18 May 2011

Blues Guitar - 3 Things I Struggle To Master

I’ve been learning to play blues guitar for a while now. A long while. During that time I’ve made plenty of learning4695483486_b43cdd41f8 mistakes and still have challenges to solve.


In the coming months I’d really like to improve my playing, so I’ve been thinking about my problems to work out what to focus on.


Here are the top three playing problems that I came up with.


1. I still don’t know how to improvise a convincing blues guitar solo

2. I’m not fully at ease with a variety of blues guitar rhythm patterns

3. I don’t know what to play


Blues Guitar Solos

I think my biggest mistake learning blues guitar solos has been to spend too little time copying licks.


Instead I spent most of my time learning scale boxes. When I improvise with my scale boxes I play all the notes of blues solos. But my efforts just don’t sound like a blues solo.


I’ve come to understand that it’s not about the number of scale patterns you know. What I really need is a vocabulary of tried and tested licks. Licks that sound like blues.


Blues Guitar Rhythm Patterns

I love to play rhythm guitar, more even than playing solos. But I’ve noticed that when I play blues rhythm guitar most of the time one of two things happens:


1. I play the shuffle

2. I strum 7th bar chords in the same old way


I know there are a whole lot more interesting ways to play rhythm and create more varied patterns. But I just don’t feel comfortable enough with them and can’t think them fast enough to play them.


Don’t Know What To Play

My third problem is this. When I get a chance to play, I pick up the guitar and I’m there with my pick, but then I don’t know what to play. Nothing comes to mind. Blank.


Sometimes a little fragment comes to mind. But it’s not a whole blues song that I can play right through by heart.


How Will I Fix These Problems?

I have picked the following 3 practice approaches to improve my blues guitar playing in the coming months.


1. I will stop trying to improvise all my solos from scale boxes. Instead I’m going to learn a bunch of tried and tested blues guitar licks, study how they’re made and learn to plug them together to build my own solos.


2. Just learning blues guitar rhythm examples as they are given in a book or video isn’t enough. To really master the styles you need to dig deeper into them. I plan to revise all the patterns and styles I’ve already seen in several different keys. Then I will go on to make up new rhythm parts using the same techniques and chord types and practice those in different keys too.


3. I’m going to get myself a video or a book that will teach me a half-dozen blues songs and learn them by heart.


I’ll be blogging about the results I get from these three approaches over the coming months. You can join-up to learn how I get on. And if you know of a good book or video that teaches real songs and not just techniques, then I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or email me with your experience.


Photo by Shane’s Stuff.


FZ said...

I had classes for 3 years, mostly Rock and Blues. My teacher said I could fool the average listener because I had listened so much Blues that I could "mimic" the sound (bends and stuff) despite being too lazy to actually learn the riffs :).

I don't really know your listening habits, but I think you are in the right track: try to find some artist you really like and learn his "moves" :). It won't help you be creative of define your own style, but at least will keep you going when nothing comes to mind :).


Gary Fletcher said...

Hi FZ, thanks for sharing that.

My favourite would be T-Bone Walker. I guess I'll have to stop being lazy and learn his moves... :-)

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