24 April 2009

3 Blues Guitar Soloing Secrets

Running up and down a pentatonic scale is an easy way to get started playing blues guitar solos, but you soon realize that there's more to it than that to create the sounds of blues players you listen to. Here are three secrets to help you extend your pentatonic skills and sound more like your blues guitar heroes.

Photo hart_curt.

Minor and Major

Instead of running around minor or major pentatonic positions, get into the habit of using both.

Many blues players use a mixture of both the minor and major scales as well as the blues scale. This one secret will give your solos a whole new dimension.

An easy way to do this is to use the pentatonic major scale over the I chord, and switch to the pentatonic minor on the IV and V chords. Pop on your favourite blues jam track and try this out.

If you play the major scale over the IV chord you'll notice that it sounds kind of odd. The major third tone is the major seventh of the IV chord and clashes with the chord's dominant seventh note. The minor third hits that dominant seventh and sounds way better.

Play Fewer Notes

A big mistake lots of novice blues soloists make is to play too many notes. Once you've learned the pentatonic or blues scales you're usually eager to show off your knowledge by trying to go as fast as you can and play as many notes as possible in the least possible time.

Your licks and solos can be made much more effective, though, by limiting the notes you play, and their quantity. To develop this skill select at most three or four notes from the available scales and practice licks and whole solos with only those notes.

Throw In Some Chords

You can improve your solos by developing your skill with the blues scales, but another way to get ahead fast is to throw in a few chords from time to time.

As with any other trick, the skill here is not to overdo it. Don't start playing chords on every bar, but punctuate your single note licks with chords or chord fragments from time to time and you'll take your solos to new heights.

Of course, the other important trick with this technique is to hit the right chord. You can practice this by firing off one, two or four bar licks and ending each one by hitting the right chord for that bar. Again, use a jam track, or record a simple chord backing, so your mistakes will stand out.

Bonus: Getting Chromatic

Here's a bonus secret for you, you don't have to stick to the scales all the time. Throwing in out of scale notes builds tension in your solos that you release by ending on a scale tone.

Practice linking notes of the scale with chromatic runs. This technique works well as a lead in to new phrases. You can take the tension to its maximum by using out of time rhythms too.

The basic ingredients of blues guitar solos are quite simple to learn, the pentatonic scale positions can be learned and memorized relatively easily and quickly. But don't stop there, there are plenty of different ways to apply them to create more interesting sounds. These three secrets will give you a good start, but keep on the look out for more to build your bag of blues solo tricks.

Guitar article writing: Gary Fletcher writes quality, original content for your guitar web sites. Discover guitar writing services for web sites, blogs and newsletters. Visit http://www.writescribe.com/guitar to learn more.

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Sarge said...

Nice Gary. Good advise on playing fewer notes. I think when playing fewer notes that would be the time to bend those bad boys or just hold the note.

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Curt, the fewer notes one seems to be one of the hardest. All that hard work to learn the scales only to not play them...

Anonymous said...

Great tips!

I've come to realize a big part of adding feeling to solo work (esp. in blues,) is vibrato of important notes (a kind of add-on or offshoot of your "less (notes) is more.) BB King type stuff.

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