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Blues Guitar Lessons: Outside The Box

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Now we spent a long time living in
a very small room which was essentially
the upper octave of pattern number four.
And then within just a few lessons
bang we're all over the neck you know
five patterns and
two octaves of each pattern.
It's a crazy amount of information.
And it does take quite a while
to really absorb that and
get it into your fingers to
where it makes sense musically.
And what often happens, I've observed
this as a teacher and also for myself
as a student, when I was going to GIT,
and they were just throwing stuff at us.
Day in and day out,
it was just incredibly overwhelming.
Is that your knowledge and
your awareness of the possibilities and
the techniques involved kinda get ahead
of your ability to really play the music.
You start to think more and more about the
athletic aspects of playing the guitar.
Fingering patterns and the tempo and
following the shapes and so on and so on.
What that is, it's building skills
that you're going to use later.
In the context of blues,
you don't want to wait until later.
You want to be able to use stuff as
soon as you get it onto your fingers and
what I mean by that is that nobody
cares where you play on the neck.
Nobody really has the slightest idea.
If they're not musicians,
or guitar players,
they have no ideas if pattern
number two is a pattern number one.
Nobody really cares at all.
So the only reason we care as guitar
players is that we're trying to unlock
this mystery of the neck and
the grid and the lines and the frets.
Where do you find those notes?
And we wanna be able to follow
the melody wherever it takes us.
Now, for a lot of the greatest
guitar players in blues history,
T-Bone Walker who was the godfather of
blues, electric blues, in the 1940's.
He lived in pattern number
four almost all of the time.
Spent his whole career basically
in pattern number four.
And nobody said, T-Bone, man, come on, why
don't you play a pattern number one for
a change.
It's like nobody cared.
You sounded great.
Albert Collins played with a capo,
an open tuning.
He could only cover,
his whole world was within six frets.
And again, nobody said, Albert, lose the
capo man, work out pattern number three,
it'll really loosen you up.
Come on, really that's silly.
So by learning the patterns and
learning all that information and all
those dots and connections and so forth,
they can kind of throw you for a loop.
And that's understandable.
But at the same time, by starting to
open the door into these different
parts of the neck, it will ultimately
make you a stronger player, and
you don't have wait a long time for
that to happen.
I'm gonna show you a couple ways of sort
of seeing the different patterns and
connecting the patterns,
and ultimately being able to see where
you are on the neck and not be lost.
Now we already know, technically, how to
go from this to that to the other and
where the dots are and so forth.
So in a more musical sense,
I'll give you two ways, or
one way with a kind of
an extension to open things up.
So, we went from having one box,
if you will,
the pattern number four shape
to having five little boxes.
And so we're in pattern number five, or
we're in pattern number one or
two or three.
And we sort of messed around with finding
the connections a little bit, but
here's one way to start to
see how linked they are.
It's really, in the end, it's not five
patterns, it's one giant pattern.
As a guy once told me,
he was a teacher, he said, when you're
in the key of A, the entire neck is A.
When you go to the key of D,
the entire neck is D.
It isn't that A is here, and D is there,
because that's the note on the six string.
That's got nothing to do with it.
So we want to see the entire neck as being
this open field where we can roam around.
All right so here's an idea.
Take just one lick that is
a lick you play all the time.
I'm going to pick one
that I play all the time.
How simple can you be?
Root, blue third, fourth.
Now I'm gonna play that in every
octave of every pattern, and
look for that relationship
wherever I am on the next.
So that's in the middle
of pattern number four.
What about the lower octave
of pattern number four?
There's one.
Once I know where one is then I can
figure out the rest of the pattern by its
relative shape and the relationship
of the notes of the third and
the fourth and so on.
How about in pattern number five,
the next one up the neck?
How about in a lower octave of
pattern number five?
Woo, gotta work on that one, right?
That feels awkward using
my fourth finger there.
So I would probably play that over here.
But I know where it is.
I could pull it out if I needed to.
What about in pattern number one?
BB King.
How about down here?
Lower octave of pattern number one.
That's easy.
What about pattern number 2?
Lower octave of pattern number 2?
That reminds me of pattern number 5.
Equally, weird.
I would probably go down to the lower
octave using my position chip.
Now, that's more comfortable.
Pattern number three.
Also a little odd, I gotta reach up and
across over figure out
which finger to use.
How about in the lower octave?
Which seems to be actually the same as
what I was
playing down here is the lower extension
of pattern number four.
Okay, so I played the same lick in about
eight or ten different places on the neck.
And, it's got the same musical content.
In each case,
the fingering's a little different.
The sound's a little different.
They're all subtleties, but
I see that that musical idea
is available anywhere I wanna find it,
and it's just a matter of familiarity.
It's natural, and it's perfectly okay,
that certain parts of the neck
are gonna be your best friend.
And certain parts of the neck are going
to be more like a distant cousin that
you meet up with once in a while.
Over a matter of time,
you become more familiar and
different parts of the neck start
to take on more importance.
And there's no rule for when that should
happen or how it's going to happen.
It's going to be as needed.
You're going to hear some lick and
you just find that it only works over
in a certain spot,
like the Albert Collins stuff.
It only works on the low
strings in the high frets.
How weird is that?
I never thought I'd do that, but
now that I hear it, I kinda like it.
So, that's one aspect of
breaking the neck open.
Always keep in mind,
to the listener, they don't care.
They don't care where you play it,
what pattern you use,
how many patterns you know, how quickly
you move from pattern to pattern.
Nobody cares.
When we play blues especially,
we're playing for non-musicians.
If you're playing blues for
other guitar players, and
that's your audience, well,
that's gonna be a real quiet room,
cuz everybody's more thinking
about themselves anyway.
We're all listening to our own playing, so
don't get caught up in the syndrome of
playing for other players, and gee,
I wonder if that guy's impressed
by the way I move my fingers.
Cuz A, they're not, and B, it has no
musical value, so you're playing for
non-musicians, so
you want the non-musicians in
the audience to stand up and cheer.
Then you know you did your job because
you hit them on an emotional level.
That's where we are going.
Now the other way of loosening
up the neck is just to start,
I don't want to call it noodling,
but it's kinda noodling.
In other words, sort of running around and
playing long phrases.
And thinking about how you can
get from point A to point B,
in a more intuitive way.
Not so technical, but more intuitive.
And what I mean by that is this.
All right, I'm going to set
up a little grove for myself.
Real relaxed, I'm just gonna start jamming
in my most familiar pattern,
pattern number four.
I'm going to make myself move into pattern
number five in a way that after time
I've figured out is intuitive and musical.
Now I'm in pattern number five,
[LAUGH] it's hard to talk and play.
Now I'm
gonna go right into
pattern number one.
Now two.
Mercy, mercy and all of a sudden
I found myself swooping down into pattern
number four, down into the low strings.
Now, that's thinking patterns,
I'm going from this one to
this one to this one to this one
in a more or less concrete way.
But at the same time I'm looking for
the connections.
How do I blend them together?
And there's certain little fingerings
that you'll come across that make sense.
The third finger.
That's a popular one, first finger third
finger, just look for those little boxes
that take you from one pattern to another.
But keep in mind, in the end, it doesn't
matter what pattern you play in,
it doesn't matter how many
patterns you're familiar with, or
how quickly you get from
pattern A to pattern B.
The only thing that matters is,
where's the melody.
Where's the phrase going?
Is the phrase musical?
Does it make sense?
Do you need to play that lick?
Is it important?
And if that lick forces you to go from
pattern A to pattern B, or one to two,
three to five, or whatever.
Then you have the skills to get there.
But if you're hearing phrases that
fit comfortably in one position, and
you want to spend 90% of your
time sitting in that one spot.
Go for it, because nobody is gonna care
whether you play in one position or
five positions.
You got guys like T-bone Walker standing
over your shoulder saying, yeah.
That's okay.
That's all right.
Work on the five patterns.
I want you to work on the five patterns.
I want you to master each
of those patterns and
find the musical value in each pattern.
And I want you to start linking
those patterns together and
ultimately see the entire neck
as being available to you.
No matter where the melody takes you,
you can find it.
But don't stress about it.
And let the music come, as you work
your way through these ideas and
as we continue with our lessons, okay?
So mess around with it, have fun with it.
Just kinda set up that tempo, and
see can you find the music in the new
pattern without too much trouble.
And as you do, you'll find that it
inherently starts to open up the neck,
just by the way you're thinking about it.
Have fun with it.
Not a big technical thing.
Few minutes a day, just loosening up and
I'm gonna show in the next lesson
something's that pretty technical and
gonna rock your world.
So get ready.
Now, in the last lesson,
I said don't stress about patterns.
Don't worry about it.
In this lesson,
yeah you're gonna worry about it.
But the reason for doing this is,
I'm gonna give you a concrete method for
really wrapping your mind around these
patterns, and it's a real challenge.
It's one that I discovered
in the context of GIT.
The guy who founded GIT,
Howard Roberts, had written some books
that were very influential, and
one of them was called Super Chops.
And the idea was that
you were able to play,
the goal was to be able to play
all keys in any spot on the neck,
and move quickly from pattern to pattern,
Which is kind of what
we're talking about now.
We've got our five spots, and
we've broken the neck into parts, and
now we're trying to glue it back
together to see the big picture.
So this is a method that
is rather technical.
Now, the way that he approached it,
he was thinking jazz guitar and using
specific scales, diatonic scales,
to accomplish this goal here.
We're gonna think blues, and use
the blues phrases that we've developed.
But we're gonna organize
them in a way that's
not something you're gonna
hear in too many blues songs.
Okay, here's the deal.
We know five patterns and
we've laid them out along the neck and
said, if I'm in the key of A, I can go
from here to here to here to here, and
then I wind up back in the same pattern
I started in, up an octave, or whatever.
So that's pretty clear.
What about if I want to play all 12 keys
without moving up and down the neck?
In other words,
find myself one spot on the neck and
see, can I find every single
key within a six fret span?
So like lets say if I'm in the key of C.
I've got this key of C here, and let's
see, I can go from one, two, three, four,
five, six, just picking a spot from
the sixth fret to the eleventh fret.
Could I play all 12 keys without
going outside that area there?
And the answer is yes you can.
But you're gonna have to work at it.
And so I'm going to give you an exercise
that will require you to think about
each of these five patterns, and at the
same time think about the different keys.
And the end result is that, as I stated
earlier, it's the ability to play any key,
anywhere on the neck, and play one
key anywhere up and down the neck,
or play over any key or any chord
change at any one spot on the neck.
In other words,
you've tied the whole thing together.
So here's how it's gonna work,
I've got a rhythm track that is a shuffle,
medium shuffle.
You get four bars,
starting in the key of C.
We'll pick the key of C, just cuz it's
the first chord, or the key in the cycle
of fourths, that allows you to kind of
move around the pattern in a familiar way.
So starting in the key of C, got four
bars in the key of C, and you pick a spot
on the neck and for familiarity's sake,
we'll start with pattern number four.
Pattern number four in the key of C.
And this track is gonna roll for four bars
and I just play some blues in the key of
C and pattern number four,
we can do that, no problem.
Then the rhythm tracks gonna
switch to the key of F, but
I'm not gonna move my hand and
go like that.
I'm gonna stay right here and say, well
key of F, if I'm in this area of the neck,
which pattern would I be able
to find in the key of F?
Now, where's F?
It's on the fifth string and
the third string.
Which pattern is that?
Pattern number two.
So's C.
What's the next key in line?
After F is B-flat.
Where's B-flat?
It's on the four string.
So I can play pattern
number five in B-flat.
What's up next after B-flat?
And pattern number three.
After E-flat,
the next key in the cycle is A-flat.
There's A-flat,
pattern number one
Then D-flat.
Now if I go up the neck, I might pass
my little self-imposed limit there, so
for D-flat I'll go to pattern number three
You're getting the idea here.
Now I'm gonna demonstrate it for you and
I'll kinda talk you through it as we go.
This is an exercise that you
can repeat endlessly, over
a long period of time, before you feel
like you're really getting it locked in.
But I'll play it for you,
describe it to you and
just consider this kinda
to be an ongoing challenge.
This will really make you think
hard about your patterns, and about
the connections between the patterns,
about your keys, and all that stuff.
So it's really good stuff.
And then, when you go back to playing
blues in one key, you feel like,
man, that's easy.
[LAUGH] It isn't killing
me like that dang exercise.
We'll give it a shot here.
We'll roll the track and
I'll tell you what's going on as I do it.
C pattern number four.
Now you can play it salty or sweet.
Next key up is F,
sounds like the four cord.
Pattern number three.
Here's A-flat.
I'll go down to pattern number three.
Good God!
Man, I'm exhausted.
I'm exhausted.
Now just taking you quickly back
through the battlefield there.
I was in C, pattern number four, and
then I was in F, pattern number two.
Then, the next key up was B-flat.
And again, this is all artificial.
I'm just making up a rule that says,
I can't go above here or below there.
Just cuz I, that's the way it works.
The next key up is B-flat.
Now you notice in each case,
I'm kinda starting my exploration
of the key with the root.
So there's my C, pattern number four.
F, fifth string, third string,
those are my roots, pattern number two.
B-flat, the roots are on the fourth
string and the second string.
Which pattern is that?
Pattern number five.
Next one up is E-flat.
Where are the roots in E-flat?
Well, eleventh fret, pattern number three.
A-flat, roots are on the fifth string and
the second string, pattern number one.
D-flat is up next.
Now if I go up to the ninth fret there,
I'm gonna cross my boundary
which I don't wanna do.
So I'll go down.
Again, I'm just playing a game here.
Go down to D-flat.
Pattern number three.
Pattern number one.
Next up is B.
Finally pattern number four.
My old pal E, pattern number two.
Here comes A.
Pattern number five, D.
Pattern number three, G.
Pattern number one.
And then finally back to C.
Goodness gracious!
I'm thinking real hard while I'm doing
that, so I can imagine if you've never
done this before and I can think back
to when I first did it, it was like?
I was barely getting my
orientation in the first key,
when it was already time for
the second key.
That's to be understood.
Now you can slow the tempo down by
sorta creating your own backing track,
or just using a metronome and
your imagination.
But it's good to have that kind of steady
thing behind you, because it helps
keep you on time, and you're feeling the
rhythm, and it's more musical that way.
Now, once you've mastered that, [LAUGH]
let's say we're,
key of C starting in pattern number four
and just saying, here's my boundary.
You say, okay ,we'll start in the key
of C, but in a different pattern.
How about pattern number
two in the key of C?
You're starting down at the third fret.
And if that's pattern number two in
the key of C, the next key is F.
Where's that gonna be?
Well that's pattern number five.
And then the next one up will be B-flat.
And E-flat.
And so on.
So I'm playing through the same cycle,
the same exact chords,
but I'm in a different
position on the neck.
So for each given key,
the pattern that I'm using is different.
I've mixed it up again.
So that's a real challenge.
That will keep you on your toes for
quite some time to come, and
that's the kind of thing that you can
sorta work into your playing routine.
The more you do it,
the more confident you get,
the more quickly you sort of absorb it,
But you don't have to
slave over it day in and
day out necessarily, you can just add
that to your routine as sort of a,
it's like an exercise challenge,
you're going for it.
And it definitely pays off because in
the end, wherever I am on the neck.
And we're doing the cycle four, so
I'm hearing the changes
in a very intuitive way.
I can say, well, if I'm playing
in the key of B-flat
and I'm playing
here's E-flat,
and so on.
When I go from the one
chord to the four chord,
I can be in any spot on the neck and
make that chord change,
because I know how those patterns
fit together with each other.
We're gonna come back to playing
changes and chord tones and
stuff like that later on, and
apply that in different contexts.
But this is an important step in
sort of integrating the whole neck.
So we think of the neck in one key,
up and down.
And we think of the neck
is all keys in one area.
And if you get those two
concepts to coexist,
where you can see one key everywhere and
all keys anywhere,
then you've really got the neck figured
out, and the world is your oyster.
So have fun with that one, we'll come back
and do one more stretching exercise here.
Well, now,
we've got five patterns.
We can cover the whole neck.
And we've talked about linking
the patterns together,
sort of erasing the boundaries
between the patterns.
Seeing one key anywhere on the neck and
being able to move comfortably around.
And also seeing all keys anywhere on
the neck so that you can find your
place no matter where you are and
kinda get at the essence of the phrasing.
Gonna do another way of
gluing this neck together.
This is inspired by watching some of
the great guitar players in blues and
in blues rock and just the feeling
you get when you watch them and
without necessarily breaking
it down technically.
Talking about, I've mentioned this
already several times, Albert King.
Upside down, tuned funny, everything's
off, I have no idea what he's doing,
but I watch his hands, and
he just, it's so fluid.
But he's mainly using one string and
bending a note way high up, and
then coming back down, and
he slides his hand down a couple of frets.
Doesn't ever really
seem to cross the neck.
He's not a position guy, a pattern guy
like we talk about pattern one, two,
three and so.
He doesn't do that at all.
But he just knows how to
get that melody going, and
he does it more length wise, right?
I saw Henry so I was lucky.
I bless my stars I was alive to see
Jimi Hendrix play several times.
And when you saw Hendrix, and you've
seem him probably on videos yourself,
it just seems like effortless.
I mean, he's up and down the neck,
there are no patterns.
It's all one big sound,
he's just going for it.
And, you don't have this awareness
that he's here and he's there.
It's the sort of, the wheels are grinding.
It's just like he's talking to
some girl in the audience, yeah.
And he's singing and he's chewing gum, and
meanwhile his hands are flying around.
It's like, how do you do that?
That's crazy.
It sounds so great.
Also, remember, here in the first
Cream Record, Fresh Cream.
And, Eric Clapton.
Back when people hadn't really
heard of him in America.
He was always pretty
well known in England,
but in America, it was like,
who are these guys?
And they did a cover version of,
a rearrangement really of an old country
blues song by guy named Skip James.
Now if you listen to Skip James' version,
it's significantly different,
it's mysterious, it's unique.
Intense, but
they did a pretty cool version of it,
kinda distilled it a little bit.
And when Clapton took a solo,
I swear, and I don't know this for
a fact, but listening to it and
trying to figure it out,
I think it's all played on one string,
really, in the key of E.
Now he might have been inspired
by Albert King.
At that point, I really don't know.
But it just sounds like
he's just moving up and down one string
and it's over one chord,
goes on for a while.
And it just, man, it sounds so cool.
So, what's the point of all that?
Well, let's think about playing melodies
without thinking about patterns.
We've got patterns galore.
And it's easy to get caught up in that
sort of pattern mania, where it's all
about which pattern am I in, and
are my fingers in the right position?
Where's the tonic?
And da da, there's the interval,
and the flat five and aah!,
but if you think of it a little
bit more intuitively and
this is going back again to kind
of where did blues come from?
It was guys playing a guitar in a way
that was never designed to be played.
WC Henney seeing the guy rubbing a knife
up and down the neck, its like what?
Where did that come from but
man what a cool sound, you know?
So let's do a little bit of that,
and here's gonna be the challenge.
I'm gonna ask you to
play solos on one string.
That's all you get, and
the patterns are still there,
but you're not gonna be
going across the neck.
You're gonna be moving
around those patterns and
sorta skating on the surface of each one.
Here's the idea, right?
Let's say we're playing a 12-bar blues in,
I don't know.
Let's make it the key of E cuz that gives
us sort of an easy way to visualize
the open position and the relationship
of the notes to the open strings.
So I wanna play a solo entirely on
the first string in the key of E.
12-bar blues, okay?
So what am I gonna start with?
I don't know, start with the open string.
the four chord.
I can start just reaching
at a certain point.
You get the idea.
That was actually a 12-bar solo.
I didn't count it off,
I didn't tell you where the changes were.
But in my mind I was hearing one,
I was hearing four, I was hearing five.
And I'm trying to play a melody that makes
sense without ever going across the neck.
It's entirely on the first string.
All right, let's do that for real.
Let's roll a rhythm track,
a 12-bar blues in the key of E.
Shuffle, of course.
And I'll play you a little solo.
And I'll tell you what
I want you to do and
what I wanna hear back
from you after we do this.
But, yeah, there we go.
All right, now.
I've done this before.
[LAUGH] I won't lie to you.
But as I'm playing,
[SOUND] I'm thinking the blues sound.
I say there's the minor third.
I know where that note
is relative to the root.
[SOUND] I know where the fifth is.
[SOUND] There's the blue note
in between the flat five.
[SOUND] And there's the octave,
that's an easy one to go up and grab.
And here comes the four chord.
I could get a little bit sweeter.
Use the major third, etc, etc.
So what I'm doing is making
musical choices, but
the choices are more
related to the intervals.
It's the distance from the first note
to the second note rather than I always
follow this pattern to cross the neck and
so, I can just look at the neck,
I see where the notes are and I can pretty
much go anywhere I want because I see that
that dot is connected to that dot, and
inevitably, I'll be in the right tonality.
In this case here, you're kinda a little
bit closer to the edge of the cliff.
Cuz I'm not sure what
pattern this is exactly but
I'm just thinking if I'm on that note and
I go up two frets that should sound okay.
A real basic musical choice is if one
fret or two frets, half step full step.
And that will actually sort of
resolve any kind of melody you've got.
[COUGH] It's the ultimate
choice musically.
So, there's the idea.
Now on the first string,
in the key of E, you kinda see it.
Mess around with that for a while.
[COUGH] What about on another string?
Let's say, we want to go Clapton style.
I'm gonna play.
When we do it again,
I'm gonna play on the third string.
Now this is gonna be a little brain
twister here because now I have to think
if I'm in the key of E, but
I'm on this other string where the open
string is not E anymore, so
I'm gonna have to find a spot there.
I'll find E on the third
string at the ninth fret.
And pray, okay?
Here we go.
Key of E, third string.
[SOUND] I crossed over, sorry about that.
Didn't know where to go, I was lost.
Now, as I'm going along in there,
I'm thinking okay, I'm in E.
As I'm playing in, in that position there
I see right, that's pattern number two.
But I'm not gonna play
pattern number two I just use
that as sort of a kind of a guide, okay?
I can't go down to E without cheating so,
I'll come back up again.
So I'm really using intervals I know
that from the tonic to the seventh is
a whole step.
When I go down to the fifth [SOUND]
that's three frets and so on.
Really thinking intervals and shapes,
and just kind of try to go for it.
Then I can [SOUND] like Clapton,
bend up to that major third.
Just reach and see, is it in there?
Yeah, I finally got it, okay?
[SOUND] Or slide up [SOUND] four chord,
I know where A is on the neck.
So when the four chord came up,
best of all, go to A,
that'll give me a good solid foundation,
and so forth.
It's a combination of musical,
and technical decisions.
The more knowledge you have about the neck
and where the notes are on the neck.
Of course,
the more of a reference point you have and
you're not so much relying just on your
ear and your fingers to get you around.
You sort of see the context.
And this comes from doing exercises
like the one on the last lesson.
That just drive you crazy,
but the end result is
that you start to see where all
the keys are everywhere on the neck.
And I can see E here and when I get down
here I'm still in E, I still get it.
Or what pattern would that be,
that'd be pattern number five I guess
even though I'm not using it,
you know what I mean?
So, what I want you to do is
send me a recording of yourself
playing a 12-bar solo.
Make it two courses if you like.
On one string.
Pick a string.
Pick a key.
It doesn't have to be E or A.
Pick any of the rhythm tracks that
you got, there's a bunch of them.
Play one string only.
And I just wanna hear how you
kinda create a melodic flow.
Where you let your ear, and
your knowledge of the phrasing guide you,
without really having a standard
technique to fall back on.
Think about the rhythm,
the dynamics, those don't go away.
The touch, vibrato, that's still there.
String bending,
you can still use that, right?
They all make the phrase sound complete,
without sort of this standard mechanism
of the pattern that goes across the neck
always in the same prescribed way.
So this is just like thinking different.
Get outside the box.
We got the box.
We created very elaborate set of boxes,
now we're going outside the box,
and this is gonna kinda wrap up the whole
intermediate section of instruction here,
where we've put a nice
ribbon on the whole thing.
We've expanded the horizon significantly
in terms of the rhythm patterns,
understanding how the parts fit together.
And now we're taking melody and we're
building melody all over the neck and
then we're seeing how we can glue that
neck together into one big piece.
And we'll keep applying those ideas in
the next section, the advanced lessons.
In different contexts, faster,
slower, all kinds of cool stuff.
But this is stuff you'll use for
the rest of your life.
This knowledge of sort of just
how to slide around a little bit.
All right, have fun with that one.