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Blues Guitar Lessons: Electric Blues Rhythm

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Now, we've already learned
quite a bit when you
add up all the pieces.
We know the harmony,
we know the form, 12 bar blues.
We've got a rhythm pattern now.
And now,
I wanna just take a minute to talk about
the concept of electric blues rhythm.
The electric guitar was really invented or
it became available widely
in about the mid 1930s.
And before that, if you were a guitar
player, of course, you played acoustic
guitar and acoustic guitar players
kind of came in two broad categories.
There were the self-contained
guitar players,
where as a guitar player,
you had to supply your own rhythm,
your own harmony even when you were
playing notes high on the neck.
For example, it might sound like this.
And so
It's a sophisticated style and I'm gonna
show you how to do that by the way,
later on.
You're sort of keeping time down here and
at the same time,
you're brain is split and you're paying
attention to the notes on the high end.
So it's a lot going on, but
it's the guitar equivalent of the piano.
Piano players have no problem doing it,
That's how you learn to play is
both hands working together.
So that was one aspect of playing
guitar in the acoustic era.
The other aspect was that, if you were
in a band playing with a drummer,
bass player, full horn section.
Playing acoustic guitar your job was
basically an extension of what had been
the role of the banjo in an earlier era,
which is your,
essentially a percussion instrument.
And so a guitar in a big band
playing a swing style song,
playing an acoustic rhythm would
sound something like this.
along those
Now what you're hearing is yes,
you hear the chord, but
you really hear the chunk,
chunk, chunk, chunk, chunk and
that's my job as that kinda guitar player,
is to be the metronome.
And I am locked in with the bass player,
the drummer meanwhile is having a ball,
In a swing band the drummer gets
to do all kinds of crazy stuff.
Now when the electric guitar came in
the 30s, guitar players that had been
playing acoustic guitar, when they
switched over to the electric naturally,
they kept playing the same way and
they said, wow, it's louder.
Now I can hear myself better.
But basically, playing the same parts
until a couple of very creative came
along and said, well now, wait a second
as is true of most technology, right?
They said, yeah, it's like that,
but it's also something else.
It allows you to do different things and
the electricity really
allowed you to do wasn't that
it made the guitar louder only,
it also made it possible to hear
the guitar and play it softly with a band.
In other words,
you had suddenly dynamic range.
You couldn't just have to pound
the notes out in order to be heard,
you could actually relax a little bit,
play different textures.
Be more creative with your rhythms,
because you can still hear those parts,
cuz the amplifier is carrying
it out to the audience.
So, it really changed the whole
concept of guitar rhythm.
So instead of being a strict time keeper,
now the guitar was able to
create layers and textures.
So when we play rhythm guitar today,
what we're doing is kinda
creating a layer cake of rhythms and
we're gonna break those down for
you as we go forward and
we're gonna break chords into,
essentially three layers like
what we've been working with so
far [SOUND] with the boogie
shuffle [SOUND] is the low hand.
We've played the full chord,
that's kinda covering the whole thing.
That's more like the acoustic style when I
go, [SOUND] that's acoustic style rhythm.
But the boogie shuffle is really
an electric style rhythm and
then we play chords and
textures in the mid-range,
that's on the inner strings, then we play
other things on the high strings and
the guitar in effect becomes an orchestra.
And once people really figured out
the potential of the electric guitar
as a rhythm instrument,
it changed the sound of music.
Guitar became not only a lead voice, but
it became the primary harmonic
instrument in the rhythm section.
And unfortunately,
put horn sections out of work,
even put piano players out of work.
It just changed the whole sound
of the way pop music was played.
Now as rhythm players, and
we're gonna be just playing rhythm for
a while yet, we have to understand what
our partners in the band are doing.
And so what I'd like to do for you is play
a rhythm track and I want you to listen.
I'm not gonna play a guitar, I want you to
listen to what's going on in the rhythm
track, that's the bass and the drums.
So then I'm gonna give you
a little quiz after that, okay?
So let's roll that same rhythm
track that we practiced
the 12 bar form to with the boogie shuffle
and just listen for a second, okay?
Here we go.
Break it there.
Now, here's the quiz.
Bass pattern.
What's the bass player playing?
Can you sing it?
That's the starting point is can you
replicate that sound with your voice.
There's the root, we're in the key of A.
playing a shuffle.
A shuffle rhythm and
the notes start on the root and then he
plays like a little melody in the bass.
I'm gonna break that down for
you later, but
the bass pattern is essentially what's
called a walking line, in other words,
he's walking up and down the notes
of the chord as bass players do.
Okay, that's all we need to know at the
moment is the bass is outlining the chord,
that's how we know it goes to D and it
goes to E, cuz we hear the bass make those
changes and we can hear the sound of
the chord, played one note at a time.
What was the drummer doing?
Can you sing the drum part?
All right, this is like the human beatbox.
something like that.
Now the drum pattern, typical drum
pattern is made up of three layers.
There's the bass drum and
a typical sort of stripped down
pattern would just be boom, boom.
First beat and the third beat or
even on every beat,
boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Above that is the snare drum and
the snare drum goes.
When you hear that bop.
That's on.
That's on the second and
fourth beats,
that is called the back beat.
And that's the essence of the modern blues
sounds that became the essence of rock
and roll.
I mean, you hear that everywhere,
all forms of popular music, the back beat.
It originated when drummers were
doing that on the high hat,
it was very subtle and
then a guy that gets credit for
that often is a New Orleans
drummer named Earl Palmer.
He started smacking that snare
drum real hard on the second and
fourth beats and everybody listens and
says, yeah, that sounds real cool.
It became the new hip dance groove.
So snare on beats two and
four, the back beat.
Kick drum on one and three or every beat.
And then where's the shuffle, how do we
know the drummer is playing a shuffle?
Its the high hat.
[SOUND] Right?
So when we play rhythm
parts on the guitar.
What we're doing on that particular rhythm
is emulating the sound of the high hat and
at the same time,
we're hearing the kick drum and
the snare drum and
we're hearing what the bass is doing and
they create the context,
the foundation upon which
we lay that rhythm part.
Now as we learn more parts and
more ways of creating textures,
it's gonna become more colorful.
We'll be able to create all kinds of
different sort of feelings and rhythm and
make the rhythm section sound very cool,
that's kind of an overview
of the blues rhythm sound.
And what that does is prepare us for the
next step, which is to learn more about
playing blues specific rhythm patterns and
use all the techniques that you
hear on the records that you
probably already listen to.
All right.
I'll see you the next time.