Watch the Breakdown 4 online guitar lesson by Andy Aledort from Slow Blues Power

In bar 3, I bring the initial E7 triad on the top three strings back into play, utilizing a pull-off from the G# to the E on the top string on beat three, and again end the phrase similarly. Bar 4, however, is where I really take advantage of the open strings, starting with a hammer from the open G to G# at the first fret, followed by unison high E notes, sliding up to the fifth fret of the B string and playing that E against the open high E string.

In all of the guitar lines up to this point, the phrasing has been based on either eighth notes or a combination of eighths and 16ths; here in bar 4, I really stretch the time by playing very freely over the beat, cramming in fast flurries of notes, phrased in shifting rhythms. The flowing, rhythmically free nature of the lines are intended to create the feeling of “tension and release,” an expressive quality that is what blues soloing is all about. As you will notice, the fret-hand index finger does a lot of the work on a riff like this.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on playing the phrase as it’s shown here, experiment with different ways to speed up and slow down when playing lines like this. This technique is especially effective when it is balanced against phrases played in more regimented time.

Over the IV chord in bar 5, I play a simple melodic line based on the notes of an A7 chord (A C# E G) and the A Mixolydian mode, ending on the G note; the G sounds great because, while it serves as the dominant seventh over A, it’s also the minor third over E, so a little of that “E reference” remains present.