Spice Up Your Blues!
Everyone knows the feeling of playing the same old blues licks time and time again. You don’t have to get stuck in this rut, and in fact there is an awesome way out of it.
- Convert your simple pentatonic boxes into chromatic powerhouses.
- Learn how chromatic enclosures and passing tones can be used when playing the blues.
- Understand how to use diminished scales over dominant 7 chords.
The greatest modern blues players all have a fantastic understanding of how to inject “outside” notes into their phrases to create new and wild sounds. Those crazy-sounding notes are chromatic tones, but placing them in the right spot is what takes a phrase from dull to amazing. I’m going to show you how to take a boring blues scale and make it hip and exciting.
If you’re used to playing pentatonic blues scales, then making a few small adjustments to how you visualize these scales will allow you to start adding chromatic notes to your phrases. Playing over a major blues, the commonly used notes would be the 1–2–3–4–5–6–b7. Ex. 1 introduces several chromatic notes using a technique called “enclosure.” This is when a target note is approached from above and below before being played. Chromatic enclosures are when you employ non-diatonic (chromatic) notes.
The b5, b3, b6 and b9 are all used as a way of targeting the scale note nearest to them. Beginning on the b5 (Eb), the lick moves to the 5 as it climbs up the A major pentatonic scale (A–B–C#–E–F#). A chromatic enclosure is then used beginning on beat 3. The 4 (D) is played followed by the 2 (B) before the chromatic target note b3 (C). The exact same concept and fingering is used beginning on the “and” of beat 1 in measure three. The b6 (F) is targeted using enclosure in between the b7 (G) and 5 (E). As part of the final few notes, the root (A) is targeted using enclosure between the b9 (Bb) and b7 (G), which outlines a diminished 7 idea.
One of the easiest ways to use chromatics in your playing is to simply connect scale tones using the notes in between them (i.e. passing tones). Ex. 2 utilizes this concept, which is often found in jazz playing. We can use the same blues scale from the last lick. However this time we are connecting scale tones rather than simply using chromatic enclosures. In measure one on beat 3, the B descends to the A using the Bb as a passing note. In measure two there is another three-note passage where the middle note is a passing tone, going from F# to E using the F in between. Later in that measure there is a four-note passing tone idea in which the D is connected to the B simply by descending chromatically across all four notes.
A great tool when using chromatics is changing the direction of the chromatic notes. This helps break up the repetitive feel of using passing tones. In Ex. 3 the beginning of this C7 lick starts with a chromatic slide into the root note and then descends from Eb to C before climbing back up to E on the 12th fret. However, instead of just climbing down and back up, using the b7 on the 2nd string creates an immediate direction change as the note drops down before the scale continues back upward. To help stop this from sounding simply like a descending and ascending scale, the changes in rhythm and direction occur simultaneously to create a more musical phrase. Just for fun, the last part of the lick uses a minor blues idea with a b5 passing tone.
Start Using Grace Notes
Stevie Ray Vaughan fans may recognize a specific sound in this slow Bb7 blues lick. Ex. 4 starts with a standard blues bend opening, but just as SRV liked to do, the b9 is used as a grace note to and from the root. By slurring from the root note to the b9 and back you can create a grace note that sounds like a flurry when done quickly. In measure 2, the quick slide from the E to the Eb and then the quick hammer-on from the Db to D are great ways to use fast, slurred grace notes to hint at chromatic tones without
Connecting The Blues Box
When playing in your standard minor blues box, it’s incredibly easy to use chromatics, because you have multiple passing notes right there under your fingers. In Ex. 5, the first measure of this E9 lick simply climbs up the minor box via a triplet lick that crosses the middle four strings. Then it jumps from the C# up to the G# on the 1st string and descends chromatically all the way to the root note on the 12th fret. This passing tone idea is then repeated by connecting the 15th fret on the 2nd string to the 12th fret. In the middle of measure three there is a common blues idea of playing the b3 into the 3 using a slide, but notice, this is also part of a chromatic enclosure. This is then repeated in measure four, but this time as a grace note hammer-on. The coolest part of the lick is the end where it slides from the C (b6) to the C# (6) and then plays two chromatic tritones back to back (C# to G and D to G#).
Double-stops are a great way to use chromatic ideas because they connect nearly identical shapes down the neck. In this country-sounding lick in B, this concept is laid out on the 3rd and 2nd strings descending down the scale. Ex. 6 has us starting on a B major double-stop moving down through the scale. If you mapped out the double-stops without all the passing tones they would outline these chords: B–A–G#m–F#m–E–D#m–C#m–B. However, because of the similarity in shape between these double-stops, it is very easy to simply play passing tones between them. Once again, the rhythmic variety helps to stop this from sounding like an exercise and makes it much more musical. The end of the lick uses single-note passing tones to finish up the phrase.
Diminished Sounds Are Awesome
Fusion players love the use of chromatics. The reason for this is that introducing the b9 to a dominant 7 chord creates a diminished 7 chord. Ex. 7 showcases this diminished sound over a D7#9 chord. The lick starts with a diminished arpeggio sweep on the three high strings near the D blues box at the 10th fret. The next four notes outline the half-whole diminished scale (3–#9–b9–1). There are also a series of half-step bends that hint at these diminished notes, helping to create a variety of articulations instead of simply plucking everything. To further create a diminished sound, the use of a tritone is found in the middle of the last measure when the C to F# is played.
7 to 5 Always Works
By now you probably have a decent understanding of how to include chromatic notes in your playing. However, one common rule will pretty much always work when playing over a dominant 7 chord. Ex. 8 showcases the rule of descending from the b7 to the 5 of any dominant chord. This passing tone idea is a great way to create a subtle yet sophisticated phrase. This E7#9 lick plays through this 7 to 5 concept twice, but the rhythm is what makes it sound different each time. Notice how each time the 7 to 5 concept is used it is merely on the way to a separate target note. This is key to the phrasing. Instead of making any of the chromatic notes or the 7 or 5 the target of the phrase, this idea simply is used to introduce a new note, which is the accented target note. The first time it is used at the beginning of measure one, the target note is E. Then later in measure four the target note is G.
Mix and match these cool ideas and you’ll definitely add some spice to a recipe that can occasionally get a little stale for us all. Have at it!
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Guitar Center Presents: Holiday Gift Guide
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Les Paul Desert Burst Satin
Fender Classic Series 5 Guitar Case Stand Tweed
Fender Holiday Guitar Cable Keychain
Fender Limited Edition Holiday Sweater
Harbinger MLS1000 Personal Line Array Speaker System
Sterling Audio P10 Dynamic Instrument Microphone
Sterling Audio Harmony H224 USB Audio Interface
Apogee BOOM 2x2 Audio Interface
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Origin Effects Announces the M-EQ Driver
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
Lava Music Introduces All-New Golden-Hour Finish
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.