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Harmonica Lessons: 12-Bar Blues

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I've been talking a lot about the blues.
I've been playing a lot of blues licks.
But I haven't really explained to you the
most popular blues form, the 12-bar blues.
Bar means a measure in music.
Four beats, we're in four-four time.
And the blues has 12 bars.
And as you can see, it's only got a few
chords, the one, the four, and the five.
I draw the symbols for the chords as
Roman numerals cuz that's the way it's
usually done when they teach music theory.
[SOUND] So when we're the key of G.
G is the one chord.
If you go up four notes on the scale, and
start a chord from there
that's C, the four chord.
We go up one more note to the five,
that's D.
So the one
the four, and the five.
And since it's blues,
they're all seventh chords.
That's the triad with the flatted
seventh stuck on the top, which just so
happens to be
two, three, four,
five, is the G seven chord on the C harp,
which is why we play the blues
in G on a C harmonica.
So, these four chords go like this.
I'll just play them in a shuffle
rhythm, like a
so one, four, one, now the four,
another bar of the four, two,three,four.
Then the one, two bars,
then the five,
then the four,
then the one,
and then a little turnaround
on the five chord,
some sort of turnaround.
Sometimes it's, [SOUND] all
different kinds of turnarounds,
but that's basically the way it works.
It's divided into three phases.
Each four bars is a phrase.
The simplest Blues lyrics
have this A A B form.
You make up something about
something that's bugging you.
And you sing it in the first four bars.
And then you repeat it
in the second four bars.
While you're thinking of some way
to kinda answer this problem, or
to continue your discussion of your
problem in these last four bars.
And if you're a really good blues
singer you can make up stories, and
you can go on and on, and on and on.
And this is kind of the idea.
So suppose you wake up in the morning and
you don't feel very good.
It's like you see I, woke up this morning,
skies were cold and grey.
You play a fill.
I woke up this morning.
The skies were cold and grey.
Soon as I got out of bed I
knew it was gonna be a real bad day.
So before I compose
that immortal blues for
you right now and
you notice I didn't sing.
There is a good reason for that.
I was thinking what rhymes with grey?
Day, gray day,
sky's are gray it's gonna be a bad day.
So, a very, very simple idea.
So then when you play the harmonica,
if you're playing a harmonica on a blues,
you have to try the same idea.
Now this always blues licks
I've shown you a bunch of licks.
Now, the idea is to put those
licks together to tell a story.
So, I'm gonna have my main idea.
That's it.
I'm gonna wait, I'm gonna say it again.
Now I have to
have the answer.
And if you have a good imagination you
could say,
you could sort of hear some words
while you're playing these melodies like,
standing on the corner,
watching the sun go down,
that's what I was actually thinking.
standing on the corner,
watching the sun go down.
Night time's coming,
and I feel just like a clown.
I mean I don't know what to say.
Because my baby, she left me this morning.
See, you could keep making up stories.
So now I am singing,
unfortunately for everybody, but
I am playing fills to answer
myself on the harmonica.
And so, if you're playing harmonica with a
singer and he's singing about standing on
the corner, watching the sun go down,
you have to listen to what he's saying.
So he's standing on the corner,
watching the sun go down.
And then you might play something.
That fits with the feeling.
And this guys sings a little bit more,
and he says the same line again.
And then you go.
And play something a little bit different.
You don't have to play a lot.
I'm just bending the fourth hole.
[SOUND] Just a simple little blues lick,
and then he goes.
[SOUND] And he turns to you, and you go.
That's a good one for
the ending, for turnarounds.
That lick.
You go from two draw,
to two draw bend, to one draw.
And then you might want to hold the note.
While he sing's my baby left me this
morning, and I'm feeling so bad.
And then you get a little bit
more aggressive on the song,
because he's getting a little more
aggressive, I mean on your fills.
Because he's getting a little more
aggressive with what he's singing about.
When you're playing
the blues with a singer,
you have to respond to the words and you
have to fill between when he's singing.
Because if you're playing with the singer,
and you're playing all the time pretty
soon he's gonna look over at you, hey.
[LAUGH] Stop playing, it's my band.
I'm the singer.
The only way to solve that problem is if
it's your band and you're the singer and
you're also the harmonica player.
[LAUGH] And that way,
you never interrupt yourself.
So I am just trying to explain to you
a bunch of different
things at the same time.
Being a good musician,
how to construct the blues,
the lyrics of a blues and then, once you
understand what the lyrical construction
of a blues is then you start understanding
what kind of phrasing to play.
And it's not just a whole
bunch of notes and licks,
you're telling a story with your playing.
So, at this time, I'd like to tell
a little story with my playing and
play along with one of my prerecorded
tracks that's a shuffle in G.
And, I'm gonna play some blues for
you on this C harmonica along with that.
Now I'm going to play along with a pre
recorded piano track of a shuffle in G.
One, two, one, two, three.
well I've
a lot of
basic blues
licks in
there and
I tried
to connect
the top
of the
to the
of the
and for
the very
ending, I
did this.
Which I haven't talked about
before with you.
And it's kind of a modified tongue trill.
What I'm doing is I'm playing
from holes two to five.
Except I'm sweeping my
tongue over the holes.
And when I do that,
if I push my tongue over to the left,
the notes on the right come out.
If I push my tongue over to the right,
the notes on the left come out.
It's kind of like going
like this on a piano.
But it's a harmonica.
So, it's
So, the tongue is going [NOISE]
like a very fast windshield wiper.
And if I want to really differentiate.
I can separate those notes just in the top
note and the bottom note.
But this was more of a sweeping sound.
That's a good sound.
And I was also using my procession.
And sometimes I play very sparse phrases.
And let the band go so it's called,
when you're playing a solo, whether it's
blues or jazz, they call it using space.
And so you play something.
You make people lean forward
in their seats a little bit.
Instead of just always
coming at them like with a
I mean there's a time for that.
But there's also a time for a
Because then they're going to go,
what's he going to say next?
So when you're a soloist,
when you're playing a solo,
you have to have
an idea of the construction of your solo.
And why you're playing your solo and
why you're standing up on the stage there.
And people are paying money to hear you
and maybe you wanna try to give them
a full experience of music,
which involves telling a story.
It involves entertaining them.
It involves things that are funny, things
that are sad, things that are confusing.
And the blues It has all
of that stuff in it.
And so there's a lot of opportunity for
you to tell a lot of stories just by
playing the simple 12-bar blues slow,
fast, medium tempo,
just in cross harp position.
Now, of course, there are other
positions to play in as well.
And I think I'm gonna move on
to some of those right now.