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Blues Guitar Lessons: Blues Rhythm

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Now, we've spent a number of
lessons talking about different forms.
More rhythm, feels, different ways to
play rhythm, textures and so forth.
So, at this point, we're gonna move into
some different territory here coming up.
But I want to take a moment to kinda
recap what we've talked about so far,
and just kinda bring it all together and
put it in perspective.
We've got the three basic song writing
forms that are common in blues.
12 bar, 8 bar, and 16 bar.
Now, what I'm not mentioning, which we
will cover later, is the one chord blues.
It has no chord changes at all.
And that's actually a pretty common
style and you hear that a lot.
And that's it's own challenge, in a way.
But, as far as chord progressions,
12, 8 and
16 are the one's that
you'll hear most often.
They're the ones that are sort of
understood by number as opposed to
learning it off the record and
rehearsing it and
so forth as you would do with a pop song.
We know how to get into a blues,
how to start it off.
From the one, from the five,
from the turn around.
We know how to play different kinds of
turnarounds, the classic turnarounds,
the more improvised, or
single note turnarounds.
We know how to end a progression,
we could just play straight on through,
we can stop on bar 11, stop on bar ten,
go around a couple of times and
then stop at the very end.
Extremely common.
They're all based on
the same three chords.
These are all kinda hand signals and
people yelling out stuff on stage.
But once you know how they work,
very easy to pull off.
Don't require any rehearsal at all.
The basic principle of playing rhythm, no
matter what the texture is, riff chords,
horn section, up beats, boogie,
shuffle, all these different fills and
ways of playing an open position and
so forth.
The whole point is really that you're
harmonizing the other instruments
in the rhythm section.
We are the harmony instrument,
in most cases.
Way back in the day, it was the piano that
really had the role of being the harmony
instrument and the guitar was
more of a percussive instrument.
But once electric guitar came in,
then we took on the role of being
the main harmony instrument.
So we're listening to the kick drum,
the snare drum, the cymbals, the hi-hat.
[SOUND] And all the parts that we play
are, in one form or another, either
duplicating what the drummer's playing or
answering what the drummer's playing.
Syncopating, meaning you're playing
on accents they are slightly off
the central down beats of the measure.
So I'm either harmonizing
the drum set directly,
playing with the kick in the snare and
the cymbals, playing what they're playing.
Or I'm playing syncopated patterns
that are kind of bouncing off of those
parts and creating different textures.
I've got my layers of rhythm.
I can play low parts.
Mid-range parts.
My high-end parts, horn section.
Cool stuff.
If I'm playing in a band, let's say, and
the other guitar player is doing this,
I don't want to do that.
I don't wanna be the second guitar
doing that, there's no point, right?
I want to be able to respond
to that part and say well,
if he's doing that, I'll do this.
And that way we create
a well-arranged rhythm section.
When you play rhythm guitar,
you are an arranger,
whether you think of it that way or not.
We think of arrangers as the guys
sitting there with the music and
he's writing it out on the staff,
and all that, no.
You're arranging right on the spot, and
that's a big part of your role in a band.
There's two basic ways
to look at rhythm parts.
There's time, time keeping parts and
color or variety.
And working with hundreds and
hundreds of students over the years,
guitar players playing
in live performances.
Almost all the time,
when you look at classic arrangements,
you can break the guitar parts down
as time parts and color parts.
And this is kind of a good way to conceive
of the whole idea of playing rhythm.
Even if there's no guitar on the record,
you're trying to do a version
of a record that you've heard.
And there's a piano on the record or
there's just a solo guy playing acoustic
guitar and
you're trying to invent an arrangement.
You say well we need a time keeper.
Or something like that.
Maybe double the bass pattern.
And then to play with that,
let's have a color part, right,
that will create some variety.
So you've got the low range,
the mid range, the high range.
You've got time keeping parts.
You've got color parts, and
by listening to the bass player and
the drummer and
understanding what they're doing and
knowing all of the options
that you have available.
You can invent arrangements on the spot
for as long as you play blues.
And you'll be considered a valuable
player because you have those ideas
in the back of your mind that you can come
up with the right part at the right time.
Now we'll keep coming back to rhythm,
we're not done with the subject by any
means, but we're gonna turn our attention
to some more guitar specific techniques,
and soloing, and things like that.
And start to kind of stretch out
the vocabulary that we use when
we play in different settings, all right?
So, that's just something to think about,
time keeping and color, layers and
that's pretty much gonna define your
role as a rhythm guitar player for
as long as you're playing blues.