Deep Blues: Double-Stoppin’ Jive
Learn how to turn your riffs and solos from blasé to burning with a few well-placed double-stop licks.
• Discover how to imply chord changes with only two notes.
• Expand your chord vocabulary.
• Create compelling intros and turnarounds for a 12-bar blues.
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In this lesson, we’ll be looking at using double-stops in the context of a blues. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it basically means playing two notes at once. Think of nearly any Chuck Berry solo or even a bluegrass violin or mandolin part where you can hear two strings simultaneously bowed or plucked and you’re there. Because you are essentially harmonizing with yourself, double-stops can be used to create harmonic interest. By adding thickness or aggression to a slightly overdriven guitar tone, they can also be useful for lifting and driving a solo. We’ll be working with a Stevie Ray Vaughan-style blues in the key of G and looking at ideas for intros, navigating the IV chord (C), and outlining the turnaround.
Ex. 1 is an intro that would be great in a trio. It kicks off on the V chord (D7) and blends the punchy sound of G minor pentatonic (G–Bb–C–D–F) with some quarter-step bends. It feeds nicely into a basic turnaround in the last two measures that will give your bandmates a definitive signal on when to come in.
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Let’s build on the previous phrase for Ex. 2. The harmonic rhythm is the same, but we move to a lower octave for some added weight. Instead of playing straight double-stops, we’re using a triplet figure that shifts from one note to the other. (If you want to cop a bit of an Otis Rush vibe, add some shaky vibrato.) This time our turnaround intro pattern hits some chromatically descending sixths before walking up to the V chord (D7) again.
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Featuring double-stops throughout, Ex. 3 is a “Night Train”-inspired idea over the I and IV chords. We start over the G7 with a familiar first-finger barre on the 2nd and 1st strings at the 3rd fret. This barring theme continues any time you see the same fret number across two adjacent strings with one exception: the last upbeat over the G7 where you hammer-on the 3 (B). In measures one and two, I recommend pushing up slightly on the b3 over G7, or adding a little vibrato. The goal is to avoid having the b3 sit squarely on the G7, as that can sound a little gnarly. To use this pattern over the IV (C7) in measures five and six, all we need to do is remove the hammer-on at the end of each measure.
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Let’s thicken up our sound even more in Ex. 4 by breaking away from strict double-stops and playing a series of four-note chord shapes for G7 with the top voice climbing up a G7 arpeggio (G–B–D–F) to create some momentum towards the arrival of the C9. Try adding some dynamic interest by accenting the first beat of each triplet. Alternatively, you could slowly build intensity over the four measures. These ascending voicings are great if you’re playing with a clean or a slightly overdriven tone because the added notes will build volume and texture.
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Ex. 5 takes a slightly different approach to the idea of playing two notes at once. Here, we fret the root with our pinky and play some bluesy licks underneath. This is similar to something you might hear George Benson play or even a blues piano lick à la Jerry Lee Lewis. To take us to the IV chord, we fret the 5 (D) and b7 (F) of G7 and move them up chromatically to resolve to the 3 (E) and 5 (G) of C9.
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Ex. 6 combines organ-inspired pedaling of the root with rising double-stops and some chromaticism over the IV chord. In measure three, give the b3 and 6 a good shake over G7. To avoid getting twisted up when playing the descending double-stops in the last measure, try using your ring finger to barre the 2nd and 3rd strings.
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Let’s focus on the IV chord (C9) for Ex. 7. To walk down to the I chord, we’re using some Chuck Berry-approved descending thirds. (If we were following chord-scale theory, the second shape would have an F instead of an F#, but the F# offers a pleasing pull on the ear down to the I. This is the blues after all—the ear is king! We finish up the phrase by outlining the G7 chord with a few more double-stops.
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In our final example (Ex. 8), we outline the turnaround with sliding sixths before progressing to some single-note blues vocabulary over the G7. The lick ends with a faux Robert Johnson-style descending line, and I’ve thrown in a partial D augmented chord (D–F#–A#) to generate some harmonic tension before the 12-bar form starts again.
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Deep Blues: Double-Stop Madness
Chops: Intermediate Theory: Beginner Lesson Overview: • Learn how to use hybrid picking to play double-stop licks. • Crate bluesy phrases in the style of Grant Green, Kenny Burrell,
• Learn how to use hybrid picking to play double-stop licks.
• Crate bluesy phrases in the style of Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
• Understand how to incorporate dissonance into your playing.
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In this month’s column we’re going to take a look at some double-stop licks that emulate the sound of the Hammond B3. These are licks that you might have heard from such great players as George Benson, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and even Stevie Ray Vaughan. They don’t have a high level of difficulty but have a high level of coolness. You’ll find that these licks are mostly coming out of the first position minor pentatonic scale pattern. We’ll make these fit over the first four bars of an A blues progression. Let’s get right to it.
In Fig. 1, you’ll notice that the idea being played is a very common blues lick using the minor 3rd (C) and the flatted 5th (Eb) against the major 3rd (C#) and the natural 5th (E) of an A7 chord. The best way to achieve this sound is to hold your pick between your thumb and index as normal, but now you want to add the ring finger to pick the first string every time. It’s a pinch motion between the pick and the ring finger.
Instead of using the root as our harmony note for our double-stops, we will use the flat 7th (G), as shown in Fig. 2. We’re also using hammer-ons and pull-offs to surround the C#. We will hammer-on from C# to D to start each phrase while holding the G on top. This is an interval of a perfect fourth, which is a very cool sound, but its a little thinner sounding than a third or a sixth because it has less dissonance. Power chords in rock music are perfect fifths that sometimes have an octave on top. Octaves are also perfect intervals. With this lick I would pick in a downward motion. I wouldn’t try to use my ring finger to pick the second string. The strings in this case are close enough to each other that you can just use the pick.
Fig. 3 is out of the A major pentatonic scale (A–B–C#–E–F#) and starts out with an octave and then moves to a chromatic climb up from C to E. At the same time we are holding down the A on the 1st string. Again, just as in the last lick I’m using a downward picking motion to play each one of the double-stops.
For Fig. 4, we will combine both the first and second position of the minor pentatonic scale. The phrase starts out with a hammer-on from Eb to E with the root note (A) on top. Then we use a pull-off from the flatted fifth (Eb) down to D. Again we continue to have the A above each note. Then we move down into the first-position minor pentatonic scale. I play the second half of the phrase with a sweeping-like picking motion using all downstrokes. This is a technique I picked up from listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. He would both use this sweeping-like motion or he would use his ring finger and pick the root note for every note in the lick. Either way you chose, it’s one of the coolest sounds ever.
Deep Blues: 9th Chords and the Truth, Pt. 2
Chops: Intermediate Theory: Intermediate Lesson Overview: • Learn new voicings for dominant 9th and dominant 13th chords. • Understand the basics of voice leading over a blues progression. •
• Learn new voicings for dominant 9th and dominant 13th chords.
• Understand the basics of voice leading over a blues progression.
• Play funky shuffle rhythms in the style of James Brown.
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This month we’re going to continue to look at 9th chords and check out some cool voice-leading tricks to use over a blues progression. Voice leading is when you move as few notes as possible when moving from one chord to another. We’ll also take a look at a cool rhythmic idea where I move an inner voice of the chord up and down to create a tension and release. Lastly, we’ll play a cool funky shuffle where we’ll move the chord up and down by half-steps to create tension and release.
We use a basic blues progression in the key of G for Fig. 1. The first voicing is actually a G13 with the root on the 2nd string and the 13th (or 6th) on the 3rd string. This makes for a slightly “jazzier” sound. We will use this shape for our I chord and the voicing from last month’s column for the IV and V chords, also known as the “T-Bone” chord, where we omit the root.
Let’s take a look at how each note changes when moving from the I chord to the IV chord. The top note (G) stays the same while the B and F move down a half-step and the D moves down a whole-step. Every note in the I chord only moves when necessary and then to the nearest chord tone of the next chord, usually a half-step or whole-step away. This economical approach to chords might be mentally taxing in the beginning, but will pay off in the long run. Every time you think about using these voicings, take a second to review the voice leading first.
After listening to some of Robben Ford’s albums, I picked up a cool rhythmic idea that you can check out in Fig. 2. Robben will take a 9th chord voicing, like the one we learned last month, and move the fifth up and down chromatically from E down to C#. We’ll do this with a one-chord vamp on A9. Now this will take a little time to develop, so go slowly at first and speed up the tempo as you get more comfortable. The hardest part is to develop the finger movements. Use your first finger to make all the slide movements on the second string except for when we return to the original chord voicing of A9.
Fig. 3 is the style of a funky shuffle, not unlike what you might hear from James Brown. The rhythm takes a one-chord groove with a D9 and adds accents with chords that are a half-step away. The first one occurs at the end of the first measure with a C#9 chord, and the second lands on beat 4 of the second measure with a D#9. The bass player sticks on D, even though the chords are changing. This causes tension that then releases when the chord returns to D9. This can be used on a funky blues or static vamp. I would typically use this technique sparingly.
I truly hope you enjoy these newfound rhythmic ideas. I know that these make a big part of my rhythmic vocabulary. Some of these will take time to learn, so go slowly and build up your comfort level. Others might take sometime to figure out where they’ll work in your repertoire. I believe they’ll make a great addition to your playing.