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Blues Guitar Lessons: New Orleans Two Beat

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In our last lesson,
we looked at one aspect
of the New Orleans sound,
and that was this kind of big, lazy,
triplet bass shuffle
with a Latin tinge to it.
New Orleans rhythm and blues was
epitomized by the sound of Fats Domino.
Fats Domino is, I think you could say,
he's the king of New Orleans music.
Certainly the most popular musician
to be associated with the city, and
the rock and roll, and the rhythm and
blues world for quite some time.
And [COUGH] he had different
facets to his style as well.
And so
you listen to Fats Domino's catalog, and
you hear a cross section
of the New Orleans sound.
Another feel or rhythm that we associate
with New Orleans is the second
line rhythm, and
the story goes that when the band
is playing the funeral march on the way
to the cemetery, it would be this dirge,
Nearer My God to Thee, it's sad and
they're moving slowly,
and they walk through the streets and
they place the body into the crypt there.
Now once the body is interred and
they said their, paid their respects,
they turn around, leave the cemetery,
and on the way back, it's party time.
And the drummer starts,
and they're all playing the parade beats,
the marching beats, on the snare drums,
and people start to get in the pockets.
And other people who didn't even know the
guy who died, they join in and pretty soon
you gotta a parade going down the street,
and it’s got this cool kind of vibe to it.
And that's what the second line is, it’s
the second rhythm leaving the funeral,
and it’s found its way into lots of
examples of New Orleans popular music.
One kinda derivation of that is this two
beat that we're gonna look at this time.
[COUGH] We know the two beat
as got my mojo working,
real fast blues kind of thing,
or as a rockabilly thing.
This is another take on the two beat.
The two beat feel is one of
the fundamental feels in popular music.
There's four four, there's the two feel,
they’re both essential, and
if you get a handle on both of them
you've covered quite a bit of ground.
So, what we're hearing, basically,
with any kind of a two feel,
is the alternation,
its starts with the alternation in
the bass of the root and the fifth.
that can be expressed in different ways.
We've heard it as the boom chick style.
We've heard it as the rockabilly style.
In New Orleans it's very common that they
double up on that and it goes like this.
So it has this
kinda bounce to it.
Same tempo, same two notes, but
that extra strike on each beat.
Kind of lifts it up and
makes you wanna move a little bit more.
What you hear against that might be.
[SOUND] And again, guitar is kind of
a secondary instrument in New Orleans.
There's piano, saxophones,
and the drummers.
They've got a big role in that sound for
So what does the guitar do with this?
The guitar usually kinda picks up
on some aspect of the drumbeat.
Now, you could play chicks.
Right, and at that tempo,
this would be what
the chicks would sound like.
It's interesting to note,
that Fats Domino had a record in the 50s,
a number of them actually,
that were heard in Jamaica because
the radio stations broadcast
across the Caribbean there.
So Jamaican musicians were very
familiar with Fats Domino's sound, and
there's a lot of evidence that points
to Fats Domino, sort of inspiring
the Jamaican pop recordings that
created the style called ska, and
ska is an upbeat, it's almost
a two beat with sort of a lift,
and ska and reggae are hand in glove.
So between New Orleans music, and reggae
and ska, a lot of crossover, very similar.
It's not an accident that they have
similar kind of rhythm arrangements.
So we've got the chick, so we've got.
Where you kinda play a funky,
scratchy little pattern, and
you find your spot within the rhythm.
Different ways to interpret it,
but those are a couple of basic
flavors that we would hear.
Let's listen and play.
I'll play some examples of parts and
we'll talk about the rhythm thing,
and segue into soloing.
Okay, here we go,
two beat in the New Orleans style.
the double up two beat.
Play the 12 bar goes to the four chord.
Drums playing more the parade beat,
the second line rhythm.
Here's the four.
And up on top,
I can put a scratchy part like this.
all right,
I hit the ending
there with the band.
[COUGH] That give you sort of
the skeleton of the sound, two beat.
Drummer is very syncopated.
we can imagine that up beat
being a steady thread,
even though nobody's exactly playing it,
and then.
And then, I'm kind of echoing what
the drummer's playing,
and getting that little,
kind of light hearted groove
going in the middle there.
This is reminiscent of a Fats Domino
song called Hello Josephine, which is
a classic, it's got all the ingredients
laid out, and just it's like a textbook
when you listen to it, you say that's a
classic two beat arrangement right there.
So listen to that song and
you hear exactly what I'm talking about.
Now, as far as the song is concerned
when there's a solo there really isn't
like an improvised solo
it's the horn section.
Right, they play a theme, and
it's based on what we call riff chords.
All right, and as a soloist,
if I have the freedom to
kind of extrapolate that,
I can take those ideas and build them into
something that would
be slightly different,
but still within the same territory.
Lets see what happens.
I'll play a little solo
over that groove and
see where we go with that.
All right,
a little bit
of everything
in there but
it was mainly
built around
third intervals.
And a melody, and
I had the sound of Hello Josephine
in the back of my mind.
Adjusting for
the chord change.
Very melodic, very sweet,
very even major scalish.
And then.
I thought I'd get a little bit more rock
and roll, and
continuing with the double stop idea,
I can play another double stop based
theme, but not quite so pretty and
melodic, maybe a little bit more
of the Chuck Berry type vein, in.
And sure enough,
those ideas fit pretty comfortably
over the top of that rhythm.
It's literally in this case the melting
pot of music where we've got different
influences coming in from different
places and got that two beat feel.
Two beat is also fundamental to Latin
music, so it can be expressed in different
ways, with syncopation or there's
that steady back and forth quality.
You got the upbeats that eventually would
resurface as ska and reggae, you got
those little scratchy rhythm parts that we
would hear on all kinds of funk records.
Down the road of peace and
the double stops are common in
all different styles of music, but
we here them in rock and roll, and so
all this stuff circles back around and
in the end you've got your vocabulary
of ideas that you can apply over top
of just about any groove you want.
So send me a recording of
yourself playing a two beat and
find the spot in that rhythm.
Listen to Hello Josephine,
find your rhythm and then take a solo and
see can you find the stylistic
approach that suits the feel or
the vibe of that kind of rhythm pattern.
Relaxed, melodic, and yet
forward, got some energy to it.
All right, look forward to hearing it.