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Accompanying the Blues
from Larry Carlton’s 335 Blues
This lesson explores playing a slow blues rhythm with a “Stormy Monday” feel. The overall focus will be on varying the part slightly from chorus to chorus to keep things interesting. For the first chorus, we will be playing the backbeats. The second time around we will add in some single note phrases to spice things up a bit, and for the third chorus we will play with suspended chords to open up the harmony a little bit before easing back into more traditional sounding chords.
Let’s begin with the first chorus and decide where we can most effectively place the backbeats. We have two choices: the two or the four – as in one, two, three, four. Since our role here is as an accompanist, we want to outline the song’s structure and give it movement without getting in the soloist’s way, making the placement of the backbeat on four more effective. This way the soloist is able to take their time with note placement and phrasing at the beginning of each measure without worrying about the rhythm part interfering.
Use upstrokes to help with the feel while trying to lock the timing to the high hat and the snare. Listen intently to the drummer to build a solid foundation for the soloist.
The second chorus builds on the idea of open chordal accompaniment, but adds a little more information for both the soloist and the listener. Look for the walkups to the I, II minor, and III minor, but we’re not doing anything fancy to the chords right now- just creating more groove for the soloist.
On the third chorus we are really going to expand the harmony to give the soloist more things to think about. For instance, the first chord on the downbeat is normally an A7 – instead, we will play a suspended chord, resolving to the IV. This will nudge the soloist out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to play something they may not have otherwise. Watch for the halfsteps as we approach the IV chord and the chord substitutions on the way back around.
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