Blues

Photo by Mikkel Bech on Unsplash

There’s way more than blues-rock fodder buried in the crevices of the most overused scale in music.

Beginner

Intermediate

  • Explain how chords are generated from scales.
  • Create unusual harmonies, chord progressions, bass lines, and melodies using the blues scale.
  • Demonstrate how music theory and musical intuition can coalesce to create unique sounds from traditional materials.
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Last updated on May 21, 2022

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for blues music, but the blues scale can yield beguiling musical results that bear little resemblance to the traditional blues—particularly if one looks at (and listens to) the scale from a different point of view.

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Learn how to solo effortlessly using the CAGED system.

Intermediate

Intermediate

  • Learn how to map out the neck with five CAGED shapes.
  • Create melodic lines by targeting chord tones on strong beats.
  • Discover how to enhance your phrases with chromatic notes.
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Originally published on March 15, 2015

The CAGED system is a subject we’ve explored many times before in Beyond Blues, and as you may know, it plays a big role in the way I teach. If you need a quick refresher, or if you’re totally new to the CAGED concept, read “A Guitarist’s Guide to the CAGED System." This CAGED approach doesn’t often generate resistance, but when it does, I usually find that it’s because of a misunderstanding of the system—there’s a lot more to it than just barre chords. While we’ve discussed arpeggios and scale fingerings several times over the years, this lesson will finally bridge the gap between those two.

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Sometimes slow and steady doesn’t win the race.

Advanced

Intermediate

• Develop a better sense of shred.

• Understand how to phrase in odd-numbered groups.

• Create blistering pentatonic lines in the style of Joe Bonamassa and Eric Johnson

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Since blues playing and improvisation is based around vocabulary, you can’t just throw in intervallic fusion lines or neoclassical sweep arpeggios and expect them to fit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for experimenting with sounds from different genres, but you’ll want to pick the right moments to work in these ideas. Having a strong foundation in the blues will ground the listener and make the experiments pop out more without alienating them. So, let’s look at a handful of shreddy blues licks that you can throw down at the next local blues jam without (hopefully) drawing the blues purist’s wrath upon you.
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Photo by Katrena Wise

Intermediate

Intermediate

  • Break down what makes Eric’s approach so unique.
  • Learn Hendrix’s “Little Wing” from a whole new perspective.
  • Pick up some new muscle memory on unusual chord shapes.
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Eric Gales’ method of playing a right-handed guitar left-handed and upside down gives him a sound that’s distinctively his. If you watch videos of him playing, you’ll notice he plays with his thumb wrapped around the top of the neck, like Jimi Hendrix or John Mayer. However, since his guitar strings are flipped upside down, his thumb is fretting what would be the first string to most people. This not only puts your brain in a whirl when trying to steal licks, but it also opens the door for some truly unique chord voicings. Gales, who fuses blues, rock, and classical together, constantly manages to play some truly otherworldly licks and passages.

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