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Blues Guitar Lessons: Uptown Blues 1

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Let's play some swinging blues here.
We're gonna take it uptown for
these next few lessons.
Uptown, what does that mean?
Well it's sort of a relative term.
We talk a lot about, I've used this
term a million times, down home.
Down home blues.
What does down home mean?
Well to blues musicians that
would have meant down home.
If you're in Chicago,
down home means Mississippi, right?
Its south.
Now, I don't even come from Chicago or
from Mississippi but
I get what that implies which is
you kinda have that rough edge
quality that you have from being down
home you know, where it all began.
Close to the farm.
Uptown on the other hand means
kinda wearing a suit and
you're riding instead of walking.
And you're gonna go to a club and
it's gonna be cocktails instead of
beer bottles and
people fighting with razor blades.
Much more gentile, refined atmosphere and
the way we express uptown on
the guitar and in blues in general,
is we soften it, we swing it a little bit
and we basically make it a little jazzier.
So uptown is sort of where
blues crosses over into
the entire universe of jazz and
there's no line there.
There is no street corner where you say,
well this is blues and that's jazz.
It's a blend and
it happens over a long expanse.
So the techniques that you have learned
to play straight up blues shuffles,
they apply directly to
playing a more uptown
swing lighter feel, but
you have to know how to adapt.
And it starts with
listening to the rhythm and
saying what's different about the rhythm?
And I have a rhythm track for you that
we're gonna mess with in a couple of
different incarnations, playing chords and
playing solos of different types.
So let's listen to that just for a second.
We're gonna just give
it sort of an analysis.
And then we'll come back and
talk about how we adapt
what we've learned about playing
blues to playing this type of blues.
All right, so listening now for a second.
All right.
Yeah yeah.
Now what's the first thing that
hit you when the track started?
Well what I noticed was
it's all in the cymbal.
Ting ta, ta ting ta, ta ting ta, ta ting.
I didn't really hear
a snare drum in there much.
If there is one,
it's kinda hidden in the back.
And there's no big kick drum,
boom, boom, boom, right?
It's very subtle, so everything is
just kinda floating up on top and
the base comes in and it's.
Play the walking line.
I know that line.
I know the concept of it and
basically the technique of how to grab
those notes, but it's very cool, you know.
And the way that he's playing the line,
he's kind of moving from chord to chord.
Maybe not always following a prescribed
pattern like we always do in
our jump blues, and
more rocking blues, right?
Those are our patterns.
In this case,
The line sounds a little bit more
In other words, the bass player's
playing more melodically and
connecting the chords in different
ways using half steps and so forth.
So the overall effect is it's
more relaxed, less intense.
It has that swing as
opposed to the shuffle.
Do do da, da do do da, da do do da.
Where you've got that hardcore snare drum.
Big accent on two and four.
We're hearing it more as
a series of quarter notes.
With the 8th note swing
being more implied.
Ting ting ting tat, ta ting ting ting.
Now that's still a shuffle, but
the difference between swing and
shuffle you could sort of say is
described by that type of rhythm,
where instead of a driving, pounding kind
of a beat, you've got a very subtle,
floating kind of a beat.
Now, this'll make a big difference in how
we play rhythm, because if the band plays
like that and I come in,
they'll all turn around and
look at me like what?
Where did you come from, man?
Take that back down home.
That does not belong in
this club right here.
We're trying to create
some romance in the room.
So, how do you take the elements that we
know [COUGH] about playing rhythm and
adapt them so
that they sound like they fit in?
Well, I'm gonna soften my attack and
instead of playing
a steady timekeeping part like that
or even
which is based on the premise that there's
boom ka poom ka poom ka poom,
there's this very pronounced shuffle feel.
I'm gonna switch over to a style that
is more like the color approach.
We talked about time and color.
And a lot of the bottom rhythms that we
play in blues are intended to be very
solid and driving and energetic.
Those are timekeeping roles.
The color roles sit up on top.
The horn section, the riff chords.
Those are ones that we can more or less
adapt immediately to this type of a feel.
So taking some known quantities here
cord section sound, we're in B flat.
This is a 12 bar blues with
a quick change
So, nothing new there.
Now one change in my technique is instead
of stroking the chords with my pick,
which is more aggressive and
it fits when the band is louder.
Now its very soft so
I'm going to use hybrid technique, pick,
fingers and
include my little finger in the mix here.
So I'm playing four notes of the chord
each with a separates attack
And those little slides
give it the stylistic flavor as well as
the swing.
Ta tang ta tang tang,
ta tang ta tang tang.
It's that upbeat that
makes the swing happen.
familiar stuff.
Now there's another thing that goes
on in the rhythm section here.
[COUGH] That we haven't heard before.
Some new cords [COUGH] and
we got the one cord, the four cord,
the one cord, all very familiar.
Four cord, no problem but
the second bar of the four cord instead
of just staying on the E flat there.
You hear another chord enter the picture.
What is it?
A diminished chord.
Now, a diminished chord is,
in this case you take E flat
dominant seven, the bar chord.
Fifth string root that
we learned ages ago.
Put your middle finger down on the fifth
string, one fret higher, seventh fret.
Don't change a thing otherwise.
And there's your diminished chord.
And that kind of illustrates
the role of that chord.
There's the four chord.
Change that note, it sort of
upsets the balance of the chord.
It sounds more dissonance.
It sounds like it's going somewhere.
Where's it going?
Back to one.
Okay, so it's a passing chord, four chord,
sharp four diminished is what it's
called and then back to the one chord,
which I can play as a ninth cord or
a sixth cord.
Now it doesn't stop there.
This is the uptown blues progression.
We're adding chords to the progression
that keep the harmonic flow going and
we don't sit on one, four and five.
We're starting to add substitutions so
the base line keeps moving.
It's a style thing.
It's how they do.
Now the next move in the base pattern
is one that we will remember
from talking about rag time.
And talking about turnarounds.
And about how turnarounds
had this ragtime kinda progression,
That's exactly what happens in
the last part of the uptown blues.
We've got our one chord, four chord,
one chord, back to the four,
sharp four diminish and then one.
But instead of staying on one,
it goes to six.
What's the six chord in the key of B flat?
Down three frets, G or
same chord based on the fifth string.
Now the sixth chord [COUGH] in
a major key is supposed to be minor.
But we're playing blues.
And it's not a major key,
it's a dominant key, it's a blues key.
So the six chord usually
Is also a dominant cord.
[COUGH] Where does it go after that?
It continues moving in that cycle.
To the two chord.
So we got one.
Six and then two.
usually, a dominant chord
in the blues context.
You could be minor and these are instances
where you can't say upfront,
it's gonna be this or
it's gonna be that all the time.
It varies by the tune.
It varies by the arrangement.
It varies by the performance or
the interpretation.
So as we discovered with some of
the other stuff that we play if you don't
know what's going on,
follow the bass player.
for now,
two dominant,
five, and back to the one again.
So just to sort of put that all together
because it might sound like
just a jumble at the moment,
here is kinda the outline of
the uptown twelve-bar blues.
And then we'll talk about the specific
rhythm part, simply gonna play.
So one.
quick change
Back to the four.
Sharp four diminish, back to the one.
and now up to the six.
And then the two.
And the five.
And then the turn around.
One four, one five.
So except for the sharp four diminish,
and the six chord,
and the two chord,
everything else is familiar territory.
But by adding those chords in what used
to be kind of a moment of rest where
you're thinking,
suddenly there's something going on, and
you have to be concentrating
to follow the changes.
So you've got those notated,
you can follow along, and what
we need to do is attach those to some kind
of practical voicings that you can play.
So that if you're playing
a groove like this you've
got something that
actually sounds musical.
So continuing with the horn section idea
now that we know what the chords are.
All I gotta do now is take my two
bar phrase, bop ba da, bop ba da,
and adapt it as best I can to all these
moving chords and see how that sounds.
Let's try it out.
Hold the track again, and
I'm gonna play horn section style voicing,
see if we can just plug those right in,
as long as they stay with the changes.
Okay here we go.
Now I started to cheat a little
bit in the second chorus and
add some embellishments
which I'll describe to you.
So basically, [SOUND] yeah no problem,
here's four chord.
[SOUND] Now you can continue
the same phrase and
just play instead of the four chord the E
flat nine, play that diminished chord.
I usually
different voicing cause I wanted to keep
the same note on top.
Either one will work though, and then.
Now the G7 is correct, it’s a dominant
chord, but stylistically the seventh chord
sounds a little bit more down home than
the 9th chord, the 13th chord and so on.
So what players will often play.
This is very common.
Instead of the seventh chord,
they'll play [SOUND] seven sharp nine.
Now I've know guys that kind of
turn pale whenever you show them
chords with numbers on them.
[LAUGH] Got to get out your calculator but
actually this is more familiarly known and
maybe you know it already as the Jimmy
Hendrix chord, that's how I learned it.
That song,
Seven sharp nine, well here it is uptown.
we have the advantage of getting the same
note up on top, G seven, sharp nine.
Very easy voicing to play too, and
then we can revert to C nine,
our two chord,
F nine, five chord,
keep it in the uptown family.
One, four, one, five,
now sometimes the turnaround will
repeat that same progression.
One, two, five, one, again you follow
the bass player, whatever happens.
So in the second chorus when
I started to mess around,
all I did was start to change the rhythm
a little bit and when you start getting
away from a prescribed two bar pattern,
repetitive pattern, it's called comping.
In other words, improvised accompaniment.
And this is a style of playing that
depends on having a vocabulary
that you can kind of pick and choose from.
And you're listening to
the other instruments.
And experienced jazz
musicians are all kind of
making it up in a sense as they go.
But based on very specific reference
points, stylistic reference points,
knowledge of the harmony, and
understanding of the standard patterns and
Now, we're not gonna get into
jazz with a capital J, but
we just want to know how to
play over a swing groove,
and sound like you're part of the group
and not standing outside looking in.
So all I did there in the second chorus
was start to think about well I've got
Okay I use that,
that's my slow blues rhythm.
So I took my
I took my chord and I had that sound in
mind from another context but,
yeah that works pretty good.
Back to my full chord.
Change the rhythm and
again that turn around is like the turn
around I played on Stormy Monday,
but I'm not digging in quite as hard.
So everything's floating.
Everything has that kinda
syncopated quality.
Lots of space in the rhythm.
Last thing you wanna do is crowd it and
throw in too many notes in your
accompaniment parts so
that you get in people's way.
Cuz it makes you an unpopular
person in the band if you do that.
So keep it minimal and use the tools that
you have at your disposal, and think
of it more as a matter of interpretation
than of a brand new technique.
Okay, so we've got that idea together.
Now I could add very
easily the riff chords.
That is really stylistic.
That's a real uptown comping idea.
Works very comfortably.
And then mixing the two.
When it starts to go through the changes,
I'm gonna have a hard time moving my
riff chords around from chord to chord.
It's just all over the place, so
I would let go of the riff chords.
Play more like a steady rhythm.
All right, let me show you that I'm going
to combined rift chords with little simple
chord embellishments and rhythmic phrases.
And then we'll have an idea of what
to do and we can turn our attention
to how do you play notes over these
things, melodies, that make sense.
Okay, here we go.
Right now,
ladies and
gonna take
a ten minute
Please tip your bartender.
[SOUND] There you go.
That's the idea.
Now nothing I did there was anything out
of the ordinary, in terms of technique.
And if you go back, you'll find echoes
of all the previous lessons we've
talked about with the way we voice riff
chords, we voice horn section chords,
slide the chords around in
a slow blues etc etc etc.
So the really new information here is
diminished chord, seven sharp nine,
a nice color to bring
into the picture there.
The two chord, the five chord and the rest
of it is just a matter of interpretation.
So play around with that track and
play rhythm over that track and
send me a video of yourself playing
that rhythm, or rhythm like that.
If you have a feel for the rhythm,
everything else we're gonna talk
about will flow very intuitively.
If you're trying to hard and tensing up,
it's gonna be very difficult
to get the melodies to settle down and
be relaxed as well.
So it starts with the rhythm.
It starts with getting that feel
just sit in the right spot.
Okay, see you in a bit.