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Blues Guitar Lessons: Two Beat Blues

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All right, while we're in
the mood here to amp things up.
See how fast can we go.
Let's take the gloves off.
Going to talk about a style that is,
the rhythm is called the two beat.
Now the two beat has
different incarnations.
One might be what you'd call boom-chick.
We're not talking boom-chick.
What we're talking about
is a very fast tempo.
And when the tempo gets fast enough,
the way that you deal with it is not
to try to tap your foot like tap tap tap
tap because it just makes you nervous and
it's hard to manage, but rather,
you tap your foot every other time.
So if the tempos going
instead of tapping my foot like that where
I'm bouncing my knee up and down and
it's like my goodness, I go like this.
One and three and one,
three, one, three, one
Now, the notes are moving just as fast.
The tempo is just as fast, but
I'm feeling it in half the tempo.
So what I just did was I just made
life a lot easier for myself.
I can relax a little bit because I'm not
trying to come up with notes that match or
exceed what the rest of
the band is playing.
I'm rather kind of laying back in the back
and just letting it sort of roll over me,
and I'll show you what that means
in musical terms in a minute.
Where you hear this sort of feel is on,
the most famous example would
probably be Muddy Waters.
Got my mojo working but
it just don't work on you.
When you hear that, it's boom-chick,
boom-chick, boom-chick.
It's moving pretty quick.
Little Walter,
who played harmonica with Muddy and
then went on to have his own career,
did a couple of really fast ones.
He was inspired by John Blues.
And on the harmonica he could do
some very complex melodies and so
forth, but he had that feel where he liked
to hear that tempo popping like that.
So he had a couple, one of them that was
called Tell Me Mamma and man, it's fast.
At first, you listen to it and
it just freaks you out, but if
you have a strategy, you can actually deal
with it and it sounds pretty darn good.
So let's listen to the track
which is fast two-beated G.
Now, this is 260 beats per minute
if you're counting quarter notes.
That's faster than anything we've done so
It's faster than the boogie.
It's faster than the fastest jump blues.
It's insane.
But when you tap your foot half as often,
maybe not so much,
let's see what happens here.
Now as it went along, I started to hear
the pocket and feel where I could fit in.
Now this is, of course, I'm using ideas
that I've learned from hearing these
songs and playing these songs and
coming up with solutions, so
I'm not doing this right here
on the spot for the first time.
Now, when something is so
fast and [SOUND].
I can't even sing the drum part.
It's too fast.
What you're hearing underneath
though is the bass is moving in
a two beat pattern.
So that gives you the tip off,
root fifth, root fifth.
One, two, three, four.
One, two, three, four.
One, two, three, but when you count
it the other way it's one, two,
one, two, one, two, one, two.
When I feel it like that,
it's like I can get one, two, one two.
That's sort of within my wheelhouse,
as we say.
So what I need to then have is a stylistic
pattern that I can play that makes sense.
If I was going to jam on this song
with people who knew the style,
knew the song,
Got My Mojo Working or Tell Me Mama,
want to have something that sounds like
I'm in the conversation there, right?
So one thing you'll hear is sort
of a rhythmic answering part.
and you can even
simplify that.
Got my mojo working, but
it just don't work on you
Now, you have to feel the rhythm, right?
You can't just be guessing, but you can
feel the rhythm at that more relaxed pace,
and it actually works pretty good, and
you can fit those parts in there
without straining too hard.
Now, at the same time,
I can play something that incorporates
a little bit of the bass pattern, so
and then use the cord accents as
an answer.
Now, what I'm playing at the end
there is a very stylistic ending, so
I go five
Here comes the ending
I play one of those classic turnarounds
the fifth degree of the chord in G,
that's D, and on the third string the B,
and move it up.
Same shape moves up without any change
in fingering, so it's easy to finger.
And then play the five chord at the end.
Now, let me demonstrate how those two
rhythm patterns work against that thing.
First I'll play the chord
accents all the way through and
then I'll switch over to the bass pattern,
alternating with chord accents.
Okay here we go.
From the top of that pattern again.
Even though I'm counting it in half time,
and you know when I started off,
intuitively start jiggling your leg
like you've got a nervous tick and
I backed off, and as soon as I went to
that two beat, felt much more comfortable.
Still, it's moving.
It's moving, you have to be loose.
And when you're playing
those rhythm patterns there,
you kind of brush the strings.
Not too big a bite with the pick because
it'll resist and pull your tie back,
so you kind of brush across the strings.
Now, those are both legitimate
kind of bottom rhythms
that you would use when you play against
a rhythm like that, and it sounds good.
It does the job.
The bass player and drummer are raging,
and you're kind of filling in
around the edges, and I'm imagining in
my head the phrasing of the melody.
You may well have heard that song.
Got my mojo working but
just won't work on you.
So the rhythm part answers the vocal.
Classic call and response arrangement
that you hear in so many blues songs.
Okay, now there's another
form of rhythm that's crazy.
[LAUGH] Where do they come up
with this stuff, you know?
It's a two beat rhythm that can
be played at just an insane
tempo because you're
feeling it in half time.
And this is the classic Chicago style in
which it's a melodic rhythm where you
know, where the rhythm leaves off and
the melody begins is kind of a grey area.
But this is a rhythm that you hear
going on behind everything else and
yet it's very melodic [SOUND] and
I'll play it for you and then explain it.
It's a tricky little number here, but
I think you'll understand it once
I break it down for you, okay?
So here's what the second guitar
might do on a tempo like this.
Now, there's a lot going on there.
But surprisingly,
it's actually rather simple.
The notes are really not moving that fast,
it's the feel of the rhythm
that makes it feel like it's kind
of marching along like that, but
basically, the idea is
Remember when we looked at
the Chicago style of rhythm,
I showed you a phrase, I think we were
in the key of A, over the four chord
Where you're playing off of the chord,
and it's the third,
the fifth, the seventh
And you got the little double stops
that are creating a melody
over the basic chord sound.
That's what we got here
in G.
So the third,
call it a pedal point if you will.
[SOUND] The third, the fifth,
[SOUND] seventh, sixth, [SOUND] fifth.
And then that little double stop move is
like a turnaround within the progression.
Now, getting from chord to chord
takes practice, obviously,
I could probably use some myself.
four chord, same lick.
So it turns out,
it's the same exact
lick over each chord.
with the fill in between, so
it's remarkably simple idea.
But because of the way it
sits up on top of the rhythm,
it sounds like it's very complicated, or
more complicated than it is, I should say.
Now, in the second chorus, I took
the same idea and I didn't really break
away from it, but I sort of messed
around with it a little bit.
So I moved to a different position and
I played the five chord,
then instead of going down for
the four chord,
I moved up.
Pattern number four.
And then a classic little Chicago down
home blues double stop that
we've heard a bunch of times.
Right, and the whole thing just glues
together into this kinda, it's like
a little composition in its own right.
Without even any vocals or any harmonica
or soloing going on over the top.
It just sounds very cool.
And those are great rhythm parts
to learn because they teach you
how to play an effective rhythm that
is relaxed, that lays in the pocket,
that colors the song, makes it sound
musically interesting, and yet
it doesn't stretch your
technique to the breaking point.
And you start to feel those fast
tempos in a way that you say, well,
I can kind of relate to that, you know?
And if you were to translate
that into a soloing style,
you could use the same exact deal
which is whipping along like that.
And instead of trying to play
like, [LAUGH] no way, right?
now in my mind I'm
going ding,
ding, ding.
But the band is going dink, dink, dink,
dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink,
dink, dink, dink.
And if I'm listening to them
they might drive me nuts.
But as long as I keep that relaxed two
feel going I've got a good handle on it.
So we've seen several strategies for
dealing with fast tempos.
Jump Blues, you wanna find a rhythmic
phrase and repeat that phrase and
build that phrase and use some of
the legacy that we've gathered up from
T-Bone and
his disciples of diminished chord.
[SOUND] You know?
Simple, melodic phrases played over and
over again, the [SOUND] right?
Stuff as simple as that,
just very effective.
Melodic themes,
Simple phrases repeated over and
over again, right?
Getting the idea here.
The boogie, the fast boogie.
It's way too fast for
anybody to hang on to, but
if you play simple phrases,
it's survivable.
And now we get to the two beat,
which is the fastest tempo of all, but
we cut it in half and suddenly it kinda
becomes a little bit of a relaxed vibe,
and it's something you
can kinda lean into.
[SOUND] So I'd love to hear what
you can do with that two beat.
It's a tricky one but play a rhythm part
and play a solo or play both rhythm parts.
That's a good way to approach it,
cuz the second rhythm part there,
the little melodies, that is like a solo.
So if you can lay those both in the pocket
then you're well positioned to be able to
move on from there and improvise.
All right, have fun with that.