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Blues Guitar Lessons: Using the Entire Neck

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Last few lessons we've been
looking at the low end of the neck.
It's kinda the home of
the down home blues.
Such a great sound.
It really defines
the essence of the guitar,
brings out the most distinctive
qualities of the instrument.
When you listen to a player like Stevie
Ray Vaughan, who is sort of a standard for
all of the skills and stylistic range
that we think of as blues guitar,
he sort of encompassed the whole thing.
When he played in the key of E, or
in his case he tuned down to E flat, but
same thing.
He would play plenty of stuff
in the down home position.
He did major homework.
He studied his Lightnin' Hopkins, and he
studied his Chicago blues guitar players,
and he learned those open
strings upside and down.
He could play any way he wanted.
But then he also had
that Jimi Hendrix thing,
where you play,
And that's what we're
gonna talk about today,
is integrating the open position and
the upper frets.
This is most obvious in the key of E
because of the range of the guitar, but
you can apply that to other keys, as well.
It's just kinda thinking about all
the options that you have available and
not neglecting any part of
the neck because it's foreign.
You wanna make it all friendly.
So you listen to Stevie playing Pride and
Joy, for example.
And now we know that rhythm part.
And so on, and
he plays right at the front of you.
That's just such a basic sound of blues.
You know, that's the evidence that
hey man, that guy, he studied.
He studied.
He went back and
he listened to his Jimmy Reed, and
he listens to his Jimmy Rogers and
all these guys that were
kinda the standard setters for
early electric blues guitar.
And worked those in there.
But then when he starts taking his solo,
you hear that other side of his
personality come in as well.
And there's the Hendrix thing,
but it's not just Hendrix.
It's just like let's go for it,
and it sort of encapsulates
the other end of the blues spectrum, which
is the high notes that Freddie King and
Albert King in particular made so
So we know how to play in open position,
if I've got my shuffle in E, and I want to
jam down there, I've got some ideas now.
No problem.
Now if I wanna go higher up the neck,
one of the first things that
players tend to do is you
just skip from here to here.
And suddenly you're low and then the next
thing you know woo, you're way up high and
it's one or the other.
But it tends to neglect the whole
middle of the neck, and
it also neglects the connection, the sort
of the flow that you wanna hear when
phrases move from chord to chord and
kinda take you from one area to another.
So let's look at some of that.
Now we can use the open strings to
help us navigate in the key of E.
We used them in open position.
In the last lesson,
I talked about I'm in the key of G and I
kinda went off.
But the same idea applies in E in a more
standard way, I guess you would say.
Which is.
I guess the E chord, the open E string and
the open B string, are both super strong
chord tones, the fifth and the root.
And so
if I play a melody on the third string, I
can move it around the third string up and
down and keep those two strings open.
And it's suddenly got a real fat quality.
Now it sounds almost kinda like from
a different part of the world in a way,
if you do it like that.
But when you hear it
in the context of the.
It's a way of linking those
two ends of the neck together so
that it sounds like it kinda naturally
flowed, one to the other.
It wasn't a jump.
It was a trickle.
Now another aspect of that, instead of
using just one string against two open
strings, is to use the,
[SOUND] this double stop.
Now this is a very useful double stop.
And Stevie used this one,
among many other people.
So, in the key of the E, I've got the B on
the third string at the fourth fret and
D on the second string.
So those are [SOUND]
both part of the E chord.
Now that shape,
first finger, second finger.
If I move my hand up two frets,
same fingering.
Now I've got the sixth, sweeter sound, and
the root, okay, little color change,
but still within the family.
Move it up three frets.
Now I've got the root and a minor third.
Getting a little bit bluesy there.
Move it up two frets, what have I got?
The ninth and the fourth.
That's kinda getting
a little bit out there, but
that's a transition that
brings me back home again.
I've got the third and the fifth.
You can
hear it.
It's this giant set up.
You just feel the tension building
as the interval moves up the neck,
and then, bang.
You explode on that high E chord,
and it's super exciting.
So that's the kind of transitional phrase.
Open strings, or double stops.
And with that double stop there by the
way, I can keep that open E string going.
So even though I'm farther up the neck,
I can use the open strings to kinda keep
it grounded, if you will.
Now once I start to move through
the progression in the key of E,
I've got all the standard phrases
that I would normally play.
I could stay in my one position here and
I can hear my A chord
tones and so forth.
I get to flavor that any way I want.
I can make it sound more rootsy,
or a little bit sweeter, or
anyway you like it, we all know that.
There's some phrases though that are kinda
part of the standard blues vocabulary
that you wanna learn, especially
when it comes to making the changes.
And I'll show you one.
This is such a classic.
This phrase, I think, might have
originated with Jimmy Rogers who was,
he played guitar with Muddy Waters
in Muddy's golden era,
where they kind of invented the way to
play blues with two electric guitars.
That lead directly to bands
like the Rolling Stones.
The British bands all listened to
these records and they said, man,
guitar number one and guitar number two,
we'll split those parts up, and
then they wrote completely different
songs, but based on the same principal.
So Jimmy Rogers played some
really cool stuff, and
then Freddy King who studied Jimmy Rogers.
He sat literally in front of him and
studied what he was doing when he was
a young man and learned his licks.
He took them and he used them, and then
Stevie Ray Vaughn studied Jimmy Rogers and
studied Freddy and said, man,
I'm gonna use that lick too.
Here's an example of what
I'm talking about here.
We're playing our blues in E and
I've got my opening transition idea.
Okay, now I'm on
my four chord.
Back to one.
Now it goes from the five chord to
the four chord, and back to the one,
and the turnaround.
And here's a phrase that is part
of the classic blues vocabulary.
Works like a charm, and you can twist
it and turn it in different ways, but
it sounds really cool.
From the five chord.
Okay, that was like a seamless
one giant four bar lick.
That phrase has been played
that way many times.
So the idea there, and
I'm gonna put this all together for
you in single solo in a second.
But on the five chord, I'm playing
off of the B chord,
that would be pattern number four.
But I'm really playing the arpeggio of
the chord, in other words,
playing the notes of the chord one at
a time using the blue note phrasing.
And then move it down two frets,
there's A.
Start it the same way,
go from the seventh fret down, the ninth.
And now,
I'm gonna keep going because I'm
starting to think of aiming toward E,
so I'm starting my transition
back to the one chord.
Now that would be pattern number
five in the key of E.
And drop it all the way
down to the low note.
So in tempo, and
I'll then finish the idea.
And from the five.
wherever you
wanna go
after that.
So we've got a super powerful way
of getting from open position up to
the twelfth fret, building the solo the
first four bars, really tons of energy.
I can play up in the high frets for
a little while, and
then when it's time to
bring it back home again,
I've got my set pattern that'll bring me
back down again, from five to four to one.
Let's see how that sounds with
a rhythm track and it's pretty cool.
I think you'll like it.
All right.
Now you get the general idea there.
You got to dig in really
hard to play this stuff.
And I wanna take just a second here for
a slight side trip.
Talking about tone.
You know I'm playing very clean and
at a very low volume right now.
You know, the amp is barely turned up.
The way that you create a big sound
is not necessarily by playing loud or
by using a lot of effects,
it's how you attack the guitar.
if you listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn, and
listen carefully at his recordings,
and the same thing applies to Hendrix.
Except when they were stepping on the
pedals that made it sound more distorted,
the basic sound is very clean.
It's a guitar basically
straight into an amp.
And the amp is just barely breaking up.
And that's the reason, in Stevie's case,
he sounds so
great is that you hear all the detail.
And when you add more stuff to it,
more effects and so on,
it sorta covers up some
of the articulation.
So I'm basically taking
the same approach here, but
I can tell you from my own experience
you gotta work a lot harder.
You gotta really attack
the guitar when you do that.
And so instead of letting the effects or
letting the amp kinda compensate and
carry the note up to a higher level.
It's really about how you
slam it with the pick.
So that's an attitude and a style that
I highly encourage that you develop.
And don't use effects or
distortion as a way of kinda compensating.
Play as clean as you can, and
if you can play well with a clean tone,
you'll kill when you turn it up and
use different types of effects, all right?
Now, side trip back to reality here.
We were talking about that phrase, and
I just played the phrase I showed you.
Right now,
what do you play after you
get up to the high notes?
Anything you want.
So I'm just sort
of improvising again,
spontaneous organization.
And I'm thinking ahead and saying okay.
Here comes the five.
So I know I'm gonna go to that spot,
I've got that planned out already.
So as I'm playing up here, I'm kinda
waiting and saying, here's the time and
them I'll go and I play.
And again, you can finish it in a variety
of different ways that
we've already looked at.
So that's just a tiny little slice.
If you listen to a bunch
of Hendrix records or
a bunch of Stevie Ray Vaughan records,
boy, you'll hear that sort of
approach of low to high to low, back and
forth, using the entire range of the neck.
You'll hear that over and
over and over again, and
done in a variety of different ways.
You know,
there's not just one way to do it.
But both of those guys learned
by listening to players
who had that sorta down home quality,
they used the open strings.
And what they added to was they kinda
used the Albert King influence and
melded the two together.
So you had those screaming high notes
combined with those big low notes, and
that sense of rhythm and
tone and powerful attack.
That's what makes your style
sound really outstanding.
So [COUGH] take a 12-bar blues in E and
use those phrases, and
see how well you can integrate
open position with the high position,
and use the transitions in between.
Don't neglect the middle of the neck
because there's a lot going on in there
that you can take advantage of.
All right, come back next time and look
at another angle on playing the blues.