Blue Notes: Tricks and Tips for the Blues - Part 1

author: Jake Jeremy date: 04/02/2013 category: guitar techniques
rating: 7.3 / votes: 19 
Blue Notes: Tricks and Tips for the Blues - Part 1
In this new series, I'll be looking at some techniques based within the Blues genre, throughout the years there have been numerous players that have developed and in essence "re-invented" the way that people define blues as a style. I'll be looking at the playing techniques of a number of different players, including John Mayer, Gary Moore, Eric Johnson, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford, so I hope that you enjoy the lessons and can learn, adapt and evolve the phrases provided to suit your own blues. In these lessons, I'll be working within the G Minor Blues scale; in 5 different positions on the fretboard (Positions 2 and 3 will be in Part 2, the 4th and 5th in Part 3). For each position there will be a different technique, which will hopefully aid in your ability to memorise the position, and find ways of adapting it to your own playing style. G Minor Blues Scale - 1st Position - Ascending
E-----------------------------------------------------------------3------6-----
B-----------------------------------------------------3------6-----------------
G------------------------------------3-----5-----6-----------------------------
D--------------------------3-----5---------------------------------------------
A-------------3---4---5--------------------------------------------------------
E---3-----6--------------------------------------------------------------------
G Minor Blues Scale - 1st Position - Descending
E----6-----3-----------------------------------------------------------------------
B----------------6------3----------------------------------------------------------
G-----------------------------6------5------3--------------------------------------
D-------------------------------------------------5------3-------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------5---4---3------------
E---------------------------------------------------------------------------6----3-
Within this first position I'll be showing you some string bending styles, the first of which is a Jeff Healey inspired technique. If you aren't aware of Jeff Healey, his playing style was unique in that, being a blind man, he began playing the guitar on his lap, much like a lap steel, and he learnt the instrument by mimicking his blues heroes, such as John Mayall and Eric Clapton. One of Healey's most impressive techniques was his ability to bend strings with one finger, with the power and ferocity of his idols. The lick below is in the style of Healey, where the initial whole-tone bend should be played with the third finger taking on the workload, without any other fingers supporting the bend, therefore freeing up the first finger to hit the high E string on the 3rd fret. Following this, using your second finger, play a quick semi-tone bend from C to C sharp on the fifth fret of the G string, then pull off to the Bb followed by the G (5th fret) on the D string to finish the lick. Repeating this phrase will help to develop strength in your bending technique, as well as differentiate the aural difference between whole and semi-tone bends.
E----------------3---------------------------------
B---6b8--------------------------------------------
G-------------------------5b6p3--------------------
D------------------------------------5-------------
A--------------------------------------------------
E--------------------------------------------------
This next phrase is in the style of Gary Moore, Moore was renowned for his expressive bending technique, and in this lick, the key is to attack and then hold the bends in the example until they naturally decay, with the skill being in learning to dampen the strings with your right hand to stop any unwanted noise while switching to the G string for the second part of the phrase. As a extra tip for this style of bending add a healthy amount of reverb to your sound, you'll find that it'll psychologically give you an extra push with the bend as you develop the technique. Playing this phrase will help you with your bending technique on the lower frets of the guitar, where you'll encounter more tension than where bending at the higher frets of the instrument, something I'll look at later in the series.
E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---3------6----6b8---------------------------------------------
G------------------------5b7------5-----------------------------
D---------------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------------------------
In this next technique, I'll be looking to develop the Blues scale further, by using an approach used by both John Mayer and Robben Ford, by adding the Major 6th tonality into the stock Blues scale, as can seen in this example:
E-----------------------------------------------------------------------3-----6----
B-----------------------------------------------------------3------5---------------
G-------------------------------------------3----5----6----------------------------
D--------------------------------2-----5-------------------------------------------
A----------------3----4-----5------------------------------------------------------
E----3-----6-----------------------------------------------------------------------
The Major 6th note, being the E natural (2nd fret A string and 5th fret B string) when played over a standard 1,4,5 blues progression can add a "brighter" harmonic quality to your playing as opposed to the standard blues scale with the Minor 7th note. It's good to experiment with both the Minor 6th and Major 6th in your soloing to change the "colour" of your sound and to add an extra dimension to your playing. In this next lick, I'll show you a John Mayer style use of the Major 6th:
E---3--------------------------------------------------
B---3h5----3-------------------------------------------
G--------------3---------------------------------------
D------------------5------2-------5/7\5----------------
A------------------------------------------------------
E------------------------------------------------------
To start the phrase, hammer on to the 5 fret on the B string, the E natural or Major 6th note of the G Blues scale, then, in a technique mastered by Mayer, sweep the next three notes (see "Everyday I Have The Blues" for example) and then play the E natural note on the D string to establish the Major 6th tonality again and finish with a "sweet" sounding slide of G to A on the D string. The second Major 6th technique that'll work with is a Robben Ford inspired lick:
E---------3-----6b7------3-------------------------------------
B----5------------------------6------3-------------------------
G------------------------------------------5b7p3---------------
D----------------------------------------------------5---------
A--------------------------------------------------------------
E--------------------------------------------------------------
As well as starting the lick with the Major 6th note, the semi-tone bend seen from the 6th to 7th fret on the E string adds a major/minor ambiguity, with the B note (7th fret of the E string) being the Major 3rd of G, this element is also important in the blues styling and can be exploited throughout the blues idiom to again create a different "colour" to the blues scale. To recap: String bending technique - Learning the aural difference between whole and half tone bends. Develop your finger strength with one finger bending. Major 6th Tonality - Using the Major 6th in the Blues scale to add a brighter quality to your lines. Thanks for reading, UG Fans Jake Jeremy
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