Here’s our latest guest blog post – For the excellent TrueFire
Enjoy, and good luck!
At Bruce Music we have the best, most personable instrumental teachers in London. We hire only the pick of London’s young musicians, those who match our ethos of enjoyment, encouragement and motivation, and who are active in the worlds of performance, composition and education.
This post is to direct you to their profiles and pictures so you can see the quality on offer, and enjoy the virtuoso skills in their performance videos too.
And our Guitar Teacher performance videos – including a competition winning classical Guitar performance from Daniel, a blazing Guitar solo at the Royal Albert Hall from Vic, Nina soloing at Glastonbury, Jack’s virtuoso percussive Acoustic skills, and much more.
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:
Hi everyone and welcome to our new series of daily blog posts offering you professional practice trips to maximise your Guitar or Piano practice time.
Each day we’ll offer you a professional, insightful tip that will help you notice an improvement in your playing, fast.
Tip 1: Stop Practising What You Already Know!
Don’t stop playing what you already know – but that’s “playing” not “practice”. If you want to improve as a guitarist, focus your practice time on what you don’t know, not what you do.
A short burst of dedicated focus on whatever it may be – A hard chord change, improving your speed, learning a new scale or solo, will pay huge dividends on your all round playing and knowledge. Then when your practice is done, it’s play time! This is when you play what you already know, for fun!
So separate your practice time and your play time.
See you tomorrow for tip 2.
So here are 5 key points we can take from this, to apply to our own Phrasing when soloing:
1) Leaving Space.
We’ve discussed leaving spaces between phrases before, and referenced Miles Davis’ quote “It’s the notes you don’t play”. However, on this track, and many others, Mark Knopfler takes this concept from a necessary technique to an art form. During these spaces in the verses is arguably when his Guitar carries most weight and power, as when listening to the song, you can feel yourself urging and pre-empting the Guitar’s re-entry. This combined with the Guitar being “high in the mix” (ie. noticeably louder than the other instruments), and a collection of concise, sparse and perfectly executed fills, makes for a brilliantly evocative Guitar part.
This is a selection of short and medium length fills, there are no long fills at all. This is an effective, controlled approach. Rather like how you might stop listening to someone who’s been going on and on for 10 minutes, but take serious note when a silent type finally speaks up. On a couple of occasions, there is no fill at all, and once the first verse, there’s a fill of just one note. Even in the solos, there is absolutely no playing to excess whatsoever. If you told any guitarist to solo over the Brothers In Arms Backing Track, you can be sure they wouldn’t play so little, or be anywhere near as effective, unless they’d already learned this lesson
3) Volume Swells
Knopfler’s volume pedal is a big part of his sound. Essentially a volume pedal is a foot pedal which sweeps from silent to full volume, and you can create similar effects using the volume knob on your guitar. Using this he creates violin-like swells, notes that creep and fade in and out. Essentially he’s hereby deepening the use and potential of dynamics in his playing. Try it out with whatever you have at your disposal!
Pushing is coming in just before the beat, usually a quaver (or 8th note) before. Knopfler does this a lot, coming in early with something emphatic, that sounds momentarily out of place, then soars as the music falls into place around his guitar part. This adds expression, dynamics and the illusion of pace, and is exemplified by the solo-opening bend at 4:13
The central, best-known aspect of Mark Knopfler’s technique is the fact that he nearly always plays with his fingers, rather than a plectrum. Whilst this arguably has more influence over his rhythm playing, it does affect his lead playing in one major way. The scope and range of expression provided by the fingers is much wider than with a pick. This range extends at one end of the spectrum to a hard, plucked twang, and at the other to the lightest, feather-touch flick of the strings. In general, there’s a soft, rounded quality to his tone that comes from his fingerstyle soloing. Try it out!
Coming soon, the 4th and final (for now) part in this series.
Today’s Jimi Hendrix’s innovative, brilliant cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”
So what can we learn from Jimi’s lead guitar phrasing on this recording, and how can we apply it to our own playing to incorporate better phrasing when playing, composing or improvising our solos?
– “On Edge”
Like a large amount of Jimi’s playing, the phrasing and timing is “on edge”. Right as your ear starts to detect his rhythm becoming loose, he nails an intricate phrase, ending squarely on beat 1 of the next bar, and right as you feel a phrase has gone off track, he twists it into an unusual resolution, making you realise he knew where he was going all along. This is one of the central, magical principles of Jimi’s soloing, and what gives it such a soaring, but mellow freedom. When you see live footage, he often gives the impression of just mindlessly stabbing and thrashing at the strings without a second thought, but what’s coming out is some of the most innovative and creative lead playing we’ve ever seen. So what we can take from this is that the combination of security in your technique and fretboard knowledge, with a relaxed, free style, will take you a long way. Essentially, it’s knowing your stuff whilst appearing too cool for school!
– 1.5 Tone Bends
In the intro and the solos, Jimi’s using some 1.5 tone (ie. one and a half tones, or 3 fret) bends. These are very expressive, as it’s even more of a climb and a stretch for the note being bent, and also very distinctive, as we’re so used to hearing 1 tone bends (2 frets).
If you add up the time spent soloing during this track, it’s probably about 90 seconds. In that time, we’ve got rock and blues licks, a chordal soloing section, a wah-wah section, a slide guitar section, tons of bends and slides, slow fills, fast flurries and an ocatver effect coming on and off at different points. What you should take from this is the variation that is afforded to you by a knowledge of different styles and techniques, getting to grips with FX pedals, and intertwining rhythm guitar aspects with your lead playing.
– Sustain/”More Time On The Ball”
Here’s a great article on top sports stars seeming to have more time on the ball. Jimi Hendrix is the musical equivalent. His notes are held until the very last possible moment, aided by a practised, full-bodied, vibrato and sustain. Yet he doesn’t seem or sound rushed. Sustain your notes as long as possible, and try thinking one phrase ahead.
– Loose Call & Response
We’ve previously looked at Call & Response and what exactly it is. If you don’t know what it is, here’s lots of info.
Jimi’s at times using a very loose Call & Response technique, probably down to a natural musicality and love of The Blues. Occasionally he is answering his own phrases very directly and symmetrically, such as the second phrase in the intro solo being almost a mirror image of the first. But very often he’s using this very loose variant, almost as if the response is answering a mutation of the call, rather than the direct call itself. This is how he manages to make his soloing have a very clear and unified style, without being repetitive. give it a go!
Next Time – How Mark Knopfler plays almost no notes at all!
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.
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!