If you play from the heart audiences will recognise this even if they have limited actual musical knowledge themselves . Sometimes just playing one note can convey more emotion, than a complicated phrase, especially if the chords are changing behind it.
Using the downloadable ‘gone too soon’ jam track to illustrate this point we’ll be learning a simple riff that will fit all of the way through allowing the chords behind to supply the subtle changes in melodic structure while the focus remains on the simple melody – all parts will always work together to create something greater than the sum of the parts. Playing the blues is very much about listening to the other parts and making meaningful contributions.
I’ll explain the 1 ,4,5 structure and establish that everyone is ok playing chords – ideally you should be able to use barred chords. Talk about the blues scale and blue notes.
We’ll talk about method acting and communication i.e its really not about trying too hard to impress – you have lots of time so just sit back and enjoy playing – think melodically – repeat sections and build – use throw away notes create tension and release – create a mood.
Building on the one note sequence – we’ll introduce pull offs and bends and investigate how we can play with e.g different attacks etc. to change the context of how the notes sound. We’ll then expand on the number of notes – we’ll look at the scale to ascertain what notes are generally good choices.
Talk about how you have good days and bad i.e 2 steps forward – 1 step back
when you are relaxed and don’t feel that you have anything to prove you tend to deliver much better – I know that when I was younger if I was playing and it was a one of those nights where things didn’t seem to flow as well as I would have liked. I would sometimes try and cover it up by playing too fast instead of just sitting back – this inevitably had a negative impact on my playing although audiences were not aware of it – playing blues guitar is a very personal experience so play for the sake of the music keep it as honest as possible i.e don’t lose track of the emotion you are trying to convey.
Throwaway pull offs can also be used to suggest that the phrase is incomplete so that you know there is more to come – sometimes it can be very effective to miss a few beats or sometimes even longer to help raise the level of expectancy. This can also allow a track to breathe remember in a band situation we are all cogs in the same wheel coming together with the same aim. If the overall effect is good people will always think ‘great band’ and the assumption will be that they are all great musicians. When something becomes too distracting i.e when everyone is trying to impress at the same time the opposite is true. Breaking up rhythmic patterns is also a great way to keep interest as is the judicious use of dynamics.
We’ll discuss how blues in recent years has diversified to encompass several other genres – rock blues, country blues, Texas blues, Memphis blues to name but a few. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this i.e some traditional blues fans can be highly protective of the tradition and roots of the blues and are not so happy about what they see as the dilution of an art form. Then there is the school of thought that embraces the diversity and believe that the blues needs to diversify in order to survive. Both viewpoints are of course equally relevant. However whichever side of the fence you find yourself on its good to remember that the blues has had a profound effect and influence on almost all modern music forms and that at the end of the day great music is great music.