TrueFire's Guitar Blog

Take Your Blues Soloing to the Next Level!

Everyone who learns how to play blues guitar pretty much follows the same path: learn our major and minor pentatonic scales, develop some solid right and left-hand techniques, and then pull together a fairly robust vocabulary of go-to blues licks. But pretty soon thereafter comes a time when everything is sounding like the same old same old.

This is especially true if you’re listening to the likes of Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, David Grissom, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddie King, Billy Gibbons, Albert King, or Buddy Guy to name just a few of our favorite blues legends. That’s the time to take our blues soloing to the next level — and no better way to get there than to connect with Jeff McErlain, one of TrueFire’s top ranked blues gurus. Here are a few free advanced blues soloing guitar lessons from Jeff to start with…

Affordable Shuffle: Overview

Robben Ford also heavily relies on the minor and major pentatonic scales but he spices his improvisations up with the diminished scale as well to take his solos to the next level. Dig in!

”The diminished scale is symmetrical, often referred to as the symmetrical diminished scale! The scale formula is half step – whole step – half step – whole step, etc. It’s an eight-note scale, and the theory behind it can get pretty deep, so here we’re just sticking our toe into the pool. The typical spot where Robben uses the scale is the change from the I7 to the IV7 chord in the blues. This occurs on Bar 4 as a change to the iV7, which occurs on Bar 5. The simple explanation as to what is going on is that we’re adding some tension before the change in resolving to a chord tone on the downbeat of Bar 5. I would suggest playing the lick and looping it, as you can use the Soundslice function. Please take advantage of that tool, it’s fantastic!”

Affordable Shuffle: Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this blues lesson on TrueFire.

Affordable Shuffle: Breakdown

Shuffle in E: Peformance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this blues lesson on TrueFire.

If you play the blues, you gotta learn how to make your shuffles sparkle. Here’s a solo in E for you to work on…

”To make this solo easier to breakdown, I’ve constructed it in sections. What’s cool here is that all those individual licks can be applied just about to any blues or rock tune provided you take the key into consideration. The three chords in an E blues are E7, A7, and B7. E7 is spelled E-G#-B-D, A7 is A-C#-E-G, and B7 is B-D#-F#-A. As you go through this solo, be sure you see which note I’m playing on which chord. In the first lick, you can see I play a number of G# notes either via bending or fretting. By using that note, I’m clearly defining the E7 chord. The same goes for the A7 and B7. This is called playing on the chords and can open up a whole new world of possibilities.”

Someday Baby: Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this blues lesson on TrueFire.

Nothing is sweeter than a tasty solo over a slow blues. Here’s a lesson demonstrating how to cook up the perfect blend of tone, bends and magical notes…

”On a solo like this, the right tone is pretty important to help some of the notes really ring out and get some sustain. The key to that is overdrive, but not too much, just enough to hold those notes, which also makes it a lot more fun! The trick here is to get the bends in tune and vibrato them steadily, keeping it in tune. It’s a tricky thing to do, and the bane of many guitar players existence. It requires a lot of practice and hand strength, but there is nothing worse than out of tune bends and vibrato. It can really make a good player sound amateur. Conversely, if executed properly, can make an amateur player sound more professional.”

Dig these advanced blues soloing guitar lessons? Download Jeff McErlain’s Advanced Blues Soloing edition of Essentials for much more including tab, notation, and jam tracks!