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Michael Johnson >> Contemporary Blues Guitarists >>

Teacher: Hello class, welcome to the lesson in the style of Robert Cray. Robert has a very unique blues sound using various techniques to play outside of a common blues progression and using a Stratocaster with more guitar effects than most other blues players, this combination gives him a very unique sound. Generally for effects Robert uses a compressor, chorus, reverb and other effects. The lesson sample will give you an idea of his sound and the licks and rhythms you will learn in this lesson.

Lesson Sample - Lowband - 1.1 Meg

Lesson Sample - Highband - 3.9 Meg

Teacher: OK, here's our first rhythm pattern.

Part 1 - Rhythm

Part 1 - Rhythm

Teacher: This rhythm pattern remind me of a Rolling Stones groove. You start with the higher notes of the Bm and add a "sus4" note using your 4th finger, then you play a D chord with a Hendrix type slide lick using the D Major Pentatonic, and up to E and back to the Bm using the full 6 string barre chord and add a sus4 chord again and back to Bm. Here's the jam track for you to play over:

Looping Jam Track 1 - Lowband

Teacher: It has kind of a funk rhythm pattern to it.  You can jam over this rhythm using the B Minor Pentatonic scale. Here's the pattern:

B Minor Pentatonic

Teacher: Practice the scale pattern over the jam track a few times and then we will start the licks.

zac: Will a B blues scale suffice?

Teacher: Yes, Zac, just add the b5 note to the Bm Pentatonic, I'll send the scale so everybody can see it.

B Minor Blues Scale

Teacher: I highlighted the b5 notes of the B Minor Blues.

craigs2553: I have a hard time with my phrasing when soloing. do you have any tips?

Teacher: Craig, think of playing a solo like you would a rhythm guitar part. The rhythm gives you the emphasis of phrasing you are looking for, instead of playing quarter and eighth notes solos, etc. In fact this next lick will combine rhythm and lead solos, here it is:

Part 1 - Solo 1

Part 1 - Solo 1

Teacher: See how this lick combines the scale and portions of the rhythm pattern you just learned?

Now, are you able to use the other pentatonic "box patterns" along with the pattern you have given us for this rhythm?

Teacher: Matt, yes, you can use all the related pentatonic box patterns, in fact I use the 2nd box pattern in the last lick I just gave you. See how important using the rhythm pattern is in this lick? In fact you can practice playing scales by using various rhythm patterns as well. Let's try some more basic lead licks:

Part 1 - Solo 2

Part 1 - Solo 2

Teacher: You mentioned using the other box patterns earlier, well here's a perfect example. Here's the patterns you use:

B Minor Pentatonic - Box 1 & 2

Teacher: See how the patterns connect? I highlighted the notes you use at the beginning of the last lick I gave you. Try playing both scale patterns over the jam track as well, using a rhythmic picking pattern.

zac: Does Mr. Cray venture into jazz phrasing often, or is he strictly blues?

Teacher: Zac excellent question, yes he does, I cover more of his blues stuff in this series because it is on Contemporary Blues players. In our next section we will use E blues.

Part 2 - Rhythm

Part 2 - Rhythm

Teacher: You might notice this rhythm pattern has more of a blues sound, but is altered using various interval riffs that make it sound more interesting. You start with E (I) 3x through, then to to A7 (IV) and resolve with a blues lick using the E Minor Pentatonic scale pattern. Here's the E Minor Pentatonic and E Minor Blues patterns.

E Minor Pentatonic & Blues

Teacher: See how adding the b5 note makes the blues sound. Here's a jam track for the rhythm you just learned:

Looping Jam Track 2 - Lowband

Teacher: Try playing the scale patterns I just gave you over the jam track a few times. Here's are some licks you can play over the rhythm track using the E Minor Pen & Blues scale.

Part 2 - Solo 1

Part 2 - Solo 1

Teacher: You might notice that you use the 2nd box pattern in this solo as well, here's the patterns:

E Minor Pentatonic - Box 1 & 2

Teacher: For our next rhythm pattern you will play using the A minor blues. Minor blues has a very dramatic sound. Here's the rhythm.

Part 3 - Rhythm

Part 3 - Rhythm

Teacher: I use my pinky all the time, practicing using minor scales and minor leads will help, in fact this section uses the A Minor and A Minor Pentatonic scale patterns.

I find it hard to incorporate the blues notes into the pentatonic patterns, any tips? I can't seem to find the right places to use them... I guess I'll just experiment a little bit

Teacher: Matt, think of the b5 (blues note) as a transitional note, which means you're using that note to lead into another note that is in the basic Minor Pentatonic scale structure. Here's the jam track for this rhythm:

Looping Jam Track 3 - Lowband

Now this is a very interesting variation of a minor blues. The rhythm starts with a Am7 on the root note and later strums the higher notes of the chord and them moving up one whole-step to the Bm7. You the move to the IV (DM7) of the progression and play the same basic pattern using the root note of the Dm7, then higher notes of the chord and then moving one whole-step to the Em7. You then more to a #5 (F) of the progression which is a interesting shift and back to the V (E). The progression then moves back to the I (Am7) and resolving on the (V) E.

Teacher: Now here's the two scale patterns you can use, first the A Minor Pentatonic and A Minor.

A Minor & A Minor Pentatonic

Teacher: Try using both patterns, you'll find the Minor sounds very melodic.

Matt: Do you have the fingerings for the A minor pattern? I seem to be having trouble deciding what fingers to use.

Teacher: Matt use your 1, 3rd and 4th fingers for most of it. Here's the scale:

A Minor Scale - with fingering

Teacher: Here's the A Minor Pentatonic Box 1 & 2 patterns:

A Minor Pentatonic - Box 1 & 2

Teacher: Here's few licks using the A Minor Pentatonic Box 1 & 2 patterns:

Part 3 - Solo 1

Part 3 - Solo 1

Teacher: Here's the second part of the solo:

Part 3 - Solo 2

Part 3 - Solo 2

Teacher: Well it's time to go, I hope this gives you a better idea of playing in the style of Robert Cray and expanding on playing the blues.

heywood: nice lesson thanks

Matt: good lesson

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