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Blues Guitar Lessons: Blues Changes

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Blues Changes.
All right.
Let's talk a little bit about
a subject called Blues Changes.
Now, changes in the musical
sense means chord changes.
Changing from one chord to another.
And blues changes are kind
of the foundation of, well,
you could say it's at the heart
of tonality in the general sense.
We talked about tonality before,
about the major scale
and how those half
give it that
feeling of a center of gravity where
you can hear where the one is.
And all the melodies and
harmonies are built around that one.
That system of harmony where you've
got chords based on a scale and
there's a perfect match,
it's called diatonic harmony.
And diatonic means it
covers all the tones.
We have seven tones in
the musical alphabet.
And so.
You have a seven note scale,
it's called the diatonic major scale.
And in the diatonic system,
every note has a chord associated with it.
So there's C, and
that's accompanied by the C major chord.
D, the second note of
the scale has a minor chord.
The third.
The fourth.
The fifth,
the sixth
the seventh and
back to the one chord again.
And that system evolved
over a number of years.
It kinda coalesced, well gosh,
probably seventeenth century.
Something like that, it's a long time
ago and it was a European concept.
European music at that
time was highly organized.
Orchestras playing orchestral instruments.
They were designed to be
played in large ensembles, and
everybody had to play in
tune with each other.
Music was composed and it was very grand.
It was complex,
multi layered harmony and melody.
This was a system that
suited that concept.
At the same time, music was really
originating in Europe from the church and
the aristocracy.
It was high class stuff.
That sort of music, at least.
So this system of tonality was
based on everything resolving.
It all had rules, layers,
it all matched up, and
then finally at the end of the day it was
The pope's on, he's down in Rome,
and the king's on his throne, and
all is right with the world.
Blues, not so much.
The difference in blues is that we
borrow the same concept of tonality,
yes, there's a blues in a key, and
you know what that key is, and
it's even built around
the same central chords.
Which are the 1 chord, the 4 chord,
the 5
and these are the chords built
off of those notes in the scale,
of course, and so on.
Even in a symphony by Beethoven,
you would hear 1, 4 and 5
as kind of a central harmony around which
all the musical themes are revolving.
One part of that tonality,
that concept of harmony,
is that the 5 chord, the 5th chord in the
scale, which in the key of C would be G.
The 5 chord has a specific, unique sound.
It's a dominant chord.
We know about dominant chords.
We've been playing them already.
In the diatonic system,
the dominant chord has one function.
It is the 5 chord which
then resolves to 1.
It creates that effect, and that's
saying all is right with the world and
everybody is in their proper place,
but in blues,
that resolution
that we hear in diatonic music,
it doesn't happen that way.
In blues it's
It's more like that, right?
So the 5 chord
resolves to a
another dominant chord.
Now, why is blues built
around dominant chords?
That's a good question, and I don't know
if there's a real specific answer to that,
other than that blues is a fusion of
European and African musical styles.
From Europe you get this highly
organized system of harmony.
And the instruments like the guitar and
the piano that are built
to play that stuff.
And from Africa,
you get a completely different
concept of how music is performed.
There isn't an orchestra with a conductor,
it's everybody kind of
in a circle together.
Rhythm is a much bigger element.
Textures are changing all the time,
it's not written down,
it's more like an idea that people,
sort of, work on together.
It's a group exercise.
So a lot of interaction between
the musicians and the audience,
it's hard to tell who's who,
they're kind of all the same.
Whereas in Europe, the audience over here,
the orchestra's over there.
So a lot of reasons why things
are different, but the collision
of African music and European music
created the sound that we call blues.
And, near as I can figure out, is that
the dominant chord just represents kind
of the central underlying quality
that we associate with blues,
because it has an unsettled feeling to it.
All is not right with
the world in blues land.
You get to one,
you're not that comfortable.
That one chord feels like it wants
to move, it has a little grit.
So however it evolved, the idea that
in blues the basic harmony is
built around three chords.
The 1 chord, the 4 chord, and the 5 chord.
And that those chords
are all dominant chords.
That was a sound that coalesced around the
the beginning of the twentieth century.
And it's been with us ever since.
And it's just what we say, that's blues.
That's the blues sound.
Now where going to introduce the idea of
chord sets, and that's taking the two
chords that we know, which is all we need
to play the three chord blues progression,
because I can repeat one of the shapes
twice within the progression.
So, organize those into sets so
that I can play in different keys, and
the idea is that I wanna keep
my rhythm parts sort of more or
less within the center part of the neck.
They're gonna sound better that way.
And it produces a better sound than if
I drift off into the upper frets here.
So, here's how that's gonna work.
We've got A7.
Let's start in the key of A.
We got D7.
and A7
Those are our three chords.
Now, I'm gonna play four beats which
is one stroke per beat, like this.
Real, real relaxed and easy.
Then I'm gonna shift to D,
play four strokes on D,
shift to E,
play four strokes on E.
And back to A again.
All right.
Now, to sort of sweeten the pot
a little bit, I'm gonna go to
the next key which a fourth up from A is
And now I'm gonna play
1-4-5 in the key of D.
All right.
This takes some thought.
This might take a little planning
before you can knock this off in tempo.
I've got D.
What's the 4 chord in the key of D?
Well, the 4th of D,
we know from previous exercises, is G.
It's down there.
The fifth is easy to find
because it's just up two frets.
I'm back at D again.
So I've got 1-4-5 in A,
and I've got 1-4-5 in D.
What's my next key?
1-4-5, and the next key is C.
Now I'm gonna run out of neck here, right?
So what's after C, it's the key of F,
I can still manage F.
But B flat's gonna be a problem,
I'm gonna go up here and find B flat.
Now I've got E flat,
well that's easy, that's right there.
Next one is A flat.
1-4-5, A flat.
I've got D flat.
1-4-5, D flat.
What's after that?
G flat.
1-4-5 G flat.
Now B I'm going to have a problem.
I'm going to have to hit that open string.
I don't want to mix the open and
fretted chords.
So I'll go up here for B.
And then E.
And then I'm back to A again where I
started It's pretty complex.
I mean, there's a lot of
stuff circling around there.
But each idea is one that
you've already encountered.
So you know the cycle of fourths.
We know now what 1, 4, and 5 look like.
[COUGH] 5 is always gonna be two frets
away from 4, so it's easy to find.
So really if you can find 1 and
4 you're home free for 5 and
you go back to 1 again.
And so this is partly a mechanical thing.
I'm getting the fingers to cooperate and
find the notes.
It's a mental thing.
You're figuring out how the keys work,
where 1, 4, and
5 are and then we're gonna introduce
this rhythmic idea of playing.
With the metronome.
And, again,
I wanna make that metronome disappear.
Change to the next key.
Now, another little side note here about
technique is, as I'm playing those chords,
I'm fingering the chord,
I'm strumming the chord.
But I'm not holding down
the chord all the time.
To make it feel more rhythmic, I stroke
the chord and I release the pressure.
And what do you hear happens?
It cuts the chord off.
Not with this hand.
But with my fretting hand so
I stroke it, release it, and
I'm feeling very distinct quarter notes.
Now, if I don't do that, I get this
that's more of a folky strum,
that's not something you hear
blues guys do very often, so
we wanna have that rhythmic quality to it.
All right, so your assignment is
to play 1-4-5 in all twelve keys,
cycle of fourths, four strokes per chord,
with the metronome.
Any questions?
If you do, seriously, if you do
have questions get ahold of me and
I'll tell you what's happening,
I'll fill in the blanks if you will.
I'll see you soon.
All right, let's do this together.
We're gonna set up the metronome and
pick a tempo of 60 beats,
per minute,
which is one beat per second obviously.
And, whether this is fast or slow, the
idea is more just to get the feel of it.
Now as I'm playing it,
I'll play it along with you.
I'm gonna call out the changes,
or I'll call out the keys rather.
And so you're gonna play along with me.
Now when you do this by yourself,
of course,
you gotta think of these keys yourself.
But we're doing two things here,
we're thinking about the chords, refining
the fingerings at the same time, and then
we're trying to blend with the metronome.
I didn't say try, did I?
We're gonna blend with the metronome.
Now at a slower tempo, and
this is all a relative thing,
it's sometimes even more challenging to
play slower tempos than faster tempos,
because there's a lot of
space between the notes.
So you really have to relax.
Physically take a deep breath, and
just take your time, and let it come, and
just happen.
Okay, here we go.
Let's get that tempo going.
[SOUND] And one two A and
there's the four chord.
Key of D.
Four chord.
Q, G.
You see
Key of F.
B flat,
shift position.
E flat.
A flat.
G flat.
B, shift
we're back
home to A.