Tomo Fujita''s debut column will help you break out of the old minor-pentatonic shapes.
I’m a huge fan of many different types of
blues guitarists—everyone from SRV to
B.B. King. I’m also a real sucker for jazz guitarists
like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery.
One of my favorite things is to play blues
that’s mixed with the essence of jazz. In
order to mix both styles, you need to think
about harmony and chord changes more
than just burning through scale patterns.
I focus on simple ideas and hate to think
too much when I am playing. Triads have become a really cool tool for me because
they provide the harmonic colors I’m looking
for, yet don’t require a lot of over-thinking.
In this lesson, we’re going to look at
creative ways to use triads in a minor blues.
I often hear my students ask, “What scales are you playing? How do you make those interesting lines?” Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy playing traditional blues phrases, but I also want to make my solo connect with the chord progression. I think a lot of players have trouble going beyond playing pure pentatonic shapes.
If you find yourself only following the same pentatonic scale patterns, then you may get bored with your solo rather quickly. Don’t worry! All you need to do is pay more attention to the chord changes than the scales when you’re soloing. Triads are some of the simplest chord forms. This application of triads will help you outline specific chord changes while you are playing your favorite bluesy phrases. Basically, I don’t want you to become locked into those old minor-pentatonic shapes.
The basic blues progression uses only three chords (I, IV, and V). Blues music has very simple chord changes, yet is very deep. The goal is to hear the chord movement rather than just thinking about the shape of the various pentatonic scales. Let’s get a handle on this technique by playing over minor-blues chord changes. For starters, we’ll use the progression in Fig. 1. Make sure to check out the bVI to V chord movement in measures 9-10. This gives the minor-blues progression a “jazzier” feel.
Triads consist of only three notes—the root, 3rd, and 5th. Simple, right? Since there are only three combinations of the notes, you can play three different inversions (or shapes). In Fig. 2, you can see the inversions of an A major triad on the top three strings. The first chord is in root position, since the root is the lowest note in the chord. Moving up the neck we have the 1st inversion with the 3rd as the low note, and finally we end with the 2nd inversion with the 5th in the bass. This 2nd inversion is sometimes referred to as the “triangle shape” and looks just like an open-position D chord, just moved up the fretboard.
Download example 2 audio...
Once these shapes are comfortably under your fingers, start to move them around to other string sets. If you think about not only the note names, but also the degree names, it will make transposing them to other keys much easier.