Watch the Intros, Breaks, & Endings online guitar lesson by Andrew Ford from Blues Bass Survival Guide
There are many ways to start a blues, one is a progression starting on the 5 chord, moving to the 4 chord then resolving to the 1 and finally returning to the 5 to set up the beginning of the song, each chord lasting one bar. Other times it may be just the 5 chord for a bar. Then other times you may just play through the whole 12 bar form for an intro, or just come right in with the head or melody with a drum or guitar pickup. Intros, like many aspects of the blues can be very spontaneous. In this first example we have a 12/8 blues in A with a one bar intro that starts on the 5 which is E. In example 2 we have a shuffle with a full 4 bar intro starting on the 5 again in the key of A. The progression is 5 chord, to the 4 for a bar, then resolving to the 1 and then setting up the beginning of the song with the 5 chord E again. This is just a small sampling of the many possible blues intros. Next we will look at 5 common endings you might encounter when playing the blues. Endings also can be very spontaneous so you should always be alert and in tune with the other band members. The first example is a two bar ending that comes in the 11th bar of the blues progression and goes from the 1 chord for 2 beats to the 4 chord for two beats. The next bar continues with the 5 chord for 2 beats and ends back on the 1 chord on beat 4 of the 12th bar. Example 2 is also a 2 bar ending that uses a diminished passing chord before walking down using a pentatonic motif. Example 3 features an ending that uses an Ab7 half step passing chord before moving to the final G chord. A very common motif. Example 4 uses a quarter note descending walking line before ending with the same motif as in Example 3. The quarter note line uses a D# passing tone that connects to the D in the last bar. In example 5 we have another shuffle figure using 8th notes walking down and ending with another D# passing tone that leads to our last phrase that uses the F note over the D7 chord as a blue note. It then continues to walk up chromatically and ends on the G. Next we have breaks. Breaks can happen anywhere in a song, but one normal spot is in the last chorus of a song. In this situation they normally will be cued very well by the leader. They can also happen in the 11th bar of the form or any place else that makes musical sense. Later in the performance section we will introduce another common break and the kicks that follow.