, with some care however.

Questions? Please inquire. I learned most of this recently, mainly from Doug, and of course from Beat?s occasional references, and Rain?s quote I have up above. So ask them as much as you ask me.

I would like to get up some music files (like beat has done in his lessons) of these examples (for instance, I?d play a major blues progression, and immediately following, I?d have a minor blues progression; or I?d play an example of the 2nd option in my list). For right now, they aren?t up on my dmusic website. Once, or if, I get them up, the address is bluesday.dmusic.com ?
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Last edited by redwing_suck : 09-16-2004 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 09-16-2004, 12:23 AM   #2
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cool, whenever you get the audio files up, ill check em out

now to print this out..
how can free will exist with divine preordination?

[Tab, Rock] Intro Riff
[Tab, Rock] Unfinished Song Intro

Last edited by hobo8917 : 09-16-2004 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 09-16-2004, 12:30 AM   #3
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just to let you all know, the audio files will basically be one big long track like beat's files for his lesson. i'll explain in mass detail once i get them up, as i've pretty much decided it's essential to have them. however it might take a few days lol.
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Old 09-16-2004, 01:13 AM   #4
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wow, awsome
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Old 09-16-2004, 07:30 PM   #5
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Hooray, I've been slacking on learning minor blues for a LONG time!


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Old 09-16-2004, 09:13 PM   #6
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lol well reharm'ing minor blues has become my new hobby...

god i'm a nerd.
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Old 09-18-2004, 12:51 AM   #7
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Nice lesson, I too have been meaning to look into this.

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Old 09-18-2004, 01:22 AM   #8
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ok guys the recordings for the examples are done, only there will be a few days' time before they are at my dmusic site (bluesday.dmusic.com).

it's all one track, so here's how it's laid out:

first example is simple 12-bar blues progression.

second example (a few seconds after the end of the first) is the new 12-bar progression with the ii-V7 in Fm added in. it ends as it goes back into the 7th bar (with a Cm7 chord).... no need to finish for this example.

next example is 12-bar in Cm with the tritone sub in bar 9 (Abmaj7->Dm7b5), all else remains true to the 12-bar minor formula.

last example is the progression with both the tritone sub in bar 9 (as in third example, directly above) AND the tritone sub for the 10th bar (G7#9->Db7#9), and finishing true to the formula. (last four bars are basically this: | Dm7b5 | Db7#9 | Cm7 | G7#9 | )

but we'll have to wait.


EDIT: chord voicings in examples are as follows....
Cm7 -3- -4- -3- -5- -3- -3- Fm7 -1- -1- -1- -1- -3- -1- Abmaj7 --- --- --- -5- -3- -4- G7#9 --- --- -3- -3- -2- -3- C#m7b5 --- --- -4- -5- -4- --- F#7 -2- -2- -3- -2- -4- -2- Dm7b5 --- --- -5- -6- -5- --- Db7#9 --- -5- -4- -3- -4- ---

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Last edited by redwing_suck : 09-18-2004 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 09-20-2004, 09:18 PM   #9
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This is a great article Red. I have been wanting to understand minor blues for a long time now.
"They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, Call me Deacon Blues"- Steely Dan
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Old 09-30-2004, 05:00 PM   #10
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That's the same basic chord progression from Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You". It's a I-IV progression. It's my favorite to solo over. I don't like the basic V-IV-I myself. Too limiting. I feel obligated to play only pentatonic stuff in that..
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Old 09-30-2004, 08:01 PM   #11
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page messed around a lot more with that progression though.... however it is that format. in the tab book, it has a foreward by the transcriber.... he says something to the effect of "taking the minor blues to a whole new level..."

i never knew where that format came from until i learned this stuff.

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Old 10-11-2004, 05:20 AM   #12
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Nice one. This has helped me a lot. Thanks man.
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