At the end of the 19th century, one particular style of music emerged from the African-American communities belonging in the Deep South of the United States. It was usually performed by prisoners and slaves. These were derived from field hollers, work songs, even chants and shouts. This musical style is called Blues. One legend says that William Christopher Handy, a cornet player and bandleader, wrote the first Blues song which was both printed and documented in the year 1912. The song was entitled Yellow Dog Blues.
The Blues musical genre has garnered popularity throughout the years and in different nations around the world, capturing the hearts of many people of all ages, making a lot of music lovers want to try and learn blues guitar. Blues and guitar are like bread and butter to each other. They work well together. An acoustic or an electric guitar would be a great instrument to have if you want to play the Blues. Thicker strings may help in getting better tones and sustainability while nylon strings are not recommended.
The majority of Blues songs are played following the 12 bar. The 12 bar Blues simply means that the song is divided into 12 “bars” or “patterns” with a given chord sequence. If one is really interested in learning blues guitar then one should start by learning this basic beat – which also happens to be the easiest one too. When playing, this form is repeated over and over for every verse of the song until the song ends. While practicing this, it is recommended that it should be started with a single down strum for each beat, until one becomes familiar and comfortable with it before trying to elaborate each strum and trying other variations.
Blues, in most cases, is major in chord structure but there are also different scales that can be used in order to create or add a colorful tone associated with Blues. Some of these scales are major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, dorian, and mixolydian. These can be used individually or in combination with each other.
To better learn blues guitar, it is essential to practice the three (3) rhythm feels that are used in Blues, namely, straight feel, shuffle feel, and twelve/eight feel.
In the straight feel, the eighth note rhythm is usually used and are spaced equally apart while the shuffle feel follow a long-short scheme (the second note is placed in every pair of eighth notes.) The twelve/eight rhythm has twelve beats per bar and each eighth note obtains one beat.
Techniques are also vital in playing Blues on the guitar and one of these is the Vibrato. It is a musical effect that is created when the pitch of a note is slightly changed to a higher pitch and then back to its original pitch by changing the tension of the string.
In order to fill the chords with melodic figures, turnarounds, intros, and endings – riffs are used. Turnarounds are usually played on the last two bars, making the solo complete and points the song back to its beginning. Some turnarounds even make wonderful and interesting intros and endings of songs.
To fully learn blues guitar, there is no one trick, way, method or procedure to master it. Learning the Blues takes constant and accurate practice. No matter what the sellers of books, ebooks, and videos promise, nothing beats perseverance and dedication.
On March 1, 2017, I asked myself the concern: With only one month of practice, can I play a 5-minute improvisational blues guitar solo?
On March 26, 2017, after 24 Hr of practice, I found out that the response was yes.
Throughout the month of March, I documented my whole knowing procedure in a series of 31 day-to-day post, which are put together here into a single story. In this short article, you can relive my month of insights, disappointments, finding out hacks, and victories, as I aim to regular monthly proficiency.
Today, I begin a brand-new month and a brand-new challenge: Can I play a stunning, meaningful, and engaging 5-minute-long blues guitar solo after one month of intensive practice?
Determining success for this obstacle is relatively difficult. It’s unclear how I need to quantify “sensational, meaningful, and engaging”, nor is it clear that “stunning, meaningful, and engaging” are the most preferable qualities of a good guitar solo.
With that said, the hope is that I can play something that is good enough to keep the attention of those who listen for 5 straight minutes.
Thinking about most songs on the radio are under three minutes, five minutes of blues playing (which is naturally really redundant in chordal structure) is a long period of time to keep interest.
To do this, I will need to cultivate a big blues vocabulary, establish the mastery needed to express my musical concepts, and find out how to create/sustain musical stress.
Exactly what’s my starting point?
For this obstacle, I’m not beginning with no. In fact, I have a ten-year off-and-on history with the guitar, which will certainly assist. However, 90% of this history has been acoustic-focused, so this month’s emphasis on electrical “lead playing” (i.e. soloing) is newer and more exciting for me.
Here’s my guitar journey up until now:
For my 13th birthday, I received an acoustic guitar, which sat in my space untouched for nearly a year. The following summertime, at summer season camp, my friend taught me a few chords, and, upon returning home, I started playing more frequently.
During high school, I advanced the acoustic guitar, strumming and plucking my way through (mostly) pop tunes. When I was a senior in high school, I was gifted an electric guitar, which I started to noodle on.
When I went off to college, I didn’t bring either guitar. My freshman and sophomore roomies both had nylon string acoustic guitars, so I ‘d occasionally obtain those. Throughout my junior year, I only touched a guitar the few times I was going to house for the vacations. For my last term at Brown, considering that my course-load was pretty light, I brought my electrical guitar to school, and attempted to regain a few of the abilities I had actually cultivated ~ 4 years prior.
When I left to California, both of my guitars stayed at my moms and dad’s home, but I did bring the more portable ukulele, which I’ve played about two times each month for the past 1.5 years.
Just recently, my parent’s shipped my electrical guitar to San Francisco, and I have actually been returning into lead playing.
I’m hopeful that, with one month of extensive practice, I can make a significant leap forward.
If I could emulate only one blues guitarist, I ‘d study B.B. King, whose playing is warm, sweet, and normally major-sounding. John Mayer, who is greatly affected by B.B. King, also typically plays with this type of heat.
Stylistically, I choose this kind of blues playing to the playing of more traditional, minor-sounding blues gamers like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King.
However, I can probably gain from all these guitarists, blending their designs with my own perceptiveness to create my ideal noise.
However, prior to I get ahead of myself, I need to start by pin down the fundamentals …
To start making progress to my goal of “blues guitar proficiency”, I initially need to specify my training technique. Unlike previous months, today, my strategy is fairly unstructured, with no clear 31-day arc.
Nonetheless, I need to start someplace. So, as of now, here are the four parts to my training technique:
1. Cultivate expressiveness
The majority of blues guitarists develop solos from the very same little swimming pool of musical notes, but, some solos sounds mechanical, while others yell with emotion.
The difference isn’t really usually the variety or speed of notes, but rather, the way the notes are played.
In particular, to make the guitar sing, I’m going to focus a lot of my attention on learning the following three “meaningful strategies”:
Vibrato– The wobbling of a note to make it mimic the human voice
Flexing– Gliding constantly between two various notes, once again mimicking the human voice
Fall-off– A fast descending pattern of notes at the end of a musical run, again once again simulating the human voice
I’ll describe these strategies in more information in future posts, however the style is clear: To create a vibrant, emotion-filled solo, practice techniques that make the guitar sound like a human voice.
2. Establish a couple of “speed licks”
While expressiveness doesn’t generally originated from speed, as a blues solo reaches it climax, speed can help construct musical tension and add another dimension of dynamics.
Thus, I’ll concentrate on developing a small, but well-practiced vocabulary of speed licks that I can insert into my solos to produce and sustain musical momentum.
3. Steal from my influences
For much of this month, specifically when I’m away from the guitar, I will be paying attention to my favorite blues artists and catching motivation in 2 forms:
To start with, by paying attention to a lot of blues music, I’ll establish a better “ear” and instinct for blues solos. Ideally, with time, this will allow me to hear exactly what I wish to play before I play it.
Second of all, I prepare to steal licks that I like from my preferred guitarists. The hope here isn’t really to develop a toolbox of lego-like pre-fabricated licks that I can piece together, but rather, to find licks that introduce and open brand-new musical ideas for me.
Developing great art is constantly an intriguing balance between the familiar (i.e. the obtained) and the novel (i.e. something entirely brand-new or, a minimum of, a brand-new analysis of the familiar). I’m curious to see how I strike this balance in my playing.
4. Play with restrictions
Right now, I find that my blues playing is extremely repeated: I only practice a couple of licks, typically in the exact same key, with very little variation.
To break out of this box, I’ll force myself to play in brand-new methods by guiding my playing with a variety of restraints. I’ll describe exactly what this indicates in an approaching post.
I make certain that my strategy will evolve over the next 29 days, however, in the meantime, I will begin with these idea, thoroughly monitor my development, and upgrade my training regiment accordingly.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a video of my playing, which will ideally assist make some of these ideas come to life.
Today, I’m going to review the essentials of blues guitar, so it’s much easier to follow in addition to the rest of the month (and so you can attempt to learn as well, if you desire).
It ends up that blues guitar is very basic. In fact, to effectively play a blues tune, there are only 2 things you have to understand.
1. The chord development
Many blues songs follow a “12 bar blues” progression, which is a series of 12 repeating musical procedures. For each measure (or “bar”), one of 3 musical chords is played: The “one chord” (notated I), the “4 chord” (notated IV), and the “5 chord” (notated V). The I is the chord related to the key of the tune. The IV is the chord that represents the 4th note in the scale of the secret of the tune, and the V is the chord that correspond to the fifth note in the scale of the secret of the tune.
A standard “12 bar blues” is constructed in the following method: Play the I for one bar, then the IV for one bar, then the I for 2 bars, then the IV for two bars, then the I for two bars, then the V for one bar, then the IV for one bar, then the I for one bar, then the V for one bar. Then, repeat.
This may sound complex (it’s not), however I make sure you recognize with the way it sounds …
With the 12 bar blues development internalized, I (in theory) ought to be able to play a solo that follows the changes, which is a fancy method of saying “play notes during a specific bar that sound excellent over the chord of that specific bar”.
2. The offered notes
The most fundamental blues solo is constructed from just 5 notes. Together, these 5 notes are called the pentatonic scale (” penta” for five). In the secret of A for instance, the (minor) pentatonic scale includes the notes A, C, D, E, and G; and sounds like this …
In this type, the pentatonic scale is pretty uninteresting, so it’s perhaps unexpected that a lot of solos are built in by doing this. Nevertheless, as I stated the other day, a solo isn’t really more engaging because of its range of notes (generally), however rather, because of how the notes are played.
I suspect that I’ll branch off beyond the pentatonic scale eventually throughout this month, but it’s a solid starting point.
Is that actually soloing?
My first direct exposure to the pentatonic scale was when my friend explained it to me at summer camp. I was 14 years of ages.
A few weeks later in the summer, another pal, who brought his electrical guitar to camp, played me a guitar solo “that he wrote”.
Instantly, after he completed, I stated “Did you in fact compose that? I think that was simply notes from the pentatonic scale”.
” Um, yeah, it was. However, like, I came up with the order and stuff”.
” I don’t believe that’s how solos work. Solos are freeform and improvised. They do not simply follow patterns or formulas”
” Uh …”.
It turns out I was wrong.
Prior to I ever learnt more about improvisation on any instrument, I was under the impression that improvisers just plucked notes from thin air using some kind of musical sorcery. I didn’t understand that there is underlying theory and patterns that help assist all soloists.
Anyway, I tell this story to state: Musical sorcery doesn’t exist (a minimum of, I don’t believe so). Instead, even the greatest blues guitar solos are still built on the very same standard structure that my friend taught me in five minutes at summer season camp.
And that’s it. Blues guitar playing, on paper, is truly basic. You simply need to know the 12 bar blues development and the pentatonic scale.
Obviously, to make the solo compelling, these basic building blocks need to be changed in some capacity. So, for the rest of this month, I’ll be dealing with this change.
Over the past four days, I have actually invested about 3.5 hours practicing the three “expressive techniques” I formerly presented: Vibrato, flexes, and fall-offs.
These strategies are utilized to help transform mechanical-sounding guitar notes into stylistic, lyrical expressions of pain, sadness, or hope (or whatever blues music is expected to mentally evoke … I believe I’m going to stick with hope).
This post mainly includes video presentations of my development, along with some commentary.
Vibrato is the wobbling of a note to make it simulate the human voice, and is achieved on the guitar by quickly wiggling the string.
The majority of guitar players wiggle the string upwards from the starting position then back to neutral, over and over. But, for some reason, this is actually unnatural for me. I discover it a lot easier to wiggle the string downwards and after that back to neutral.
This causes a little a problem though: In soloing, it’s typical for much of the playing to occur on the few highest-pitched strings, which are positioned on the bottom of the neck. On the very greatest string (the most bottom string), I cannot create downward vibrato due to the fact that I ‘d be pulling the string off of the fretboard. Rather, I’m forced to attempt the abnormal upward kind.
So, after four days of practice, my vibrato on the other five strings sounds respectable, however my vibrato on the highest-pitched string still needs a great deal of work. Take a listen …
Now that I have some form of vibrato (still a work in development), I can start adding the quick wiggle to my guitar licks to include additional expressiveness.
Here’s an example …
In the guitar world, a guitar player’s vibrato is frequently the defining quality of their style/ noises, so I plan to continue to invest greatly here, specifically on the greatest string.
The difference isn’t really usually the variety or speed of notes, however rather, the method the notes are played.
In particular, to make the guitar sing, I’m going to focus a great deal of my attention on discovering the following three “meaningful techniques”:
Vibrato– The wobbling of a note to make it simulate the human voice
Flexing– Gliding continually in between two different notes, again simulating the human voice
Fall-off– A quick coming down pattern of notes at the end of a musical run, again once again imitating the human voice
I’ll explain these techniques in more detail in future posts, but the style is clear: To create a dynamic, emotion-filled solo, practice techniques that make the guitar sound like a human voice.
2. Establish a few “speed licks”
While expressiveness does not generally come from speed, as a blues solo reaches it climax, speed can help build musical stress and add another measurement of dynamics.
Therefore, I’ll concentrate on building a little, however well-practiced vocabulary of speed licks that I can insert into my solos to produce and sustain musical momentum.
3. Steal from my impacts
For much of this month, especially when I’m away from the guitar, I will be listening to my preferred blues artists and capturing motivation in two forms:
To start with, by listening to a lot of blues music, I’ll establish a better “ear” and instinct for blues solos. Ideally, with time, this will allow me to hear exactly what I wish to play before I play it.
Secondly, I prepare to steal licks that I like from my preferred guitarists. The hope here isn’t really to construct an arsenal of lego-like pre-fabricated licks that I can piece together, however instead, to find licks that present and unlock brand-new musical concepts for me.
Developing terrific art is always an intriguing balance in between the familiar (i.e. the borrowed) and the novel (i.e. something completely brand-new or, a minimum of, a brand-new interpretation of the familiar). I wonder to see how I strike this balance in my playing.
4. Have fun with constraints
Today, I find that my blues playing is really recurring: I just practice a few licks, normally in the exact same key, with minimal variation.
To break out of this box, I’ll require myself to play in brand-new methods by directing my playing with a variety of restrictions. I’ll discuss exactly what this means in an upcoming post.
I make certain that my strategy will progress over the next 29 days, however, for now, I will begin with these concept, carefully monitor my progress, and update my training program accordingly.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a video of my playing, which will hopefully help make some of these concepts come to life.
Today, I’m going to examine the essentials of blues guitar, so it’s simpler to follow along with the rest of the month (therefore you can try to find out also, if you desire).
It ends up that blues guitar is very fundamental. In fact, to effectively play a blues tune, there are only 2 things you need to know.
1. The chord progression
The majority of blues tunes follow a “12 bar blues” development, which is a series of 12 repeating musical procedures. For each measure (or “bar”), one of 3 musical chords is played: The “one chord” (notated I), the “4 chord” (notated IV), and the “five chord” (notated V). The I is the chord related to the key of the tune. The IV is the chord that corresponds to the 4th note in the scale of the secret of the song, and the V is the chord that represent the 5th note in the scale of the secret of the song.
A traditional “12 bar blues” is built in the list below method: Play the I for one bar, then the IV for one bar, then the I for two bars, then the IV for two bars, then the I for 2 bars, then the V for one bar, then the IV for one bar, then the I for one bar, then the V for one bar. Then, repeat.
This may sound complex (it’s not), however I’m sure you’re familiar with the method it sounds …
With the 12 bar blues development internalized, I (in theory) need to have the ability to play a solo that follows the changes, which is a fancy way of saying “play notes during a specific bar that sound great over the chord of that particular bar”.
2. The offered notes
The most fundamental blues solo is developed from only five notes. Together, these five notes are called the pentatonic scale (” penta” for five). In the key of A for instance, the (minor) pentatonic scale includes the notes A, C, D, E, and G; and seems like this …
In this form, the pentatonic scale is pretty uninteresting, so it’s perhaps unexpected that most solos are integrated in by doing this. However, as I said yesterday, a solo isn’t more compelling because of its range of notes (normally), however rather, because of how the notes are played.
I think that I’ll branch out beyond the pentatonic scale at some point throughout this month, however it’s a solid starting point.
Is that actually soloing?
My very first exposure to the pentatonic scale was when my friend explained it to me at summertime camp. I was 14 years of ages.
A few weeks later in the summer season, another pal, who brought his electric guitar to camp, played me a guitar solo “that he composed”.
Immediately, after he completed, I said “Did you really write that? I believe that was just notes from the pentatonic scale”.
” Um, yeah, it was. However, like, I came up with the order and things”.
” I don’t think that’s how solos work. Solos are freeform and improvised. They do not just follow patterns or formulas”
” Uh …”.
It ends up I was wrong.
Prior to I ever discovered improvisation on any instrument, I was under the impression that improvisers simply plucked notes from thin air using some sort of musical sorcery. I didn’t understand that there is underlying theory and patterns that assist direct all musicians.
Anyway, I tell this story to state: Musical sorcery doesn’t exist (at least, I do not believe so). Rather, even the greatest blues guitar solos are still built on the very same fundamental foundation that my friend taught me in five minutes at summertime camp.
Which’s it. Blues guitar playing, on paper, is actually basic. You simply need to understand the 12 bar blues progression and the pentatonic scale.
Naturally, to make the solo engaging, these basic foundation have to be transformed in some capacity. So, for the rest of this month, I’ll be dealing with this change.
Over the past four days, I have actually invested about 3.5 hours practicing the 3 “meaningful strategies” I formerly presented: Vibrato, bends, and fall-offs.
These strategies are used to assist convert mechanical-sounding guitar notes into stylistic, lyrical expressions of discomfort, sadness, or hope (or whatever blues music is expected to mentally evoke … I believe I’m going to stick to hope).
This post mostly contains video presentations of my development, as well as some commentary.
Vibrato is the wobbling of a note to make it mimic the human voice, and is accomplished on the guitar by quickly wiggling the string.
A lot of guitarists wiggle the string upwards from the starting position then back to neutral, over and over. But, for some reason, this is actually abnormal for me. I discover it a lot easier to wiggle the string downwards and after that back to neutral.
This causes a bit of an issue though: In soloing, it’s normal for much of the playing to occur on the few highest-pitched strings, which are placed on the bottom of the neck. On the very greatest string (the most bottom string), I can’t create downward vibrato since I ‘d be pulling the string off of the fretboard. Rather, I’m required to try the unnatural upward kind.
So, after 4 days of practice, my vibrato on the other five strings sounds pretty good, however my vibrato on the highest-pitched string still requires a great deal of work. Take a listen …
Now that I have some form of vibrato (still a work in development), I can begin including the quick wiggle to my guitar licks to add additional expressiveness.
Here’s an example …
In the guitar world, a guitarist’s vibrato is typically the defining quality of their design/ sounds, so I plan to continue to invest heavily here, specifically on the greatest string.
In the same way that the human voice can move constantly between 2 tones, a guitar note can be bent as much as another note (and then bent, or returned, back down once again).
If used correctly, bends can create emotional and musical tension, by means of the anticipation of where the note is going, and subsequently, can provide release, when the note arrives.
In some cases, guitarists will overshoot the awaited note, as a method to surprise or pleasure the listener. This is the same sort of pleasure that you might experience when a vocalist appears to be singing at the highest point in her variety, then suddenly, turns up another couple of notes. Anyway, this is an advanced technique and I haven’t explored it too much yet.
Instead, I’ve spent the past couple of days identifying and practicing the bends that are permissible within the pentatonic scale (I think any bend is permissible, however these are the “more secure” flexes as far as staying in the proper musical key).
With a foundational understanding of “safe” bends, I can begin adding them to my guitar licks too.
I’m not always sure this specific example sounds better with a bend, but it’s certainly an additional “musical color” that I can use in my soloing.
I have actually always been particularly keen on fall-offs, which are used gratuitously by guitar players like B.B. King and (especially) John Mayer.
Fall-offs imitate the short, down runs that vocalists frequently position at the end of musical concepts (in order to prevent the sonic uncomfortableness of holding onto one unvarying note for too long).
Over the past few days, I have actually aimed to establish a convincing “fall-off design”. Here’s where I’m currently at …
As long as I can keep my fall-off use within a range of tasteful small amounts, I believe they’re a good addition to my playing in general.
Here’s what all 3 methods sound like when put together …
Overall, I believe I’m making nice stylistic progress. Now, I just need to find/steal/create melodies that I can design.
Today, in an effort to begin taking in blues licks *, I prepared to learn the entire tune Lucille, one of B.B. King’s a lot of renowned songs.
( * a lick is just a series of notes that can be packaged together and recycled as an included musical idea).
To clarify: For me, “finding out” a blues tune doesn’t indicate remembering the whole tune note-for-note, however instead playing through the whole thing, evaluating what the artist is doing, and identifying how I can integrate a few of the artist’s musical ideas into my own playing.
Today, I thought I could quickly work through the 10-minute Lucille in an hour, considering that, for much of the tune, B.B. is talking and not playing.
Nevertheless, after 60 minutes of practicing, I made it 41 seconds into the tune, a lot of because I severely undervalued the density of musical inspiration. This isn’t really a bad thing, but does mean that I’ll need to reassess my original lick-learning method.
Initially, I planned to invest about a week playing through lots of my favorite tunes, in an attempt to take in as much musical inspiration as I could. Then, I would invest subsequent weeks digesting, translating, and converting this product into my own.
In theory, this looks like a nice idea, but one that simply isn’t accomplishable in the timeframe I have.
Instead, I’ll need to be much more strategic upfront about which source material I utilize for inspiration. I’m uncertain how this new method should work, but I’ll figure it out tomorrow.
It’s been practically one week given that I began this month’s challenge. In that time, I’ve practiced “meaningful methods” (like vibrato, bends, and fall-offs), become more acquainted with the pentatonic scale, and extracted some motivation from my preferred artists.
Today, I felt ready to put these pieces together and record my very first effort at a blues guitar solo. Here it is …
While I was playing, the solo didn’t feel that great, however listening back, it absolutely resembles the category. In fact, there are a couple of minutes (like at:20, for example) that I quite like. I’m absolutely making strong progress.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot more I hope I can accomplish with a guitar solo: 1) Express feeling, 2) Tell a story, 3) Develop melodic growth and interest, and so on. Right now, the solo feels really deliberate and effortful– coming from the brain, and not the heart.
Still, this is a great start and a strong foundation to build on.
Today, I regretfully had to take the day off from playing guitar. My hands required it.
Here’s what happened: Previous to March, I casually played the guitar occasionally, mainly strumming chords. Then, suddenly, March begins and I begin strongly bending the high-tension fishing-wire-thin metal strings over and over again with my left hand and constantly plucking the very same strings with the index finger of my right-hand man (I don’t use a guitar choice).
As a result, revolting blisters have blossomed on half of my fingertips, which make it very unpleasant to play the guitar.
I’ve really been having fun with these blisters for the past 3 days, but today, my fingers were just too sore.
I googled “The best ways to rapidly heal finger blisters from playing guitar”, and the most common recommendations I discovered on online forums was “Just keeping playing till they bleed … ultimately you’ll stop getting blisters”.
I don’t think I’m hardcore enough to follow this advice, so I’m just going to take the day off and pay attention to some music instead …
Yesterday, when I was letting my fingers heal, I rewatched my solo from Monday, and saw one significant issue: I’m underutilizing the majority of the guitar neck.
In other words, I play the entire solo in the same spot on the guitar, which suggests 1) I’m just utilizing a restricted number of notes, and 2) My brain is stuck producing licks in this one position on the guitar.
As a result, my solo isn’t varied tonally or musically– the dish for an uninteresting solo.
Therefore, today, I concentrated on finding out the pentatonic scale in new positions on the guitar neck. Here’s a video of my broadened pentatonic knowledge (I didn’t quite focus my electronic camera properly today … fortunately, this is mainly just an acoustic presentation anyway).
While a number of the notes are precisely the same in these brand-new positions, the spatial relationships in between the notes are various, requiring my innovative brain to fire in new ways.
So, while my playing in the video is still a bit mechanical, I feel I have actually opened new musical terrain that I can explore in the coming days.
Today, in an effort to include more diversity to my playing, I checked out 2 brand-new principles: Double-stops and turnarounds.
Double-stops are a method on the guitar where 2 (or more) notes are played concurrently in a melodic way.
I found double-stops to be extremely natural, and in a couple of minutes of practice, I got pretty comfortable with them. I also discovered some new chords voicings (ways to play the common blue chords) that nicely match the double-stops.
Take a listen …
I plan to use both the double-stops and chord voicing as filler between my single note licks to develop fuller-sounding solos.
Secondly, I try out turnarounds, which are melodic sequences played at the end of a twelve bar blues to shift into the next twelve bars. I found these to be much more tough– a bit like guitar “tongue tornados”.
You’ll absolutely acknowledge the first turn-around I play, which is the most convenient …
I’ll most likely utilize turnarounds more often when I’m playing totally solo, without a support track (i.e. when I’m attempting to accompany myself).
Despite how I utilize turnarounds in my playing, I will definitely add them to my warm-up regimen: I can utilize the mastery practice.
Today, my goal was to develop speed.
In particularly, I spent nearly 2 hours practicing a few different “speed foundation” that I can piece together to develop quick extended licks.
Here’s an uncut video where I noodle around with these concepts …
My playing here is still pretty careless, however it’s a step in the right instructions. Likewise, as I mentioned really early on, speed isn’t the goal. In fact, speed on its own does not sound very musical.
Rather, speed is a tool that can be utilized tastefully at strategic points within a solo to create musical stress or interest.
Over the next few days, I’ll experiment by including these speed licks into my blues solos. Hopefully, with some practice, I can improve my dexterity and establish a better sense of how speed can be successfully used.
Today was the day.
I switched on a blues backing track that I discovered on YouTube, plugged in my guitar, and started soloing.
8 minutes later on (halfway through the track), I recognized that I had actually stopped consciously paying attention to my playing. When I tuned my brain back in, I was surprised to hear how natural my playing sounded.
I had actually leveled up.
Over the past week and a half, I’ve been practicing intensely and acquiring a great deal of new guitar understanding. As a result, to efficiently integrate what I’m finding out into my playing, I have actually had to be very deliberate and determining as I solo.
This is great as I’m learning, but solos generally do not sound very musical when they’re played in a calculated style. (My solo from five days back is proof of this.).
Today, however, something happened. I’m not precisely sure when it took place, since I really zoned out for about five minutes when I was playing (in an excellent, meditative sort of method), but it felt like it happened rapidly.
My brain participated in this zone where playing the guitar unexpectedly felt simple and easy.
It felt so great that I was terrified to stop playing. I feared that, if I stopped, I would lose this recently discovered power.
Back in November, when I was learning to memorize cards, I had a comparable sensation: Throughout the first 2 weeks, I felt like I was drowning in my practice, then, all of sudden, something clicked, and I started seriously outshining my expectations. After each memorization session, I would always believe “There’s no chance I’m ever going to have the ability to do that once again”, but then I would.
That’s precisely how I feel about my guitar playing today: I have a difficult time believing that I’ll wake up tomorrow and still be able to play the same way.
But, if November is any indicator, I will be happily shocked. Whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll certainly film it.
Anyhow, this feeling of “leveling up” is the factor I’m still inspired by this job. It’s honestly so addictive …
Yesterday, I guaranteed to movie a brand-new effort at soloing today.
I was intending to invest a long time warming up, practicing, and after that, once prepared, filming my effort. Nevertheless, I spent a little too much time enjoying San Francisco’s first actually nice day in a while, and as a result, only had about ten minutes to practice today.
So, I just established my video camera, switched on the backing track, and taped myself cold. The result is a six-minute solo that starts off all right and improves as I warm up. By around 4:00, I’m more or less warm.
After listening back, there’s a lot I like. However, I’m not exactly sure it sounds like a solo. Instead, it sounds like six minutes of pleasant background noodling. I’m not telling a story or building to anything.
I think part of the issue is that I’m attracted to playing a growing number of notes, as that appears like the way to “enhance”. Nevertheless, I think savoring fewer notes is the very best course to soloing.
Tomorrow, I’ll require myself to play 5x less notes and see how it sounds.
Yesterday, I played and filmed a fairly bluesy guitar solo for over 6 minutes. My goal this month is to “play a 5-minute blues guitar solo”.
So, have I been successful?
I’m not exactly sure.
To me, the response feels like no: I certainly haven’t accomplished exactly what I set out to do, but on paper, technically, I made blues noises come out of my guitar for over five minutes.
This is the first month of my M2M project, where the goal isn’t super quantifiable, and it’s inconveniencing to know where I stand.
This isn’t crucial from a “success” standpoint. However rather, if I do not know where I stand, how do I understand what I need to improve?
The response is … I do not really. I have to focus my training based upon feel.
The other day, my analysis was “I believe I’m playing too many notes and not effectively narrating. I need to focus on less notes and aim to build a musical story”.
Of course, this is just my viewpoint. And, even if this was a widely accepted analysis, how do I know when I’ve efficiently narrated?
Again, I don’t.
I can keep going, however I believe the point is clear … If you want to find out something on an accelerated timeline (or really any timeline), it’s extremely helpful to set a goal that’s measurable and trackable.
Perhaps, I need to have just learned the Free Bird solo …
Anyway, I have a vision in my head of what “effective blues guitar” sounds like, but I do not know how to articulate this vision or make it quantifiable. I likewise have no idea ways to share it with anyone who reads this, makings it quite hard to follow along.
I ask forgiveness.
You’re just going to need to trust me that, like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I understand it when I see it.
Today is March 14, a.k.a. Pi Day.
So, to celebrate, I believed I ‘d do something a bit different today, and write a Pi-inspired song. Here’s exactly what I did …
1. I searched for the very first 20 digits of Pi.
2. I chose a musical secret.
A significant; with the notes A B C# D E F# G #.
3. I transformed the digits of Pi into the secret of A.
1 = A; 2 = B; 3 = C#; and so on. 8 = A and 9 = B (italics = octave higher).
The outcome: C# A D A E B F# E C# E A B G # B C# B C# A D F#.
4. I recorded a simple chord development.
Simply alternating backward and forward between A major and B minor chords.
5. I played the Pi-inspired melody over the chords.
And that’s at.
Here’s the result. It doesn’t actually sound too bad …
For the past two weeks, my nights have been quite full …
I get home from work, workout, shower, make supper, practice guitar for 45 minutes, setup my electronic camera, plug my guitar into my computer system, start tape-recording on Garage Band, play for the cam, stop recording, download the video, export the audio from Garage Band, sync up the audio and video in Adobe Premiere, add fundamental overlays to the video if needed, export the video, upload the video to YouTube, compose my Medium post, release my Medium post, go to bed.
More simply, there are five primary tasks: 1. Workout, 2. Dinner, 3. Practice guitar, 4. Make video, 5. Compose Medium post.
My obstacle every night is to muster up enough willpower to get begun on each task. Once I begin, I’m typically able to end up without an issue. (If I don’t begin, it’s probably because “enjoying YouTube videos” is more luring).
Most nights, I typically have sufficient energy to gladly work my method through the list. But, this evening, wasn’t among those nights.
Due to a combination of a long day at work, a bad night sleep last night, and some other things on my mind, I was pretty short on energy when I got house today. Some nights are just like that, and that’s okay.
Sometimes, it’s alright to contract out the self-discipline, make tradeoffs, and simply unwind. Here’s exactly what I did …
I got home. I was quite warm from my walk home from the train, so I changed into my health club clothes to cool off. I was not prepared to go work out, so instead, I texted my friend to come over in 30 minutes, and invested the meantime, on the couch, watching YouTube videos.
Thirty Minutes later on, I was still pretty low in energy, but I was currently using my fitness center clothing and my friend was here to exercise, so it wasn’t too tough to obtain to the gym. Once I was there, I had sufficient energy to do a good job.
My friend left, I made dinner, and then once again, had no energy. So, I hopped in the shower and let my mind roam for a while.
After the shower, I still had 3 things left on my list: 1) Practice, 2) Make a video, 3) Compose a Medium post.
I definitely didn’t have sufficient energy to do all three.
The Medium post is non-negotiable, so that remained. The huge concern then is … Do I invest my remaining energy doing an excellent job practicing or a good task making a video?
If it was fully approximately me in the moment, I would have opted to make the video. It’s much less extensive than 45 minutes of deliberate guitar practice.
But, at the start of this job, I made a guideline with myself: If I ever have to sacrifice either the quality of my internal progress or the quality of my external development, I must constantly compromise the external progress initially.
So, that’s exactly what I decided to do tonight: I invested 45 minutes practicing the guitar (specifically using vibrato at the peak of bends), and avoided the video.
Summary of “Low-Willpower” techniques.
Enter into your fitness center clothes, even when you do not plan on going to the fitness center.
Do not force it. Relax if needed.
Welcome a buddy (who can offer self-control on your behalf).
Make tradeoff choices beforehand, so you don’t need to choose in the minute.
Perk: Often, it’s cool to just completely take the day off. (I’ve had a handful of those because beginning this task).
After 40 minutes of practicing tonight, I was in the state of mind to create something. Specifically, I wanted to shoot a video that didn’t feature a red guitar, gray tee shirt, jeans, and a white background. Something various.
I had the concept to crawl into bed, established my computer as a looping station, and film myself creating a simple two-track loop.
The loop turned out pretty cool, but the experimental video footage was essentially unusable. Check it out …
While this was the “play” part of my evening, something practical did come out of it: I have actually been improvising over the same couple of support tracks for days now, which, after playing over this self-made track, I recognize isn’t really optimal for my musical imagination.
Over the next few days, I’ll find and practice over new tracks, hopefully setting off brand-new improvisational concepts.
Today, I practiced the guitar for about 90 minutes, one of my longest training sessions up until now this month. And yet, it didn’t feel super efficient.
Namely, my playing is stuck in a bit of a rut. I do not necessarily mean that it’s bad (in fact, I’ve currently improved much more this month than I anticipated), but rather, my playing feels really repetitive– everything I play is motivated by the very same, narrow set of musical concepts.
Basically, I’ve been slacking off.
Let me explain …
My original strategy was to very first build up an arsenal of musical inspiration (by learning from a lot of various blues artists and songs), and after that, transform this inspiration into reasonably solid blues guitar playing.
Rather, I just analyzed 2 tunes, before I shifted all my focus to my own improvisations. As a result, I have two songs’ worth of ideas to pull from … Hence, my musical rut.
For the past week, every day, I’ve considered evaluating a new tune, but chose to noodle around and practice basic technique instead.
This is embarrassingly bad … I’m clearly shying away from the “more difficult”, more extensive thing, despite the fact that I understand it is necessary to my progress. And this is precisely the meaning of slacking off: “Refraining from doing something, even though you understand you ought to”.
Tomorrow, I will stop with the slacking, and shift my focus back to building my arsenal of musical motivation.
Today, Chuck Berry– artist, guitarist, and leader of Rock n’ Roll– passed away at the age of 90. He mainly introduced the guitar as a melodic centerpiece (and not simply a rhythm instrument), and, as result, plays a part in my learning difficulty this month.
Also, Chuck Berry indirectly influenced me to get a guitar in the first place: I began seriously playing the guitar after my friend showed me a John Mayer song at summertime camp. John Mayer began playing the guitar after he saw Marty McFly play Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future. So, Chuck Berry is definitely part of my guitar story.
Anyhow, in memory of Chuck Berry, I chose to find out the intro lick to “Johnny B. Goode”, which ends up being more difficulty than it sounds.
Here are my 3 efforts at playing the tune (after taping the lead part, I overdubbed a rhythm guitar part, which you’ll also hear).
As I mentioned two days ago, I’m moving my focus back to “learning from others”. In particular, I’m hoping to obtain some brand-new musical inspiration from my preferred guitar players.
Today, I found an amazing series of 10+ videos, where B.B. King is efficiently providing a private guitar lesson on electronic camera.
Today, I picked among the videos, and attempted to emulate B.B.’s playing and style. Here’s the video …
And here’s a video of me soloing based clearly on the above motivation.
Particularly, I focused on letting the guitar breathe (i.e. void in between licks) and playing some new chromatic ideas that I gained from the lesson.
Over the next few days, I prepare to assault the other videos in the series in a comparable fashion.
Like yesterday, I spent my evening tonight dissecting among the B.B. King guitar lessons on YouTube. Then, I attempted to rebuild what I learned into a brief guitar solo.
Here’s what I developed …
I’m finding this approach really productive: Essentially, B.B. has done years of work– studying theory, developing his own style, and developing a vocabulary of licks. Then, I open the video, listen for a few minutes, and utilize the final product.
Sure, a lot is getting lost in translation, but I’m still speaking the language far more quickly this way.
This is the same reason I like (audio) books a lot: The author invests years studying, compiling notes, and organizing her life’s work into a 300-page book. Then, I can pop in my earphones and absorb the majority of the product in a few days.
That’s the cool aspect of people … We can build on each other’s understanding, which is an opportunity I prepare to make the most of.
I’m not exactly sure this is actually “stealing”. At least, not the bad kind. However, I’m certainly getting more than I planned on.
Today, I didn’t practice. Rather, I just played.
I wasn’t trying to enhance. I was just attempting to enjoy it. And I did.
I found a long, looping backtrack on YouTube, pressed play, and after that continued to solo over the track constantly for an hour. While I was playing, I wasn’t completely paying attention to the noises of my guitar. Nor was I thinking of anything in particular.
Instead, I was in a highly-relaxed, fully-absorbed meditative state (which I also enjoyed 2 months ago while speed-cubing).
After taking a seat to write this post, I recognized that this “meditative state” is more popularly known as circulation, an idea first described by psychology teacher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
Wikipedia explains …
In favorable psychology, flow, also referred to as the zone, is the mental state of operation where a person carrying out an activity is totally immersed in a feeling of energized focus, complete involvement, and pleasure in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is defined by total absorption in what one does.
So, yeah. I think I was “in circulation”.
For some reason, I’ve constantly been uncomfortable declaring this. I’m not precisely sure why. It simply looks like one of those things that individuals make up, since … who can show I wasn’t in circulation?
Anyhow, I’m not sure this is the point. My point is … Often, it’s worth denying the strength, halting “development”, and simply aiming to enjoy the act of making music (or anything else).
On my way home from work today, my friend Steven sent me the following message:
“JM” represents John Mayer.
And yes, I have actually been wishing to discover the intro to the John Mayer tune “Out of my Mind” for the whole month, so this was simply the push I needed.
While I didn’t learn the intro note-for-note, I did my finest to capture exactly what John is doing in the tune. My efficiency ended up a little stiff (I was focusing too difficult on execution), but I begin relaxing to the end.
And here’s the John Mayer song …
Thanks for the push, Steven.
The other day, I tried to play the intro to one of John Mayer’s blues songs.
After enjoying the video back, I was relatively dissatisfied with my expressiveness: My playing was stiff and emotionless.
On other days, I’ve played completely fluidly (with more emotion), but without much of a narrative arc. Simply puts, in little portions, the solo is fascinating, however, after a while, it gets over and over again dull.
And this is the primary challenge I’m dealing with: How do I pay mindful focus on exactly what I’m playing, so it’s interesting, without overthinking it, stiffening up, and giving up feeling?
One concept is to pre-visualize the solo I’m going to play, figuring out the general arc beforehand. Then, I can just play fluidly and hope my mind stays with the plan. I’m not exactly sure if this would work, or would make things even worse, but it’s worth a shot.
Another concept is to use breaks more efficiently. In particular, I can use the time in between licks to outline my course, then, once I decide where I’m going, I let the playing circulation naturally. Again, I’m not sure if this is an enhancement or an over-complication.
My common everyday practice session was 50 minutes long, so, in total, I invested an average of 58 minutes daily practicing for 25 days.
Simply puts, in order to master blues guitar, I spent 24 Hr practicing, which is in fact surprising. I would have guessed something closer to 30 hours.
In either case, not too crazy.
Today, I played the guitar for the very first time in a couple of days, and, possibly unexpectedly, my playing had actually improved. Simply puts, without practicing at all, instead of atrophying, my improvisational guitar abilities got better.
This is a quite fascinating phenomenon, and one I have actually noticed in the past: Basically, when I take a break from practicing guitar, my brain ignores the few licks I had just recently memorized, and I have the ability to play more easily and creatively.
Generally, after I practice the guitar frequently, I discover myself turning to the exact same couple of melodic patterns over and over. I get stuck in a specific groove and have problem getting into brand-new musical areas.
By not practicing for a couple of days, I become unstuck and can more naturally check out new innovative areas. This is precisely what occurred today.
While there is of course some limit to this “anti-practice” mindset (i.e. eventually, if I don’t practice for enough time, I will most certainly get worse), this idea likely applies to all creative pursuits.
So, if you feel like you are getting artistically stuck, take a few days off. In some cases, your mind simply requires a few days to reset.
Although “guitar month” is basically over, I prepare to continue playing typically, particularly as a way to relax: I still find playing the guitar the easiest and most constant method to get in flow (perhaps other than fixing the Rubik’s Cube).
Today, I guitar-flowed for about 35 minutes, which was nice.
As far as making forward progress, it’s still challenging to set clear, conclusive, musical objectives. Maybe this is fine. After all, in almost all cases, playing music isn’t really about “being the best”, however rather, about “developing something people want to listen to”.
It’s definitely better to be the most listenable than to be the most technical (or whatever the quantified variation of guitar-goodness is).
Still, I wish to improve my musical vocabulary, and feel the very best method of doing this is by paying attention to brand-new artists and brand-new music. Then, if I find something I like, I need to aim to learn/replicate it, adding my analysis to my collection.
Anyway, this has been an enjoyable month, however I’m too relaxed right now. I’m completely ready for the next obstacle to begin and to rekindle my mastery-pursuing intensity …
In any case, I ought to listen back to recordings of my practice sessions more frequently. Right now, most of my playing isn’t really being taped, so there is no chance to listen from “the outside” and examine the solo in a more removed fashion. I’m generating all this good information about my playing, and not doing anything with it. I have to change that …
Over the next few days, as I practice and experiment with some of the above concepts, I’ll record the complete session and make certain I dedicate a substantial amount of time to analysis. I believe this will help a lot.
Side note: It would probably be a lot much easier to keep a solo intriguing and vibrant if I were having fun with a band. Possibly, I’ll try to go to Guitar Center this weekend, and discover someone to have fun with.
Today, I intended on taping a long session. But, when I took a seat to play, I couldn’t enter into the zone.
I aimed to play my way through my out-of-zoneness, hoping that, after a few minutes of “forced” playing, I would settle into my normal practice regimen.
Nevertheless, the more I forced it, the more my mind (and guitar-playing fingers) rebelled, making it more difficult and harder to play anything on the guitar.
When this takes place, it’s finest not to keep requiring. This isn’t easy, particularly since I set aside a considerable quantity of practice time today and planned on a very productive session. But, often, things don’t go as prepared, which’s okay.
I listened to my brain, put the guitar down, and proceeded. There will constantly be tomorrow.
Today, I was able to turn things around and get actually immersed in my guitar playing. In fact, throughout my practice session, instead of disrupting my “circulation”, I simply leaned my iPhone versus my laptop and shot today’s video on the practice sofa, instead of versus the white wall in the kitchen.
I forgot to tape the guitar into the computer system (which I recognize at around:37 seconds into the video), however the iPhone audio ended up being functional. The backing track may be a little loud, however it works.
This is certainly my best solo yet. It’s diverse, passionate, and engaging. It’s also longer than 5 minutes, which suggests … If this solo satisfies my hard-to-define, yet “I understand it when I see it” requirement for blues guitar solos, I can officially state that I have actually finished March’s challenge.
After listening back, this solo does appear to meet my requirements. However, due to the subjectiveness of this whole thing, I have actually decided to sleep on it, listen in the morning, and, if I still am convinced, I’ll state the challenge total then.
Honestly, the one thing actually holding me back is the sound quality. I ‘d rather the “successful solo” be completely recorded (at least from an audio standpoint). But, that’s most likely not necessary from a simply “did I perform the ability or not?” viewpoint– plus, I still have a week or so to tape-record other guitar solos if I desire.
Tomorrow, I’ll make the final call.
Yesterday, I played a five-minute improvised blues solo, which, at the time, I felt satisfied this month’s learning goal. Still, because of music’s inherent subjectivity, I wished to sleep on it and make an official choice today.
After reviewing the footage today (and getting a great deal of texts from pals who all stated “That definitely counts”), I’m officially going to state March’s obstacle complete: I played an excellent * 5-minute improvised blues guitar solo.
* excellent as specified by the video, I think …
As I said yesterday, since I filmed the solo on my iPhone, the audio mixing isn’t really perfect.
In the next couple of days, I may aim to record a couple other solos with better audio. I’ll probably stay with resting on the sofa though– it seems like my playing is better sitting down.
At the end of the other day’s post, I discussed that I found it easier to play my guitar while sitting down, which is mostly due to my guitar setup. So, I thought I ‘d use this post to explain and breakdown my total, not-so-complicated setup …
This month, I have actually struggle to play the guitar standing up because I’m not using a guitar strap (I do not own one). Rather, I got rid of a strap from a duffle bag and attached it to the guitar the very best I could.
This strap isn’t really developed to perfectly disperse the weight of the guitar over my shoulder, and, as a result, it usually isn’t really the most comfy to wear for too long. Still, it did the job this month.
Two days back, when I took a seat to tape my solo, the problem of the strap was gone, and I might play freely.
Regretfully, I didn’t capture the audio of that performance in the method I normally do, so the mix wasn’t ideal …
Normally, I connect my guitar directly to my computer utilizing this $11 chord. If you have some combination of an electric guitar, neighbors, and no amp, this is an excellent investment. It works out-of-the-box with amps in GarageBand.
Last but not least, some individuals have asked what type of guitar choice I use. The response … I don’t in fact use a guitar choice.
My friend at summertime camp, who initially showed me some chords on the guitar, was a classical guitarist, so he just plucked and strummed with his fingers. So, that’s how I started and continued to learn. (I have played with a pick previously, and it’s no problem, however I like not needing to be dependent on another device).
Oh, and the guitar is an eight-year-old Gibson Les Paul Studio.
This month of consistent guitar playing has actually been terrific, but it’s certainly lacked an important part of making music: Other individuals.
Maturing, I mostly played “the drums”, so almost all of my musical experiences were with other individuals (the drums prefer to accompany melody-creating instruments). And I had rather a great deal of these musical experiences …
I began playing in group settings at around age 9 in the school band. In intermediate school, I started playing the drum kit in the school’s jazz ensemble, which I continued through high school. In high school, I also played some type of percussion in the school’s stadium band (for football games), orchestra pit (for musicals), and show band (i.e. the more traditional wind ensemble). Likewise, throughout high school, I played percussion in a jazz combination that gigged locally.
Generally, I spent a decade of my life making music with other individuals.
In college, I noodled on the guitar. Good friends typically came over to “jam” (a.k.a. the cool method to say sing-alongs …?). But, I never played with other instrumentalists, which I certainly missed.
After this month of “guitar proficiency”, it would be truly remarkable to try playing the guitar in a group setting. Unlike the drums, I’ve never done this previously, so it would be cool to try.
Anyway, if anybody lives in San Francisco, is a strong musician, and wishes to play some time, send me a message and we can set something up. If you have or know of an area where we can play, that’s even much better …
Given that it’s nearly the end of March, it’s time to recall and see simply how much time I invested in this month’s difficulty.
Accurately counting hours this time around is a bit tricky: Do I count all the times I noodled on the guitar, or simply the times that I practiced with the specific intent of enhancing? And if I do count the noodles, how do I in fact count them (I just made a note of my longer sessions in my practice log).
Since there were a lot of fast, few-minute noodles on the guitar, this probably isn’t really a perfect estimate, but I’m going to assume, on average, I noodled on the guitar for about 8 minutes per day (beyond my real recorded practicing).