Phrasing feeling stale? Learn how to break down the more vocal side of melody and rhythm.



Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Let blues vocalists inspire your phrasing.
• Get more mileage from your licks by varying their rhythmic patterns.
• Emulate the call-and-response style of such blues masters as B.B. King, Freddie King, and Magic Sam. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

“Phrasing” is a term that gets thrown around a lot when people talk about improvisation, and I remember being baffled by this as a kid learning to play. Especially when some rocker would sound off about how awesome his phrasing was in a Guitar Player interview and the next month all the jazz cats would write in to laud the phrasing of their favorite bebopper while unflatteringly comparing said rocker’s phrasing to the flatulence of various barnyard denizens. “Wow,” I would think, “this phrasing thing is clearly a big deal,” while remaining pretty oblivious of what the word really meant.

It turns out phrasing is basically just how you play the things you play. At its most fundamental, it’s where your ideas or licks start and stop within the rhythmic and harmonic pulse of the music. Getting into more detail, it’s your attack and tone and dynamics and personal timing—all the essential details that make you sound like yourself. But for the purpose of this lesson, we’ll stick with the first part: Phrasing is where you put the notes, relative to the chord progression going by.

Read More Show less

Understand how masters of beatnik-blues such as Grant Green and Kenny Burrell effortlessly weaved chord hits within their solos.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Develop a call-and-response approach to soloing over a 12-bar blues.
• Outline the changes of a blues in the style of Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Ed Bickert.
• Learn how to anticipate a chord change with both single-note lines and half-step chord approaches.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

There are a lot of good reasons to incorporate chord hits into your soloing. For one thing, they help to fill in the groove and the harmonic landscape when you’re playing with just bass and drums. For another, they can reference the call-and-response sound of playing with a horn section or keyboardist. Finally, and maybe most usefully, by operating like cones on a race course, playing chord hits forces you to create and play well-defined phrases, which gives your solos clarity and momentum. In this lesson, we’ll go through several different ways to add chord hits to a mid-tempo blues in Bb.

Our first move is to play chord hits on the way into the downbeat, then answer with single-note licks. In Ex. 1, we start out by approaching the 3 and b7 (also known as a tritone) of the I chord, Bb, from a half-step below. The syncopation of playing on “4 and” creates room to answer with a single note lick after the downbeat. We repeat this half-step move on the way into measure 3, then use a similar half-step move to get into the Eb7 chord just before measure 5. You could carry this process through the rest of the 12-bar progression, as well.

Read More Show less

B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Freddie King all had an innate ability to move between major and minor sounds within a 12-bar blues. Here’s how they did it.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Learn when and how to use the minor and major pentatonic scales in a blues progression.
• Understand how to phrase like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Freddie King.
• • Develop a better sense of call and response.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

Contrast offers a potent way to create sparks in your solos, and one of the simplest techniques for generating contrast is to play minor and major pentatonic scales off each other. In this lesson, we’ll check out a few classic examples of using contrast in blues, and then learn how to incorporate such contrast into your own playing.

Like many guitarists, I began exploring lead by first learning the minor pentatonic scale. Initially, I simply pushed notes around on the fretboard with no real reference point for what blues was supposed to sound like. Next, I tried to figure out a couple of Eric Clapton’s Albert King-inspired licks from Disraeli Gears. But it wasn’t until my best friend hipped me to B.B. King’s Live at the Regal that I finally had a definitive reference point for playing blues guitar. And one thing that really caught my ear was the opening to King’s solo on “Sweet Little Angel.” Turns out, that’s a perfect example of how to contrast major and minor sounds for maximum effect. King opens with a major-sounding statement, a phrase that leads into a double-stop on the downbeat, then immediately pivots with a minor-sounding phrase into the IV chord. After that, he plays a variation on his opening lick to come back into the I. The minor blues sounds badass over the IV because it includes the b7 of the IV, while the kickoff and return to major sound equally good because they nail the major third of the I chord. It sounds something like Ex. 1.

Read More Show less
x