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Blues Guitar Lessons: Blues Arrangements: Intros and Endings

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Now we're going to finish up our
discussion of the 12 bar blues for
the moment by talking about how
blues arrangements are constructed.
Blues has traditionally been
a pretty spontaneous style and
if you have the experience
of going to a jam,
like a there's a club where you live and
they have a blue Monday is typical, right.
So Monday night when they really don't
have many people going out anyways,
so they have a jam session.
It's the chance for all the musicians
to get together and the common language
is invariably blues and so you have
players of all different levels and
backgrounds, you never know what's
gonna happen, but you wind up doing
a lot of 12 bar blues and you'll hear
terminology being thrown around.
And if you don't know what it means,
it'd be very confusing.
But often, people don't really
have a clue what's going on and
they're looking for
somebody to kinda give direction.
And if that's you,
that makes you a more valuable
player in every sense of the word.
So let's talk about
blue's arrangements and
give you some tips on how to start a blue
song and how to end a blue song and
these are the types things you
can do without any rehearsal.
It's just like right off the bat,
never met anybody in the band, but
everybody knows how it works and
bang, you're into it and
that's the beauty of the blues
is this universal language.
You can play with anybody in the world, if
they just kind of know the fundamentals.
All right.
How do you start a blues song?
We're gonna do, now let's see.
This is a Mean Old World
in A from the top.
Now what does from the top mean?
From the top simply means,
start the progression right
on the one chord and just.
Now we know what slow change and
quick change are.
So if I say,
Mean old world in A from the top.
Quick change, here we go.
One, two,
you got all the information you need.
All right?
Assuming it's a shuffle, it's blues.
Chances are you know it's from the top,
which means just counted
in right on the one chord.
Quick change, bar two.
I gotta go to the four chord and
then the rest of it is just
following standard changes.
If you're ever in doubt about
what the next cord should be or
are you playing it right,
you always listen to the bass player.
Even if the bass player is wrong,
if you follow the bass player,
you're right, cuz you're with him.
So the bass player really controls the
harmony of the progression once the song
So from the top, no problem.
Here's another one,
Mean Old World in A from the five.
Here we go.
One, two, three, it was like, right?
[LAUGH] What was that?
From the five, what?
we know what the five chord
is I'm in the key of A.
What's the five chord in A by now,
automatic, E.
[SOUND] So what I'm saying when I
say from the five is shorthand for
saying, start the progression on bar nine.
Now you don't have to count it,
you're just starting from the place in
the progress where the five cord happens.
So when you play through that 12
bar progression, you play one cord,
4 cord back to the one.
Now you come up to bar nine, bar nine.
Bar ten.
Bar eleven, turn around.
Bar 12 and we're back to the top.
So if I say, play key of eight from the
five, that means you position your hand,
if you're playing rhythm.
Whatever rhythm part you have chosen for
yourself and
this is sort of the default part [SOUND]
and you start playing from the five.
And it doesn't change a thing
in terms of the rhythm parts,
if you're playing the Boogie Shuffle,
it's the same Boogie Shuffle you would've
played, if you'd started on the one.
If you're playing the upbeats.
If you're playing horn section style.
et cetera, et cetera.
Whatever part you're playing, you just
start it right on the five cord and bang,
you're off to the races.
That's the second most
common way to start a blues,
the third most common way
would be from the turnaround.
Now we know what the turnaround is.
So from the turnaround, means
the equivalent of starting on bar 11.
And we go, [SOUND] this is barn nine,
[SOUND] bar ten.
So here's bar 11.
So skipping the preliminaries there I say,
lose an A from the turn around.
One, two, three, four.
And so on.
Now what happens when you come in and
play from the turnaround?
What do you do?
Well, often, that's the point at which you
would throw in one of those classic licks,
because they're designed for exactly that
circumstance there where it's kind of
a feature the spotlight's
on the turnaround.
And that lick is designed to fit right
in there, it sounds very smooth and
it says blues right from the first note.
So, one of those classic turnarounds would
be ideal [SOUND] to play in that position.
Sometimes, the band will hit
that down beat and stop and
the guitar plays all by itself.
In some cases, the band might play
through with you, there's no way to tell.
But those are three common
ways to start A 12 bar blues.
From the top, from the five,
from the turnaround.
Now hold that thought, we're gonna talk
about endings, then we'll put it all
together in a progression and play and
see how it sounds in practice.
How do you end the blues?
Well, we've been doing
it sorta by default.
By playing all the way through [SOUND] and
the second chorus of every progression.
And just doing that little ending
freeze there, flat two [SOUND] to one.
That's no break.
In other words, the band just
plows straight on through and
we just keep playing rhythm
right up until the last note.
A typical way to end the blues
is to throw in a break.
In other words, there's a bar,
where nobody plays and
something happens to fill the bar and
it often turns out that it's the guitar
that gets the call to fill that bar.
So here's a typical example,
break on bar 11.
What's bar 11?
That's the top of the turnaround.
And this would be signaled by somebody
in the band, waving their arms,
the singer ideally, if they know where
they are, which often they don't.
Sometimes, the drummer or anybody in
the band who seems like the leader.
Maybe it's you.
Raise that guitar neck and
bang, bring it down.
The band stops and
then you're the hero, you play the lick.
So bar nine.
[SOUND] Here we go.
So the band drops out, the guitar
keeps playing that turn around lick.
It's a beautiful thing.
Now sometimes you
might stop on bar ten.
How do you know when you're
gonna stop on bar ten?
You don't, that's a signal thing.
Why would you stop on bar
10 instead of bar 11?
Well probably because the vocalist
has a line that they wanna emphasize.
Think of Hendrix and Red House.
Well, if you don't,
my baby don't love me no more,
I know her sister will.
That was a stop on bar ten.
So bar nine.
My baby don't love me no more.
I know her sister will, right?
So that break right there is ideal for
vocals because it leaves that last line
open and kind of, especially a good line
like that, it puts a spotlight on it.
So, no break, break on bar 11, break on
bar 10, these are all just hand signals or
people yelling at each other.
There's no charts, there's no plan.
It's all just gonna
happen right on the spot.
Now another variation on that
kind of vocal oriented ending
is to go around three times at
the end of the progression.
You play the last four
bars three times in a row.
Sometimes two times, whatever.
But it's called the tag and
usually this is the singer saying,
let me say that one more time, you know.
And that means go back and
play the last four bars so
that they can sing the last line again.
Again, to make an emphasis on
whatever the lyrics are about here.
So the tag ending would
be something like this.
You're coming up on the end of the song.
The singer says let me,
let me say that one more time.
Take it around again.
All right, you don't play the turnaround
cuz you're gonna go back to five.
I don't believe you heard me.
I'm gonna say it one more time.
Come on fellows, back me up, last time.
I know.
Now, that is a typical tag ending.
Now, the thing to keep in mind there,
and a lot of this stuff won't make
any sense until you're on stage, and
then you'll remember, right, that's what
he told me, yeah, now I get it, right.
So the point there is that you
don't play the turnaround,
in other words, don't go five, four, one.
And then go back to V again because doing
that is sort of like
telegraphing the ending,
it's jumping the gun, it's deceiving.
So you just stay on the I until the very,
very last time.
So the only time
you're going to put in any kind of
a change is on the very
last repetition of the tag.
All right, now again, this is, okay,
a lot of information, I think I get it.
We have to put it to work in a context.
So I've got a little progression for
you here that we can play.
Starts with,
the intro is from the turnaround.
And then at the end of the progression,
it's going to be a tag that will go around
several times, three times to be exact.
And the very last time there is going to
be a break, and this is very typical.
It sort of trains you to
hear where the stops and
the starts are, and how you react to them.
So I'm going to play over this thing,
and just give you kind of a demo, but
this is something I want you to play and
send to me,
to show to me that you know what's going
on when the band stops and starts.
And when you listen to blues records,
you're going to hear all
this stuff happening.
This is just how they do,
very common, all of this stuff.
So, let's put it to work.
We're going to play,
in our old familiar key of
A from the turnaround, tag ending okay?
You with me?
Here we go.
Now there's
gonna be
a tag here.
So we played
the ending twice,
now we're coming up
on the third time.
And the ending.
Yeah, now as far as the solo there,
there was nothing noteworthy about
what I was doing that was different or
specific to that kind of an arrangement or
I'm just soloing it in a typical
style playing stuff that happens to
come to mind, phrases that you've
heard now many, many times.
So what makes it unique to this
particular arrangement is that
I'm hearing the changes and
I'm saying back to five, right, okay, and
I'm playing around the last four bars.
We're gonna do it one more time.
Playing around the last four bars.
Here comes the ending, three,
four, bop, babada, boobada,
boobada, boop, bang, bang.
Now at the end, the band stopped, and
I didn't play a classic turnaround,
I played a single note lick,
just a regular old lick extending
the style that I was playing in the solo.
That's the deal,
that's like the Freddie King lick,
is I'm not changing my style,
I'm not thinking of some specific lick,
I'm just playing a lick that
fits rhythmically in the whole.
And I know where I'm going,
I'm gonna end it on the I chord.
So, that's kind of the deal is that you
want your turnarounds, intros, endings
to be blended together and feel just as
intuitive as the rest of your playing.
Now it takes some thought
to get it to that point,
a lot of repetition before
it settles down and
you start to hear the changes coming and
you can predict what's going to happen.
But play around with that progression,
and record yourself playing over it,
and show me how you're handling
coming into it and getting out of it.
Now, I'll point out one thing,
on the intro there,
the band stopped on the one beat,
there was a hole for the turnaround.
But the drummer kept tick, tick,
tick, kept time on the high hat.
Often that's not the case.
It's really up to you, the guitar player,
to keep time, and so when you get that
tempo you have to be very careful that
whatever licks you play, if it's a classic
turnaround or whatever, you lay it right
in the pocket, same thing at the end.
If you speed up or slow down, it throws
the band off, so you want your phrases,
whenever you're playing in a hole
like that, to be very rhythmic.
Rhythm is number one, definitely,
even if it's one note.
You know, like a
That's a perfectly legitimate way
to play it, exactly that way,
cuz it gives everybody the clearest
possible signal about what's going on.
So rhythm first, melody second.
Keep it simple, lay in the pocket.
All right, see you next time.