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Songwriter September

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Watch the 16-Bar Minor Blues online guitar lesson by Jeff Denson from Blues Bass Crossover

Here I'm outlining the chord tones of the minor chords by playing the root, flat 7, 5, flat 7 and the minor 3rd. Aside from the fact it's a 16-bar form as opposed to the standard 12-bar blues, another really cool thing to point out is that it doesn't go to the IV chord at all! Instead of going to the IV, it goes to the flat vi minor chord. This takes us outside of the harmony altogether.

Next, we have the VI sus7 chord. Simply put, a sus chord is a chord that uses a perfect 4th in place of the 3rd...this takes away the major or minor sound. "Classical" composers first used the sus chord to suspend or delay the resolution (hence the term "sus") to the one chord. Typically, it would be used at the end of a progression following the V7 chord (V7 – Isus – I). In jazz, composers like Herbie Hancock started using the sus chord as another tonality type, as opposed to a harmonic trick of delaying the resolution to the I chord. (Check out Herbie's tune "Maiden Voyage," to hear a song almost completely built with sus chords!)

Take note that the first 4-bar phrase is built on F minor and the last four bars is also built on that same chord. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people get confused about things like this! The mistake occurs when you get distracted by something, like what the soloist is playing, the cool part your drummer is playing, the audience or whatever, and then you forget whether you're playing the last phrase of the first. "Oh no!" Here's a little tip: create a harmonic landmark for yourself and your bandmates when you get to the end. In my line, I was prominently playing the 5th of the F minor chord on beats 3 and 4 of the last measure. Something like this sets up a resolution to the top of the form...kind of like the bass equivalent to playing a drum fill to set up the top. ;-)

Technique notes:
  1. Muting: I'm muting the string with my right hand on specific notes for a rhythmic effect.
  2. Bending: for expressive effect I sometimes SLIGHTLY bend the string to raise the pitch. This is super subtle, because I don't want to sound out of tune...out of tune bass notes are NO GOOD! Hahaha But slightly bending the string changes the pitch for a split second by a micro tone (very small amount).
    • Vibrato via bending: sometimes I'll use a rapid bending of the string to give the effect of vibrato. This can be a cool sound, but like most effects, use in moderation. I used the D sus chord as a place to break away from the ostinato (repeating bassline) that I was using on the i and flat vi chords. The sus chord as a very open sound, harmonically speaking, it's a release in the form from the minor sound, so I chose that as a place to change my line.

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