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Storm Stenvold >> Lead Guitar Styles >>
Lesson Subject: Lead Guitar Styles
What you learn: Blues Lead Guitar
Teacher: Storm Stenvold

Storm: Hi. I'd like to thank all the Blues fans for tuning in this lesson. In this lesson we will look into Blues Lead guitar.

Storm: I'm sending out the jam track for the licks and ideas we'll work on. The jam track is a progression that has been called the 'Song of the Twentieth Century': The '12-Bar Blues'. This is in the key of 'A' if you want to get soloing right away!

Storm: Here are some stock voicings for the three chords that make up the progression. A D E. All are 'dominant' chords.


Andy: What does dominant mean?

Storm: Dominant is a type or 'quality' of chord, like minor or major.


Storm: The jam track uses some extensions of these basic chords. The next tab and video clip show an example of the riff.

Storm: OK. The move on 'E' sounds just like the 'D' move, just up two frets. The next graphic shows the order of the changes. 'A' for the first four bars. 'D' for the next two, back to 'A' for two bars. Then finishing with a flourish, 'E' for a bar, 'D' for a bar, then 'A' finally 'E'.

12-Bar Progression in 'A'.

Storm: The last two bars are known as the 'turnaround'. Then right back to the top. Notice much of the progression centers on 'A' and 'D'. Much of the lesson will be working out licks to these chords. Much of what works for 'D' can be transposed up two positions to work on 'E'.

Storm: This is the 'Blues Scale' in the key of 'A'. Seems to be a logical first choice, no? This is the most popular scale for guitar solos. The highlighted note is the 'b5' or 'blues' note. It is that additional note that makes this scale different than the 'Minor Pentatonic'. This scale works well over the entire progression. It really is the core sound of blues melody. It is difficult to hit a really bad note if one stays within this scale. It is a must-know scale for this style, and many others. You should practice playing the blues note with hammer-ons, pull-offs and bends. Here a some extension patterns.

Storm: Same notes, higher up the neck. This, as I mentioned, works over the entire progression. There are 'target' notes for each of the chords, though. We will work on some of these phrases coming up. Here comes another scale option.

Storm: This is the Major Pentatonic scale in our key of 'A'. Notice that it has the same pattern as 'Minor' Pentatonic but moved down three positions. The root note 'A' is highlighted. Very helpful if you can mentally, visually, aurally highlight this note yourself.

Storm: Here are some extensions for the Major Pentatonic. These are nice to break out of a rut. Try to visualize these laying over or 'on top' of your Minor Pentatonic patterns. Use this scale is against the 'A' chord. A 'sweeter' or 'happier' sound. Then switch to the Minor Pentatonic or Blues Scale for the 'D' and 'E' changes. And back again.

Storm: Or combine them together. The blues scale, again, always works, but the Major Pentatonic's '3rd' is a real clunker of a note over the 'D' chord change. To continue breaking out of the same boxes, lets look at some target notes, the chord tones of the progression.

Buud: Is that sort of a "rule" to use the major against the I chord, and the minor pentatonic against the IV and V?

Storm: Yeah, especially when D or E come along, GET OFF THE MAJOR PENTATONIC! If you follow that 'rule' you should hear new lines developing in your soloing.

Andy: Are these the same as arpeggios?

Storm: Yes. But try to find these notes within the two pentatonic patterns as well. On 'A' or the I chord there is the Root, Maj 3rd, 5th and b7. The Maj 3rd is that target note, though the others are strong as well. For the D chord the b3 of the blues scale is very strong as is the 4th. Let me send some licks.

Buud: Is aiming for the maj 3rd as the target tone the feature that gives a lick the "blues" tonality?

Storm: Buud, you will get a sweeter sound.

Storm: BB King uses the major Pentatonic a lot. Some players use it more than others. I think it gives your sound more variety. Albert King uses the Blues scale almost exclusively, though. And he is incredible, too.

Andy: As long as you're just playing blues?

Andy: or rock or country?

Storm: Well, Andy, Major Pentatonic does not work well over 'minor' progressions. But Minor Pentatonic can be worked over 'major' progressions.

Storm: One note that kind of splits the difference is the 'blues third'.

Storm: It is reached by bending the Minor third of the Minor Pentatonic 1/4 step. Not quite minor, not quite major, but all-American! Another cool combination pattern to try. The highlighted notes are in the Major Pentatonic. They are the '6' and the '2'. The '6' is a very strong note over the D change as well, the 3rd of the IV chord. To get more note choices try the seven note 'diatonic' scale for dominant chords. The Mixolydian mode.

Storm: Again these notes sound fitting against the I chord 'A' but to navigate the 12-Bar Progression you now need to switch scales as the chords change.

Storm: This lick changes from 'A' to 'D' Mixolydian as the chords change from A to D. Try it over the first two measures of the jam track. Along this line lets finish up with some two note patterns, double-stops. These are double-stop 'thirds' and can really fatten up your soloing.

Storm: If these are new don't expect to get them in a minute. I strongly suggest learning them with the fingerings given. Again as the chords change you need to change patterns. But they really are the same pattern just in different positions.

Storm: Another double stop pattern of 'sixths'. Another nice sound. The names 'thirds' and 'sixths' come from how far apart they are in the major scale. Called an 'interval'.

Storm: A sixths riff.

Storm: Finally, a lick for the last two bars of the progression, the turnaround. And it uses 6ths! OK. Thanks for joining me and have fun jamming to this track. Remember that the most important part of the blues can't be put on paper. It is the emotion necessary to really play the style well. The best idea is to really immerse yourselves in good blues music. We will get a little more 'out' next week with Jazz-Rock soloing. All the blues stuff will come into play on that, too.

Storm: Usually does. Take care.

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