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Blues Improvisation
Blues Improv

Blues For Peace

Jimi Hendrix, Guitar
Jimi Hendrix

Blues Guitar Hero

Why be just another blues guitar player when you really want to be a blues guitar hero? Every blues guitar legend starts with talent, hard work, a few breaks and faith in themselves. Here's an off the wall guide to becoming a blues guitar hero.

Be Crazy Dumb Saint of the guitar, fingers dancing wildly across the frets.. like the pin ball wizard, that deaf dumb kid sure plays a nasty blues guitar...

Learn To Play By Ear - Blues Guitar Hero

Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton - they ALL learned to play by ear and improvise. And they did it the old fashioned way with scratchy 78's records, LP's and reel to reel tapes that hissed like the devil.

Today, there's no excuse for not learning to play by ear. Once you learn to play something by ear - you own it. Just pop some music in your CD player and skip back and forth over the licks you'd like to learn until you get it. Before long, these licks will find there way into your solos on stage.

Learn to Play Behind the Beat - Blues Guitar Player

Listen carefully to a few solo's by the blues masters, there is actually a tiny p.a.u.s.e. between when you think the phrase or lick begins and when it's actually played by the soloist. Well, do you hear it? It's the trick that can will force people sit up and pay attention your solo's!

That "funky" blues or jazz sound that grabs your ears and MAKES YOU LISTEN is just an audio illusion... Your ear is tricked into trying hear something sound that hasn't been played yet... The great musicians above are all masters of playing solo's just... behind.... the............. beat!

On blues and jazz songs, the soloist usually plays off the drums... waits a fraction of a second to hear the beat and plays the next lick on the upeat.... the "and of" when you count eigth notes. Stevie Ray Vaughn, for example, played this way and is sadly missed.

Learn To Solo In The Flat Keys - Blues Guitar Hero

The classic jazz songs by Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, etc. were mostly in the flat keys. For example, "Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk is in E flat. Do you think "Round Midnight" played in the key of C has the same "soul"?

On "Live at the Regal", BB King plays most songs in the flat keys - F, B flat, D flat, A flat, E flat, etc. While today, most blues and jazz songs are played in the sharp keys - G, D, A, E, etc. Listen to songs in flat and sharp keys. Do you hear a diffence? Which sounds better to you?

Also, the guitar fretboard has markings at frets 5, 7, 9, 12, etc. that are designed for playing in the sharp keys. When you play a solo in the flat keys, the fretboard markings look wierd and may even mix you up. Playing solo's in the flat keys forces you to re-learn to solo intuivively and trust that your fingers will land on the right notes. And they will as BB King says "Someday Baby, Ah Someday, Baby..."

Learn to Play oUT OF tuNe - Blues Guitar Player

Once upon a time, before they invented guitar tuners, people played out of tune naturally. You didn't have to work at it and nobody made a big deal about it. Listen to some funky old blues or jazz records. I'm listening right now to a Grant Green record ... Joe Henderson is wailing a way and his tenor sax is noticeably and beautifully FLAT.

Learn To PLay With Dynamics - Blues Guitar Hero

The great musicians use dynamics - loud is LOUD, soft is shhh... quiet. A dotted eighth note is a Dotted Eight Note. A triplet's a Triplet Dammit... and so forth.

BB King talks in his biography, about picking cotton for 25 cents a ton. Listen to his music... now here's a man that knows the value of a dollar. Throughout his career, in every song, every solo, every phrase, BB King accentuates the differences in volume, timing, feel, color, attack, etc. BB King himself said it best, " "Notes are expensive... spend them wisely."

Protect the Beat - Blues Guitar Player

Miles Davis said, "Music is about timing and getting everything in rhythm... Max Roach taught me a drummer is always supposed to protect the rhythm... The way you protect the groove is to have a beat in between a beat. Like "bang, bang, sha-bang, sha-bang". The "sha" in between the "bang" is the Beat beat in between the beat, and that little thing is the extra groove.."

Learn To Play Kinda Sloppy - Blues Guitar Hero

One of Duane Almman's favorite albums was "Kind of Blue" by is the Miles Davis. On it, you can hear Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly playing jazz the way it's meant to be played - sloppy.... well not REALLY SLOPPY, just "kind of" - the kind of studied sloppiness that sounds funky cool and makes people listen to your music.

Learn To Swing - Blues Guitar Player

Duke Ellington said it ALL when he wrote the song "It Don't Mean A Thing If Ain't Got That Swing" along with Irving Mills. Read the words, listen to the song and "Swing Brother Swing!"

What good is melody?
What good is music?
If it ain't possessin' something sweet
It ain't the melody, it ain't the music

There's something else that makes the tune complete
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing
It don't mean a thing all you got to do is sing

It makes no difference
If it's sweet or hot
Just give that rhythm
Everything you've got
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

Learn To Swagger - Strut Your Stuff!

Play guitar like the biggest, baddest, meanest, funkiest blues guitar player that ever lived. That's what being a blues guitar hero is all about. Just listen to Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Slash, SRV... have they got a chip on their shoulder or what? If you want to play like them, you gotta FEEL like them.. like Muddy Waters in the song "I'm Ready... "I hope some screwball start a fight!"

Find A Teacher That Pisses You Off!

I studied with some teachers that pissed me off, that got under my skin like Jimmy Cheathem (Duke Ellington) and Arnie Lawrence (Dizzy Gillespie) and learned the most from them - they gave a damn!

Leave Some Space - Blues Guitar Player

Some musicians have brilliant ideas, but you'd never know it... they play so many notes it all sounds like a boring bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. For example.

Fourahhscoreahhandahhsevenahhyearsahhago,ahho urahhfathersahhbroughtahhforthahhuponahhthisahh continentahhaahhnewahhnation:hhconceivedahhinahh liberty,ahhandahhdedicatedahhtoahhtheahhproposition ahhthatahhallahhmenahhareahhcreatedahhequal.

Here's the same "solo" with a little bit o' space...

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Learn To Fingerpick- Blues Guitar Player

The funky snappin' guitar strings and stinging blues licks - ouch! - will fly off your fingers and into peoples' hearts. Check out Albert Collins... it's not for nothin' they call him the Master of the Telecaster... R&B legend Cornell DuPree, guitarist for Aretha Franklin and funk band "STUFF" and Eric Clapton playing LALYA and finger style blues on his "Unplugged" CD.

Listen To Your Achin Hands- Blues Guitar Hero

After beating your hands to death trying to play an Eric Clapton solo, and your fingers are killing you.... maybe they are actually trying to tell you something!

Guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, etc. weren't born with superman hands. They were all born with the same five, or in the case of Hound Dog Taylor, six fingers that you have. The difference is, they learned not to fight nature. The trick is to play notes & bends that are natural patterns for your fingers. A lick that's almost impossible to play in one position may be a breeze just by switching your hand position. Watch Clapton play a guitar solo, his left hand is always dancing back & forth between positions on the neck. (He also plays solo's without using his pinky, a 1950's technique and part of his disctinctive sound - try it!)

Also, don't arch your fingers... It's great for classical guitar players and a DUMB idea for playin' Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton licks. Watch the way they play guitar... fingers CURLED around the fingerboard... don't forget... if it feels funky, it's gonna SOUND funky!

Hit The Road & Take Your Guitar

The sounds and rhythms where you live are a HUGE FACTOR in how you play. That's why a country musician from Houston sounds different than a country musician from Boston. And a blues player from New York different from one in Chicago .

If you want to play Flamenco music? Head for for Andulasia Spain and Algeria. Wanna play the blues? Beat your path to Memphis. Chicago Blues - bum the rails to the Windy City. Jazz? Jump and jive your way to the Big Apple, New York City. You'll learn more performing & hanging out with people in these places then you can imagine... As Horace Silver said, "Music is in the air... you just have to grab it!"

Don't Study French to Improve Your Greek

And don't study classical music to play Mo Betta Blues... it's BULLSHIT... excuse my French.

Play Acoustic Guitar - Blues Guitar Hero

BB King wasn't born with a Gibson ES 355 guitar in his hand - they weren't even invented yet! Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all played acousic guitars throughout their careers.

An acoustic guitar transmits the vibrations of the music to your body - heart and soul. Check out SRV "Sky is Crying" album, Clapton's Unplugged CD, Jimmy Page's "Stairway to Heaven". The "touch" of playing the acoustic guitar will give your solo's an elusive "sound " and "feel" that comes through when you play electric guitar.

Learn To PLay Some Blues Harp - Guitar Hero

Blues harp sounds cool... and it's an IDEAL instrument for improving your skills playing blues, jazz, rock, etc. Blues harmonica will force you to learn to "bend notes", play by "ear" and play simple, funky blues licks. It's cheap, fits in your pocket and is tons of fun! See blues harp.

Memorize Music Quotes

They will help you understand where it's at and how to get there. Here's a few to start your collection.

"If you don't live it... it won't come out of your horn."
Charlie Parker

"Notes are expensive, spend them wisely."
BB King

"Simple music is the hardest music in the world to play... and blues is simple music."
Albert Collins

"Music is everywhere, you just have to grab it!"
Horace Silver

"The only real music that's gonna last is jazz."
Jimmy Smith

Most of all, just be a blues guitar hero in your own eyes and enjoy your music. Good luck and funky blues, Johnny Mayer.

Check out Guitar Hero Software

Copyright Johnny Mayer, 2002, All rights reserved.

Johnny Mayer, Epiphone DOT Guitar
Johnny Mayer and his Ephiphone DOT... cool!

© 1998-2009 Blues for Peace Corporation. All rights reserved.

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