Blues Guitar Lessons From The Stars

Welcome to a special blog post which pulls together some of the best rockstar masterclasses available online.  Today we’re focusing on Blues Guitar, with 4 great video lessons from 3 of the best Blues guitarists of all time, between them spanning the last 7 decades of Guitar music.

First up, B.B. King, with 2 great clips from 2012, in which he talks about his phrasing, famous vibrato, bending and stretching:

And this other one on soloing:

Here’s a short but sweet clip of someone B.B. King inspired heavily, Eric Clapton, from 1968:

And subsequently, someone Clapton inspired heavily, John Mayer.  Here’s a playlist of his visit to the famous Berklee music school, in which he offers insight into many aspects of Blues guitar, soloing and songwriting:

Enjoy!

-Alex Bruce

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Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 1 – Bird of Paradise by Snowy White

Welcome to part 1 in our new blog series looking at Lead Guitar Phrasing.  We’ll be studying some of the most beautiful moments in soloing history, from the classic, unforgettables, to the unheard of, obscure gems.

We’re breaking one of our own rules here, as for once, we’re not preaching that “it’s all about the song” – This time it’s all about what we can take from a solo to improve our own playing and phrasing, regardless of our opinion on the song as a whole.

No.1 – “Bird Of Paradise” by Snowy White.

We’re focusing here on solo. 1 at 1:57

This is something of a paradigm of phrasing and soloing for aspiring guitarists.  Below is a list of why that might be, and thus what we can take from it to apply to, and improve, our own playing.

– Dramatic entry and exit.  
The solo crashes in with a wailing bend with strong vibrato, and exits with an expressive phrase landing on the key centre of D.  These are powerful musical bookends.

– Building Throughout
The comedian Louis CK says that when writing and developing a new stand up show, he’ll take his finale, and make it the opening of his routine, so he’s forced to make the show grow from what was previously its peak, and raise the level of the whole act.  We can do a similar thing with our Guitar solos, whether composed or improvised.  Start strongly, and force yourself to build.

– Leaving Space
It might sound silly to say “You don’t have to play constantly” – But, you really don’t!  In fact, it’s much better if you don’t.  The analogy here is language, the use of full stops, commas, and the necessary drawing of breath.  Guitar wise, it’s impossible to create something memorable, singable or catchy without leaving spaces between phrases, ie. “PHRASING” your solo!  “It’s the notes you don’t play” has been attributed to Miles Davis and is often referenced in relation to Eric Clapton, and is seen in action here in this solo.  This solo is “singable” – it has all the melody of a great vocal line, but with all the additional expression that Guitar Techniques can provide.  Leave Gaps!

– Classic, with unusual twists
On first listen, this solo sounds like a particularly good bit of fairly common Pentatonic/Minor/Blues playing.  There’s one major difference, one big factor which makes the solo stand out, a little more difficult to transcribe, and extra-specially beautiful.  The point is, every phrase in this solo is so close to being a standard, well-played Rock/Blues lick, but with a twist.  With just the smallest amount of string-skipping, or root-note avoiding, or landing on an unusual note, the solo is transformed into one that really stands out.  So test yourself!  – Improvise over a backing track and ban yourself from ending a phrase on the root note, play all your usual licks but with one note different, ban all full tone bends, etc etc.  There’s only one way to get out of a rut!  (And get into a slightly more melodic rut!  Still, at least you have 2 ruts to choose

Coming up later in this blog series:  Hendrix – Over or Under Rated?  Mark Knopfler – Could anybody play any less?  And many more!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

-Alex

Bruce Music – Guitar Lessons In London

Bruce Music – Piano Lessons in London

Lead Guitar Improvisation – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of Bruce Music‘s mini series on improvisation.  (Click here for part 1)

Today’s topic is Improvisation Exercises.  The exercises are designed to stop you getting stuck in a rut with your playing.  (Or help you out of a rut you’re already in!)  They’re also good for general practice, and you should learn lots along the way.

1) Improvise over the same chord progression, in different styles
This ensures the style you’re best at doesn’t take over, which is a very common bad habit when you’re improvising.  If you have recording software/a loop pedal/a willing friend, then record/have your friend play a chord progression in a funk style, while you improvise.  Then transfer the same progression to a jazz style for a little while, then rock, then country, and so on.  This approach forces you to consider the style you’re playing in.  You’re less likely to be repeating your soloing phrases because the chords have stayed the same, so the stylistic difference becomes more apparent. 

2) Restrict Yourself  
If you feel like your phrasing is becoming repetitive or stale, apply a restriction.  Only the first 5 frets, only the top 2 strings, even down to only using 3 or 4 notes.  This forces you to use all your techniques, expression and creativity to get the most out of what you have at your disposal.  It sounds like it should make your playing even more repetitive, but you’ll be surprised what you can come up with.  Better still, when you lift the restriction, the whole fretboard will seem full of even more possibilities than before.

3) Play Like Someone Else  
For example:  Take a blues/rock backing track and improvise over it 5 times.  The first time you’re Jimmy Page, the second Jimi Hendrix, the third Slash, the fourth Dave Gilmour and the fifth Eric Clapton.  (Examples only, of course you should change up your list and include your favourites.)
play as if you are the guitarist you have in mind, their style, their approach, their attitude.  You’ll get to grips with their different styles and learn all sorts of new things to add to your own soloing repertoire.
A twist on this is to make the guitarists you’re copying ones from a completely different style to the backing track.  How would they respond to a different style and how would they play?

4) Play In An Unfamiliar Position  
If you know your fretboard inside out, then great.  The chances are though that there’ll be somewhere on the neck that you’re not very comfortable improvising.  (Especially if you’re in an ‘unusual key’ ie. not E, A, etc)
This is a chance to use that unfamiliarity to your advantage.
You are now improvising in the truest sense.  Your bank of phrases and licks is gone and your ear is guiding you.  Play confidently and without worrying about mistakes and you’ll discover new licks, avoiding familiar scale patterns and improve your ear.  All the while gradually getting to grips with another area of the fretboard.

More to come in Part 3 later in the week.

Want Improvisation help in person?  Guitar Lessons In London

-Alex