#1
This feels like a dumb question and I don't know if this is the right forum for it but here goes.

I'm a decent guitarist who's been playing for about 10 years, mostly "jam band" style. I can "get by" in many different styles like blues, funk, and country but to me there is a big difference between playing a GREAT solo in a blues context, and playing a GREAT BLUES solo. In my beginning days I read many a book/article and watched many a video about blues guitar, learned 12 bar blues, other structures, pentatonics, blue notes, call and response, shuffles, all the stuff everyone knows makes blues blues. But I want to take my blues to the next level, I want my melodies to participate in the language and long history of this style. I can play really "bluesy" licks but they don't feel truly authentic. What I'm looking for is a resource, a book or video series or something, that will introduce me to some of these licks that have been passed down and altered through the years. I know the most legit way of doing this is by learning actual blues songs by ear but I don't feel like I'm yet immersed enough into the tradition to really know what songs are the most useful to learn. All help is super appreciated.
#2
research the early blues pioneers..of ALL instruments..the jazz idiom has many blues influenced players in many styles on many instruments..including big bands..where some of the best solo artists emerged from..the list would be long and would not give you any more information that just their names..to really reach your objective you will have to spend considerable time in each players catalog and "listen" to how they interpret the style..

the jazz record label..Blue Note would be a very good place to begin with jazz players

Charlie Parker John Coltrane Thelonious Monk Kenny Burrell Jimmy Smith Michael Bloomfield

just a small list of my personal faves that have taken the "simple" 12-bar structure and turned it inside out..
play well

wolf
#3
Blues is great because you get a huge payoff without a ton of study. I'd say to start right where you think you should start. Listen to the players you already know about, and start branching out from there. It's as easy as clicking on the suggested video sidebar when you watch youtube.

Something I can tell you is a huge amount of the Bluesy sound has to do with how you use your technique. Think of players like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton, and a lot of their sound is achieved by using technique boldly. When you want an accent, *really* accent it; when you want it quiet, play it so low the rest of the band has to play soft. They also made sure to follow the blues harmonic structure with their solos, because the I IV V motion is meant to build tension.

Having come from a jam band background myself, I can tell right away when someone's played a little too much Trey and can't get it out of their sound. The hallmark of jam band playing tends to be fairly flat dynamics within individual phrases and modal jamming. Those approaches, of course, sound terrible when you try play the blues. When you only have 12 bars to get your idea across, you need to pack a little more into each note and phrase. Your conversation is much more with the audience and yourself than your rhythm section. 

When you solo in the blues, you really need to be pushing the music forward. That means thinking about where your chord resolutions are and treating each phrase as meaningful to the harmony. In terms of motive, each phrase should beckon the next. Leave things unsaid. There are times when you can take a very patient approach, but it wouldn't be my first choice with only 12 or 24 bars. 
#4
justin.carter43 It really depends on which aspect of blues music you want to get into.  The original blues (as in field holler) has very little happening melodically or harmonically.  It's all emotion and rhythm and lyrics.  It takes on a whole new life once the jazz guys started importing it into their music, and, as jazz evolved. so did the approach to the blues, more harmonies got involved in the blues 12-bar progression, inviting more scales to be applied (to set up the incoming chord).  I think it peaked in complexity around the '40s (with bebop), but the playing was amazing (see wolfens comments above), and the solos were really melodic.  Of course, this influienced guitarists, and in turn that fed back into sax and piano players.  It seems to me now that we are back, with mainstream blues, with most of the jazz influences removed, and with emphasis on technique and virtuosity, and some loss of musicality (to my ears).  That said, bebop pulled in technique. virtuosity, and a large set of musical tools to draw from for their vocab.

Obviously there were the blues guys that didn't stray too far from the original blues form, blues scale etc:   B.B King, Albert King, Freddy King.  But they'd still pull out the essential tones in the chords (3rd, b7th) .

The main thing for melodic blues is being able to bring out these essential tones in your playing, and connecting them.  For example, in a Bb blues, you could play the 3rd of Bb (D) at the 7th fret G string, and on the change to Eb7, play the b7 of Eb7 (Db) at  fret 6, for a very smooth connection.

If you are interested in more melodic blues aproaches, you'd do well to listen to guitarists like Wes Montgomery or Charlie Christian.  A modern day equivalent would be Robben Ford (but he has a lot more jazz knowledge).  Sax players are amazing at the blues ... and since they have to play or breathe (ignoring circular breathing) they can get a lot done in one phrase ... be that a flurry of notes, or a single well placed stab.  For me Charlie Parker is king, and every now and again I'll transcribe one of his solos, and take ideas from it.

The next step beyond the blues scale is the Mixolydian scale, though the bebop scale blurs the boundarry between major and mixolydian.  A very commonly used scale for a bit more of an exotic flavour is Harmonic Minor 5.   (aka Mixolydian b9 b13).

e.g, for blues in Bb

Bb7 | Eb7  | Bb7  |   Bb7    (use Bb and Eb Mixolydian)
Eb7 | Eb7  | Bb7  |  G7(b13b9)   (use Eb, Bb Mixolydian, and G HM5)
C-7  | F7   |  Bb7 |   F7              (C Dorian F and B b Mixolydian)

Jazz harmony (2nd ed) by Andry Jaffe is a pretty good read.

Health warning:  this stuff can get very very addictive!!
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 22, 2017,
#5
Quote by justin.carter43
I want my melodies to participate in the language and long history of this style. I can play really "bluesy" licks but they don't feel truly authentic. 

This seems like the key part of your post.  Jerry is quite right about the history of the style, and how it changed when jazz guys got hold of it.  Essentially, jazz musicians started applying European harmonic concepts to what began as a modal folk style based on a mix of African and European (mostly Celtic) ancestry. It's matter of taste whether one regards that as a good or bad thing.   "Something's lost but something's gained" (as Joni Mitchell put it).

The question is what you mean by "authentic"?  That's a knotty question.  In blues, that would normally means referring back to the oldest forms of blues, the gritty rural stuff.  E.g, for blues fans, it's hard to imagine blues more "authentic" than this:

- that film is 50 years old, and his playing, stylistically, harks way back to at least 50 years before that.  Obviously no fancy jazz harmonies there!  But then again, hard to take any element of that and apply it in a guitar solo.  It's more about attitude, rhythm, nuance.

Moreover, it tends to be white blues fans and academic revivalists who think of "authenticity" in those terms (untrained, rural, gritty, folk, rare, scratchy 78s...)  For blues musicians themselves, the sophisticated players like Lonnie Johnson, T-Bone Walker or B B King are just as "authentic", in that they have integrity.  Musical training, even theoretical knowledge, is surely no bar to musical "authenticity"!  You just have to mean what you say, be true to yourself.

Without getting into a deep debate, I would agree with the others that listening to blues is what you need to do - not read books or watch DVDs.  There are enough original blues recordings available for masterclasses in all styles and periods.  Find the kind of blues sound you like - that sounds "authentic" in your terms - and copy it.  Trace those players' influences back as far as you can to get the historical perspective.  
It has to be your personal expression in the end (that's the only true meaning of "authentic" ), and  you get that vocabulary by copying everything you hear that speaks to you.  Not all blues will do that to the same extent.  Don't learn stuff that other people tell you you should, unless - yes! - it connects with you when you hear it.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jul 22, 2017,
#6
This is a seriously important topic for all musicians and styles of music, full of misunderstanding, illusion, and some truth.

What people hear and believe is the authentic sound of a music form or style depends on how they encountered it. For example, as guitarists getting started in 1969, my little friends and I had no reason to believe anything other than that the Blues was a recent development created by Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and a few others. As far as we knew, Blues came out of the old 60s Rock sound and gave it a more sophisticated foundation with a widened scope of possibilities. That late 60s early 70s Rock Blues sound was what we knew as "the Blues" with no idea of what had happened before that time. It would be many years later before it became clear that what we knew as "the beginning" of the Blues was really just part of a long path through time.
This has not stopped; a modern listener may believe that a modern popular guitarist is playing "Blues" and be "corrected" by an older guitarist who claims the real Blues emerged 50 years ago, who is subsequently corrected by an even older guitarist who claims the real Blues emerged an additional generation or two before then...

There is a "packaging effect" both on the part of an artist and the institutional business marketing structures that promote the artist. The effect of the "packaging" is to convince listeners (and confuse guitarists) by presenting a misleading picture of the artist's musical history and experience - a narrowing of the truth.
The easiest way to see this is to look at yourself as a guitarist. If you are like me, you have played lots of styles of music just in the course of being in different styles of bands performing at various venues, and you have explored lots of things just to hear how they work. This is the natural state of musicians and bands before they become popular, discovered, produced, and marketed. Once they enter the popularity path it is as if they are required to sign a contract that forbids them from deviating away from the music market style label for their category... they must stick to a certain "sound" in order to promote the illusion that this is what they do - only.
The result of this is confusing for guitarists who wonder why B.B. King, who played jazz songs with complex jazz chords as a young man, moved to playing pretty much no chords to the point of common assumption that he didn't know chords, or Clapton, who played well when younger, later made his hallmark sound that goofy doodle thing with the hammer-on pull-off hammer-on to adjacent string motif... lame and lazy... but that became his signature sound. Or why Jeff Beck, who played amazing lines when younger, later came to never let go of the whammy bar. Or why any number of guitarists changed and focused their public playing style to fit into distinguishable buckets of identity to facilitate their mass consumption in the music market.
This "type casting" of styles takes the extreme course in the whole Blues authenticity issue. There are Blues societies now acting as Blues Police that strive to make sure if a wayward guitarist plays a lick that sounds too much like T-Bone Walker during a B.B. King song, then there will be the proper frowning and head shaking going on to let them know they are breaking the rules...

Not sure how helpful or convincing these insights may be, but rest assured that many guitarists are confused along with you about this same question of how to sound "authentic" in a world where what may have been authentic at one time is now packaged with a label assuring that the contents are "the new old authentic". I can assure you that the longer you play and the more experience you gain, your natural ability to feel what is authentic gets better because it is your own authentic inner self that emerges in your playing, which is the only real meaning of artistic authenticity.
Quote by reverb66
I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
Last edited by PlusPaul at Jul 22, 2017,
#7
I'd suggest listening to the Blues greats of the past and taking influence from their techniques and styles. Build on from the groundwork they've provided and craft some good solos. You will need to learn the Minor Pentatonic scale and the twelve bar blues progression as well.

Robert Johnson is considered the king of the Mississippi Delta Blues. He's got an amazing fingerstyle technique and quite a few similarities to Metal (darkness, virtuoso technique, occasional lyrics that are vaguely Satanic, ect). He was a bitter young (died at the age of 27) man (as evident in his music) and his music was recorded on a budget in the 30s. Here's an example of his art


Next up is B.B. King. He's considered one of the greatest of the Bluesmen and for good reason. He may not be fast (I've even heard him admit to that) but his great vibrato technique and soulful playing will leave an impact. RIP B.B. King (he died just a few years back). 


I consider Howlin Wolf to be another Blues great from the same time period as B.B. King. He's got an aggressive approach to the blues that sounds swell. 


For a more modern and white example of a Blues greats, try Stevie Ray Vaugn. He uses an electric guitar and has technique up the wazoo. 


I think that's enough examples for now. 
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#8
There is no book and learning generic licks is the wrong approach. Learn some source material in context. You need the phrasing and you need the song.

For electric blues you can start with Albert King, BB King, Albert Collins, Freddie King. Learn one solo of each ( old 60's recordings preferably).
#9
Blues is a game I have played for a long time.  

My advice mirrors the others who suggest listening to the great players who move you and learn from them.  Great Blues comes from a deep place in your soul, not from your head so back away from the books, exercises, and folks who tell you Blues is ONLY this or ONLY that.  Listen and learn from the guys who did it right because they let "their" music come out.  Then go out to Blues jam nights, learn to play well with others and let "your" music out as you bounce off their changes. 

Son House, BB King, Mike Bloomfield, Clapton, Peter Green, SRV, Albert King, Robben Ford all have something to teach you if you are willing to listen. 
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jul 23, 2017,
#10
Quote by PlusPaul
This is the natural state of musicians and bands before they become popular, discovered, produced, and marketed. Once they enter the popularity path it is as if they are required to sign a contract that forbids them from deviating away from the music market style label for their category... they must stick to a certain "sound" in order to promote the illusion that this is what they do - only.

This was also the case when blues was first recorded back in the 1920s/30s.  Recording companies suddenly found that blues sold - so they hunted out more of the same, and guys from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Robert Johnson and Leadbelly were encouraged to sing "blues", and not the wide repertoire of music they were in the habit of performing.  (Johnson managed to get Hot Tamales past them.)

Myths of "authenticity" were also demanded by the public.  In the UK and Europe, Big Bill Broonzy was persuaded to play in overalls instead of the suits he usually wore.  UK blues "fans" were dismayed to see Muddy Waters toting a Telecaster in the early 60s.  
In a way, this is forgiveable, because European/British popular music was so weak and emaciated that US blues records grabbed the imagination, and the old scratchy ones seemed to have much more of that essential primitivism that was so exciting.  
Blues musicians who went electric were regarded in a similar way to how Bob Dylan was when he went electric. The feeling was that something deep, primal and "honest" was being jettisoned for ephemeral commercial reasons.  The performers were not seen as independent creative individuals, but messengers from a mythical  past, bearing secrets that would otherwise be lost.  It was about the preservation of an (imagined) endangered species.
#11
Quote by PlusPaul
I can assure you that the longer you play and the more experience you gain, your natural ability to feel what is authentic gets better because it is your own authentic inner self that emerges in your playing, which is the only real meaning of artistic authenticity.

Bravo!
#12
Quote by PlusPaul
For example, as guitarists getting started in 1969, my little friends and I had no reason to believe anything other than that the Blues was a recent development created by Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and a few others. As far as we knew, Blues came out of the old 60s Rock sound and gave it a more sophisticated foundation with a widened scope of possibilities. That late 60s early 70s Rock Blues sound was what we knew as "the Blues" with no idea of what had happened before that time. It would be many years later before it became clear that what we knew as "the beginning" of the Blues was really just part of a long path through time.

Just to give my own perspective on this.  I (and my friends) began playing guitar in 1964-5 (London UK), and the first music we played was jug band music, learned from a 1963 Jim Kweskin LP.  I was also inspired by a 1950s Lonnie Donegan LP that contained old country, blues and Leadbelly songs. So immediately we were aware that this music went way back, and I hunted out compilation LPs of pre-WWII acoustic blues anywhere I could find them.  

We British Stones fans smirked at the way the band had to introduce America to the folk music in their own backyard.  (Yes I liked the Stones, again because while they loved the blues, they treated it - properly - as just one influence among many, and sang Tamla and soul songs too.  And then wrote their own pastiches, of course.) 

So I was one of those acoustic blues purists who sneered at Clapton (or any white boy who played electric blues) as fake. Technically good, of course, but not the "real thing". For me, Broonzy was "God", and the Memphis Jug Band His fellow deities.  Clapton was great in the Yardbirds, because they were experimental, edgy.   But with Mayall he was boring.  Mayall's band was like a blues museum.
I liked Peter Green because he was also experimental beyond blues, and wasn't above sending up the "Brit white boys singing blues" syndrome in the way Fleetwood Mac played "Blues With a Feeling" with tongues obviously in cheeks.  
Hendrix, of course, wiped the floor with all of them, taking blues into a sci-fi future and making Clapton look pretty pathetic.  (Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Peter Green and Pete Townshend were also blown away, but survived better because of their respective creative visions, building on blues and taking it further.)  
Even in Cream, Bruce and Baker managed to make Clapton look like the junior member with their inventiveness.

So there was always an awkward balance there between revering the earliest blues recordings as a kind of Holy Grail, and how one addressed that in one's own music.  It was never possible to take blues seriously because of that self-conscious cultural divide.  The River Thames Estuary ain't the Mississippi Delta!  I loved playing blues (and still do), because it - still - feels like a connection with something deep and primal that speaks to me in a way my own culture doesn't.  It's become my culture, in the same way it did for Clapton, the Stones and the rest.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jul 23, 2017,
#13
Thanks for the advice guys, i'll be busy absorbing all this info before I can respond individually and have more in depth conversations about this haha. Got kind of overwhelmed by all the responses but I'm getting the gist of what you guys are tellin me
#14
Quote by justin.carter43
What I'm looking for is a resource, a book or video series or something, that will introduce me to some of these licks that have been passed down and altered through the years. I know the most legit way of doing this is by learning actual blues songs by ear but I don't feel like I'm yet immersed enough into the tradition to really know what songs are the most useful to learn.

There are courses on Truefire.com But I have learned all my blues vocab from transcription. You will be amazed how much you get out of just one or two good transcriptions. I highly recommend transcribing piano solos by guys like Oscar Peterson if you can stomach it. Start with this
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#15
Agreed that blues is essential to learn by ear. The melodic material is easy enough. The challenge is replicating extremely subtle technique and rhythm - aka "the feel".

Outside of listening and imitating your favorite players, my best advice for developing a real blues feel is to take chances. Play rhythms you can't count out, bend between the notes, be excessively repetitive, play nothing for measures at a time... blues is a platform of experimentation. Find the limits of your expression.
#16
Thank you all for the great advice, I had to do some soul searching to find which blues guitarists I'm really trying to emulate the most. The most significant source of blues playing that felt like the blues that plays in my head and that sounds like an influence on a lot of my favorite guitarists turned out to be B.B. King! His touch is exactly what I was looking for, and I really mean his TOUCH, not really any specific thing, not phrasing, note-choice, licks, just the very subtle feeling of dynamics and the way he frets and plucks his notes. A few others in the realm of Chicago blues, electric blues, and rhythm and blues (like right on the edge of rock and roll) also came to mind and I'm starting to look deeply into Chuck Berry.
#17
From a teacher standpoint, I can't recommend better than Keith Wyatt.  He was the Blues instructor way back in the day at GIT, now MI, and he does have a course on Artistworks.  I stress, the idea of *teacher* because anyone can play and demonstrate....but a real *teacher* is much harder to find.

I speak from the point of view that I am a guitar teacher, too...so I suppose there's that.


Best,

Sean
#18
Quote by Sean0913
From a teacher standpoint, I can't recommend better than Keith Wyatt.  

Oh... i'm agree with u.
Mr Keit  is probably the niciest man explaying some staff about play and very interesting info. I see his youtube's lessons
#19
Quote by justin.carter43
Thank you all for the great advice, I had to do some soul searching to find which blues guitarists I'm really trying to emulate the most. The most significant source of blues playing that felt like the blues that plays in my head and that sounds like an influence on a lot of my favorite guitarists turned out to be B.B. King! His touch is exactly what I was looking for, and I really mean his TOUCH, not really any specific thing, not phrasing, note-choice, licks, just the very subtle feeling of dynamics and the way he frets and plucks his notes. A few others in the realm of Chicago blues, electric blues, and rhythm and blues (like right on the edge of rock and roll) also came to mind and I'm starting to look deeply into Chuck Berry.

You've got the right idea. I'm an acoustic fingerpicker, but someone like BB King is a very good place to start for electric blues.
#20
Quote by Tony Done
You've got the right idea. I'm an acoustic fingerpicker, but someone like BB King is a very good place to start for electric blues.

Im agree with u. One of my favourite perfomence