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Blues Guitar Lessons: Horn Riff Variations

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Now, continuing our discussion of expanded
rhythm parts,
different ways of building the low end,
the mid range, the high end.
Riff chords, fabulous tool to have
in your tool box for rhythm playing.
When we talk about the high end,
let's look at some other ways of
playing those horn section things.
Now we know the principle, and
the principle of the horn section part,
and the principle of the chord riffs,
or the riff chords, is the same.
Which is a two bar phrase,
it really starts with the rhythm,
mm bop bata, bop bata, right?
Really common and the only difference
between the two is how much melody you
put into the part, or
what range you play it in, you know.
So when we look at horn riffs we're
usually looking at the high strings,
we're emulating the sound
of a horn section.
Which has a kind of a bright quality to
it, sits up on top of the rhythm section.
And one way to embellish that sound or
create alternatives of that sound is
to think of different chord voicings.
Now so far we've used two voicings for
horn section style rhythms.
One is the sixth chord [SOUND] and
the other is the ninth chord [SOUND].
And those are kind of
the workhorse voicings.
Workhorse chord qualities that
you hear in horn sections.
They were great.
Let's face it.
[SOUND] It has that uptown quality to it,
but it's nice and full.
So horn section arrangers, back in
the day when they had horn sections.
Used to think real hard
about how to create variety.
How do you make an arrangement
that sounds a little different so
every record doesn't sound the same?
And one way that they did it
was to use different voicings.
And, so for example, I'm gonna show
you voicing here of a ninth chord.
Now if we play an E9 chord,
the one that you're familiar with [SOUND].
That's with the root on the 5th string.
Now, if I play an E9 chord with
the root on the 6th string,
remember there's an imaginary root.
We don't actually play it.
But I'm up here in the 12th position.
Now, what other ways can
you play a 9th chord?
I'll show you one of them right now.
That's a pretty cool chord.
Now that chord has a history
among guitar players.
The legend has it that a guitar
player named Robert Lockwood Jr.
also known as Robert Junior Lockwood.
Taught that chord to Freddy King,
and Freddy King
used it on one of the most famous blues
instrumentals of all time, Hide Away.
It went [SOUND]
and so on.
Play that.
We'll get into something like
that later on, but anyway so
there's the Freddie King chord which is
really the Robert Lockwood chord [SOUND].
And another little footnote
in the blues guitar history,
Robert Lockwood was the step-son
of non other than Robert Johnson.
And Robert Johnson was living
with Robert Lockwood's mom.
And Robert Lockwood learned
to play guitar at the feet of
none other than Robert Johnson.
And went on to have a long career,
fabulous guitar player.
Played on tons of records in Chicago,
chess records, became kind of the kingpin
of the Cleveland blues scene,
and has since passed away.
But a really sophisticated guitar player.
And the evidence is in a chord like that,
which is so cool.
Now that's the kind of chord a horn
arranger would use because it fits well
with the way that the four horns
would interact with each other,
when you stack up and
each one plays a single note.
So here's an example of
a guitar taking work,
taking bread out of the mouths of horn
players and their families [SOUND].
All right,
now as far as how we use that chord,
it's the same idea as we've
been using all along.
It's a two bar phrase.
Up bop da da bow.
[SOUND] Ba dop da da bow.
[SOUND] Right, any way you wanna do
it that's an example right there.
And how do I combine that with four and
Well, [SOUND] I'm gonna use an idea here.
Well, first I'm gonna use sort of
a typical idea which is to group
the chords in the same
neighborhood [SOUND].
Here's my A9 chord [SOUND].
Here's my My B-9 chord [SOUND].
So now, if I'm playing a horn
section pattern in the key of E,
I might start out with
my more typical chords.
My workhorse
chords, E9 and
Now, with
the new
Pretty cool stuff, and
just changing the chord voicing suddenly
makes it sound kind of exciting.
So alternative voicing
[SOUND] up on the high end.
What's another way to do it?
Change up the quality of the horns section
without losing the rhythmic quality.
Well, let's start with
that E9 chord [SOUND].
Now instead of just going to A6 or
A9 [SOUND] let's come up with a chord
that has the same note on top.
And this is an arranging
concept called common tones.
Where you choose a chord voicing [SOUND].
And when you change to the next chord,
you keep the same note on top.
But, what it does is
link the chords together.
Now, the notes have to make sense,
obviously, but in this case, the top note
of the E chord matches
the ninth of the A chord.
It's a different voicing than we've
been using, but it's kind of a cool,
little bit jazzy voicing, so
I play A7 essentially [SOUND].
Top four strings [SOUND].
And add B on top and I've got A9 [SOUND].
So I can go from [SOUND] E9,
[SOUND] to A9.
And then let's see I want
a B chord with B on top.
We just learned a chord
that has the root on top.
Now, play that fancy Robert Lockwood
chord with the root on top.
Let's see how that sounds in the context.
I'll just play rhythm for
myself for a second here.
So in the key of E, here we go.
kinda cool.
Now another way to do the same thing
is pick a different voicing for E.
And see can you match it
keeping the same note on top,
common tone with the A and the B chord.
So here's another voicing of E.
This is one that it might take a second
to wrap your head around it but it's,
this is a really cool chord,
I use it a lot.
It's very useful especially in
the keys like E flat, D, E and F.
Where you run out of room on the bottom
in here, it allows you to play a chord in
the middle of the neck and you don't
have to get so high up all the time.
[SOUND] this is E13.
Now we're getting into
the jazz territory here, woo!
[COUGH] and what makes a 13th chord Is the
combination of the seventh and the sixth.
So we played a sixth chord
[SOUND] has no seventh in it.
But when I add the seventh to it
[SOUND] technically it becomes a 13.
So playing this in a more
comfortable position here.
I've got [SOUND] either route.
There's the sixth.
There's the third.
[SOUND] And there's the seven.
Just learn it as a shape.
And remember it has the root
as the highest note.
Not the lowest, but the highest note.
All right?
Now, if I want to change to
the four chord E13 goes to A.
What A chord do I know?
Or do I have to invent one that
has that same note on top?
Well it turns out that [SOUND] A9.
Right there, that's easy [SOUND].
Isn't that a nice transition,
it's very smooth.
Now, here's something that again I picked
up from listening to horn sections,
like BB King horn sections.
Very sophisticated arrangements.
To get the same note on
top using common tones.
They would play for their five chord B
instead of playing a typical B chord,
they would play this [SOUND].
Which we think of, now you might have
heard that in the context of jazz or
It's kind of dated now even, but
[SOUND] in the context of blues it's
still kind of a fresh twist,
on a familiar sound.
So what you've got there is
actually A [SOUND] over, B [SOUND].
So E13 [SOUND] A9 [SOUND] and
then A over B or [SOUND].
If you want to get technical B9 sucks,
but we don't wanna get technical, do we?
[SOUND] It's just A major,
[SOUND] with B in the bass.
[SOUND] How's that sound?
It sounds like this.
Two, three.
But, what's surprising if you listen
to like, a Howling Wolf record.
[COUGH] Howling Wolf's pretty down home.
But you hear his guitar player Willie
Johnson playing with full distortion, and
he's playing [SOUND].
Playing these 9th chords,
13th chords with the distortion.
It just sounds crazy.
But what he's doing is emulating the sound
of a horn section using a guitar, and
the distortion just kinda fattens
it up and makes it sound extra big,
like a horn section should.
So pretty cool ideas.
Now we're getting into
sort of the esoteric
theory there with the thirteens and
the common tones and so forth.
But these are actual sounds
that you hear on actual,
straight up classic blues records,
and it's good to know this stuff.
Let's try it out one time with
the rhythm section, just so
you can really hear how it works.
So we'll play on a twelve
bar shuffle in E.
I'm gonna pick,
we're gonna play two courses.
So I'm gonna pick a couple of them.
I'm gonna start up here with
a Robert Lockwood chord [SOUND].
And group my chords up here, and
then I'm gonna go down here and
I'll use those common tone chords like I
just played with the BB King type sound.
Let's see how that works.
Okay, here we go.
Now I'm gonna
13th chord.
9th chord.
13th chord.
Use that A over B.
Now that
A over B will catch
you by surprise.
It's like, wow that's different.
But that's the good thing that
creates a whole different quality
that isn't everyday,
always the same, generic.
And to be honest with you,
that's what a lot of blues is when
you listen to blues radio stations.
They're few and far between.
You have to go a long way before you
hear something that's really different.
Because everybody kind
of plays by the rules.
It's a stylistic thing.
But, when you throw in
a different chord voicing or
something in there, it kind of
helps freshen it up a little bit.
And the rhythm is still strong,
it still feels right.
But, a little bit different.
So, mess around with those voicings.
Play them against that
rhythm pattern there.
And when you come back, we're gonna turn
our attention back to another subject that
we looked at earlier, turnarounds, but
we're gonna take a different spin on it.
Okay, see you next time.