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Blues Guitar Lessons: Uptown Blues 2

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Now continuing our discussion of
Uptown Blues, let's talk about phrasing,
melodies, soloing over the Uptown Blues.
I know in my own experience,
hearing stuff like that back when I was
really much more into hard edged music.
Blues rock really.
I would hear stuff like that and
think man.
I just don't know what to do,
I feel like I'm giving up my personality
if I try to play that stuff.
Because nothing I know applies anymore and
I gotta pretend I'm real mellow or
Then when I listened to guys that actually
knew what they're doing, I realized no,
that's not true.
Your personality can be adapted to that,
it doesn't mean that you
have to give up the drive or
the energy that you would bring to
a shuffle solo when you play Uptown Blues.
Like the rhythm, you just learn to
express it a little bit differently.
So we're gonna take two basic
approaches to soloing over changes,
these uptown changes.
And as we did with Stormy Monday,
there's the key center approach,
which is we're in the key of B flat,
in this case.
And I can play in the key of B flat and
think like BB King,
and just let the changes kinda bubble
around underneath while the melody
stays focused around the key center.
Or I can use bits and
pieces of the chords, and kinda put
together a melody based on borrowing chord
tones and lining them up in a row and
seeing if I can come up with
a consistent line like that.
They both work,
they're not exclusive, and different
players will use them at different times.
There was a whole school
of jazz players in the 50s.
There was a cool jazz,
was very hip ,and you had electric
guitar players with big fat
guitars playing very mellow blues.
But you know guys got a big thick guitar.
And the strings are probably
13 on up you know.
And yet
when that groove was going like that.
Kenney Burrell and guys of his
generation were integrating the down
home blues sound that they would hear
from their more aggressive contemporaries,
T- Bone Walker, BB King.
With the more mellow jazz sound, like
straight up jazz sound that they would
hear on the other side of the spectrum,
from the real sax players and so forth.
And kind of putting the two together in
playing some pretty straight ahead blues
but throwing in a few notes that
made ya understand that it was
coming from an uptown direction.
All right, first things we're
gonna do is talk key center.
What I'm gonna do,
I'm gonna do a couple different things.
One is,
I'm gonna play sort of a down-home blues.
I wouldn't call it down-home, but
I'm gonna make note choices that
are more on the salty side, right?
We know the salty and the sweet.
And then I'll switch gears and I'll say
what Would BB King do if he was gonna sit
down and jam with me and we're playing.
And I know he'd sound good so
what would he do to sound good?
Right, he would get up in his spot,
more than likely and he would just caress
those notes and play those sweet melodies.
And just edit them down and
lay them in the pocket, and
after twelve bars you'd say I'm convinced,
I get it.
So that's what we want to be able to do,
is be convincing using
the tools that we have.
So let me play two choruses here and
then we'll have a little chat.
Now, there was nothing that
was specific about either
of those solos that is like
this is carved in stone.
It's more like two attitudes that you
can mine for ideas as long as you play.
And the first one was, I just approached
it like we're playing blues in B flat?
Okay, I got my core blues tone alley.
And all the little techniques and so
forth for phrasing,
the slide, the vibrato.
One thing you hear with the more
traditionally jazzy sound because the guys
are playing these guitars
with fat strings.
They don't bend the strings so much, as
a rule, so you tend to hear more sliding.
If you want to be more stylistic right off
the bat, you slide instead of bending.
But otherwise you can express
it pretty much the same way, so.
Play that straight up blues lick.
Now that.
Hammer on, pull off, slide.
That swings.
It has its own little
internal swing to it.
I can use my riff chords and
create my call and response.
Just because we're uptown in the club
doesn't mean that we lose that
whole thing about
the conversation back and forth.
It's always,
always there when we play blues.
So I play the phrase again,
repeat the idea as I do
in In blues in general
Now the band, goes to this sixth chord.
And I ignored it.
Didn't pay any attention to it whatsoever.
And just went ahead and
And played phrases that I would
play on a more aggressive blues but
I didn't play them aggressively.
I played them with a generally
more laid back feel and
used accenting more than full on
grinding to get the point across.
Okay, so there is a blues tonality minor,
salty kind of an approach to it.
Down home you might say
over an uptown beat.
And then in the second chorus
I went up to my BB spot.
Right, even BB, you'll
get a little down home up in there.
But mainly you get that sweet sound.
Right, and so just sitting in
that spot listening for melodies.
And it's really no different than if
we were playing a straight up driving
sort of a blues.
Except that I'm again laying back,
being a little bit more restrained
in how I attack the strings.
And [COUGH] listening for
how I'm going to bring it all home again.
And have some sort of prescribed
phrases that I would use in
many different situations.
Playing blues, where it just draws
me back down toward the one chord.
You've heard those phrases before, and
probably learned at least
some of them yourself.
So in this sense what I'm playing now
is not really, here's a new approach.
Or, here's how to play jazz.
None of that.
This is how to play blues using
the basic skill set and the melody and
the tonalities that we're familiar with
and adapting them to a new setting.
So the band is swinging,
I'm going to swing too, but
that doesn't mean I have to invent
a bunch of new scales, arpeggios, or
suddenly get very technical in my mind and
lose my feel.
So call and response, dynamics, phrasing,
rhythm, they're all still in there.
They're just being expressed
in a slightly smoother and
more sophisticated way,
we might say, okay?
So play over that track and
think of it as down home,
uptown, and how you blend those phrases.
And above all else, you gotta stay
in that pocket and feel that swing.
Cuz the drummer's not gonna hit you over
the head, it's just coaxing it along.
And you wanna be floating
along with the drummer.
And you can send me a recording
of yourself doing that and
I can again, based on the rhythm.
Now we're talking about
taking familiar phrases and
interpreting them over this
type of a background here.
If you're too heavy handed, if you try
to drive it too hard, it won't fit.
But send it to me, and I'll give you some
perspective on how it sounds, all right?
Have fun with that one.