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Blues Guitar Lessons: Uptown Blues 3

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All right.
Now we're going to put the icing
on the cake here by talking about
playing over uptown blues changes and
using more of the chord tones.
In other words integrating the background
rhythm with the melody and the foreground.
Last time we talked key center and
we talked about using sort of the sweet
and the salty sounds of blues.
It's more a matter not of the notes that
you play, but how you interpret the notes
that makes it feel appropriate to
the swinging kind of uptown groove.
Now we're gonna be more literal
about playing the changes.
And say I wanna choose notes that
are designed to fit these chords,
including the new chords that
we added to the progression.
The diminished chord,
the six chord, the two chord,
those are the brand new chords
that have entered the picture.
Now this is the same basic approach
that we use playing Stormy Monday.
And on Stormy Monday there was
the introduction of this new progression
within the 12 bar, one, two, three
where you had chords.
That while they were within the general
tonality, that's like I get it,
they're all in the same key, suddenly
they had a completely different flavor.
And the challenge was,
how do I play over those chords in
a way that sounds halfway intelligent,
and not feel like I'm giving up my
personality, giving up my whole style?
And putting on my student hat and
sound kind of half baked.
So you wanna have the same attitude and
feel when you're playing over
these kinds of changes that you have
when you're playing over just 1-4-5.
So this means planning, and
it means you're not gonna
necessarily improvise
your solos at this point.
Because improving, as we know,
means spontaneous reorganization.
And until you have some ideas to organize,
you're gonna have to play what you know
and what you know will
be what you practice.
Now, in terms of planning out a solo here,
we're still playing the blues and
the first four bars at least,
five bars even if you count the first bar
of the four chord, familiar territory.
This is all stuff we've
played a thousand times now.
So I can just say blues in B flat,
swing field,
I think I've got you covered you know.
Now, if I want to be more specific
about the quick change, for example.
I can right away say,
okay B flat chord.
There's my pickup,
takes me into the B flat.
There's my four chord.
And I'm emphasizing the chord tones
Back to B flat
Now, I'm playing over the
there's my E flat chord now.
Here's where the new chord comes in
E diminished.
Now, what's the difference
between E flat and E diminish?
It only comes down to one note,
literally one note.
There's E flat.
Here's E diminished
So, when you boil it down,
what happens when E flat,
the four chord, goes to E diminished,
the sharp four diminished?
That note goes to that note.
Now I could play an arpeggio,
all right.
I could do all kinds of fancy stuff to
reflect my knowledge of the diminish
chord, and how comfortably
I can move around the neck.
But that takes me out of my character,
suddenly I'm thinking like a technician
rather than playing blues.
So what I wanna do when I play blues,
over changes,
is I wanna get right to the heart of it.
That's the blues, kind of the philosophy,
is you get rid of all
the extra junk you don't need and
get right down to it, right?
So what do I need to nail the sound
of that diminished chord?
That note, that note.
How do I build that note
into a blues phrase?
There it
was, right?
That was playing the diminished chord.
I didn't run an arpeggio,
I just hit the note.
So, that's a very utilitarian approach to
it, but it gets your feet on the ground.
You start to hear it.
And then as time goes by and
your style develops, and
you develop more ideas that you
can reorganize, you run with it.
So here's the idea.
Taking the first section of the tune.
Four chord.
There's my diminished.
Okay so
I went from
all good right.
I get it.
So, the only note that I had
to add to my vocabulary was
which I put in right when that chord hit,
and then I'm back into my
blues family of phrases there.
But here comes another chord,
the six chord, right?
Dang it, that six chord.
Okay, G7.
So here I am looking for
a note that I can use that's really
going to nail the heart of that chord.
And when I look at the shape of G7,
there's B flat, there's G7,
what I see standing out to my
mind is that note right there.
So, I've got B flat, G seven,
the third of G seven is
a half step above B flat.
So, like I did with the diminished
four chord, sharp four diminished.
One chord, six chord.
All I gotta do is nail that note, and
if I nail that note I will sound like
I am making the changes, as they say.
Here's the two right?
So I played my one.
Six, two.
Now that two chord,
C7 in the key of B flat.
That's a dominant chord.
And I'm just a step above home so,
I can really just play a blues lick off
of that C chord and
I think I can probably nail it.
And then what's next?
My five chord.
Well, my five chord,
I know that one inside and out.
I'm back in home territory again.
Goodness gracious.
So let me give you,
I'll just walk you through it here.
We're gonna put this over
the rhythm section in a moment.
But I'll walk you through
that whole train of thought,
which is thinking blues,
thinking changes, finding a strong note.
Emphasizing the note, and then linking it
back into the familiar blues tonality.
So opening phrase.
Here's my four, there's the quick change.
Here's four again.
Here's that dang diminished chord.
There's my six.
Home again.
So that was a Blues
solo with changes.
I made the changes.
I didn't run arpeggios,
I did not play anything sophisticated.
This would be on like page three
of the jazz guitar manual,
you know what I'm saying?
In relative terms,
cuz a jazz guitar player would say, okay,
that's a good starting point, now we
can go so many different ways with it.
And that's absolutely true, and it's
a beautiful thing when it's done well.
But for our purposes we're saying,
I just wanna add a little color and
leave it at that for now.
All right is that the end of the story?
Well no as I said that's
the beginning of the story really.
How do you add to your vocabulary?
There's the thinking thing,
and there's the planning and
the looking and
comparing shapes and all that.
But it's really great if you
think of this style of playing as
you would any other style of blues.
Where you listen and
you gather influences and you copy and
you gradually integrate ideas.
And so I've always been listening for
guys that I felt had that one
foot in blues, one foot in jazz.
And I could sort of steal cuz
I've got that blues thing and
I could hear where they were going.
Whereas a stone cold jazz guy,
I might get lost right off the bat.
So a guy that comes to mind
is a guy named Bill Jennings.
Who ever heard of Bill Jennings?
You probably didn't, but
in his time he was a monster, and
he's still to my mind,
he's one of the greats.
Played with Louis Jordan,
our saxophone hero.
Played with Bill Dogget.
Bill Dogget was the guy
who did Honky Tonk and
his guitar player on that
record was Billy Butler.
But Bill Jennings played in the same band.
So he was playing that pretty
straight up blues type of sound.
But then also played on
a much jazzier side, and
did some recordings where he played
stuff that was just beautiful.
It was sorta bebop,
which can be frightening music, but slowed
down a little bit, so you could feel it
and you still heard the blues in there.
He would come back to the blues,
play a blues phrase and
then kind of jazz it up a little bit.
So I'm going to play an example of that
and then I'll break it down for you.
I'm going to play two choruses now.
One is going to be just like
I just broke it down for
you, sort of a note by note analysis and
creating a solo using half steps and
looking at chord tones.
And the second one would be sort
of in the Bill Jennings style.
And I'll tell you what I'm thinking about
when I play the Bill Jennings stuff.
Okay, let's run it.
Woo, all right.
Well that first chorus was just
playing in time what we talked about.
And varying it, you can play those
blues licks anyway you feel them.
A lot of different ways to go with that.
Second chorus I stole
mostly from Bill Jennings.
Cobbled together a couple of his different
solos and kind of made one chorus
worth out of them and
tweaked it a little bit along the way.
But this gives you an example of
a guy who's really playing blues but
he's got that jazz flavor and
when it sort of morphs into jazz,
you don't even hardly notice it.
It just sounds cool, you know and
that's what we're going for.
So, his first phrase
Right, that's a lick that
we know pattern number two
That's stone cold blues in B flat.
that's carrying the idea
into the lower octave.
And that, in technical terms,
the way I'm playing it on the neck,
I don't know how you played it,
pattern number two
Pattern number one
It fits more comfortably under my fingers
in pattern number one,
to be able to finish that idea.
Here comes the four chord.
Now we're in B flat, so
the four chord is E flat.
And sure enough,
just playing a sixth interval.
Just like Freddie King,
outlining that four chord.
Whoa, there's that diminished chord,
he did exactly what we talked about.
He just plays one note he says
E flat four cord
E diminished.
I'm not gong to run some
arpeggio all over the place.
And then what happens next when
the changes go back to B flat,
he keeps the idea going and
resolves into the fifth degree of
the B flat chord and then
Right that's where the jazz suddenly
enters the scene there, right?
So we've got B flat.
Now the band goes to G seven.
You can kinda hear the
Kinda hear the color of
the chord sneaking in there.
In jazz terms,
you'd call that an altered dominant chord.
We don't wanna get too worked
up on that topic right there.
But suffice to say, you've got
your sixth cord, your G7, sharp 9.
If you keep adding
other extensions to it that have the same
that's what you want.
All right.
I'm making up an arpeggio there
[LAUGH] doesn't mean a thing, right?
So anyway, you hear in the sound
there's the sixth chord
Here's the two chord
And there he's playing in arpeggio.
Now technically playing
a minor seven arpeggio, but
we know in blues the minor major third
can be mixed pretty successfully.
That actually reminds
me of a BB King lick.
Remember we did Sweet Little Angel.
You know, and
and he had a
and I said man, a minor nine arpeggio
in a BB King solo, how weird is that?
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if BB King
stole that lick from Bill Jennings.
Cause gee, BB was listening to
a whole lot of Louie Jordan.
Stole stuff from Louie Jordan,
what if he stole stuff from
Louie Jordan's guitar player, right?
So there's
BB used it in that slow blues
in such an elegant way,
you don't even hear it as being
an extended phrase, or jazzy in the least.
But here's Bill Jennings.
Essentially the same type of an idea,
just being laid over a different rhythm.
And then I brought it back home.
So the whole phrase that he plays, or
the whole solo that he plays,
really, in my mind,
perfectly mixes the blues
down-home quality that we've
been studying for so long and
we want to hang on to that.
That's gonna be with you for
the rest of your life.
And then this new idea of following
the changes and playing lines that sort
of move in a slightly different
direction and include notes
that we wouldn't ordinarily recognize
as being part of a blues tonality.
And so by listening to a player like
that and analyzing the solos, and
by the way,
that's a tune called Big Boy, Big Boy.
You break that down, and
you listen to him and
listen to players that are in
the similar stylistic realm.
And you say, right,
I get how blues goes into jazz.
It isn't blues over here and
jazz over there.
They're really close cousins, and
they spend a lot of time together.
And on the other extremes they
go their separate ways, but
their coming from the same place.
They have the same ancestor, call and
response, dynamics, the blues tonality,
the whole interactive feeling of
the solo and the rhythm section.
Swing, Shuffle, those are the common
language of both Blues and Jazz and
we just learn to express
them in different ways.
So have some fun with that one.
That's a very cool sound once you get it
under your fingers I think you'll be able
to go out to the club and
express yourself pretty quickly with that.