Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, David Grissom, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddie King, Billy Gibbons, Albert King, and Buddy Guy are just a few examples of blues guitar masters who are widely respected for their “advanced” soloing skills and harmonic vocabulary. Ready to take your own blues soloing skills to the next level? Dig deep now into this Advanced Blues Soloing edition of Essentials from Jeff McErlain!
“I've prepared 10 performance studies that focus on the advanced soloing skills that all of our favorite blues and blues rock guitar players use in their own soloing performances. We'll work on phrasing, outlining the changes, double stops and over bends, big vibrato, utilizing half-step whole step diminished scales, soloing over bluesy ballads, incorporating diminished seventh arpeggios, hybrid picking techniques, chromaticism, and many other advanced skills and techniques.”
?These 10 soloing performance studies cover a range of styles, tempos and feels including shuffles, funk, mambo, 12/8, country blues and Texas boogies. For each performance study, Jeff will first demonstrate the solo and then break it down for you note-by-note.
Shuffle E Solo - ”The point of this course is to start to crack the code of playing on the chord changes as opposed to over them. Playing over the core progression means we are playing one scale over everything, in a blues this often works out very well by just playing the minor pentatonic scale. The next level is playing on the chord progression, where we play the notes at a specific time on a specific cord. Good blues guitar playing does this in my mind, as it can add a level of sophistication to your playing. It takes time to know the right notes to play, but it is well worth the effort. A good way to do it is exactly what we're doing here - learn the solos that I've constructed and then break them down and analyze the placement of each note.”
BBQ Boogie Solo - ”Like many of the solos in this course, this one is a little tricky. I start off with a cool lick reminiscent of the opening lick to the solo in "La Grange," but I've extended the idea all the way down the A minor blues scale. Notice how it's a melodic pattern that repeats going through the scale. Melodic patterns are essential devices for any musician as they are an excellent way to move around the fingerboard musically. I love the sound of a pattern like this as it brings me through the scale as a listener. It's important to swing those eighth notes and 16th notes in this solo, and almost every blues solo for that matter. The feel should be relaxed and a little behind the beat, which takes a fair amount of time to master. Play the pattern slowly at first and hear the notes, so you know exactly what the pattern is in your head. Slowly bring it up to tempo, that is the only way to get it.”
Minor Sea Solo - ”I'm using a clever little device here, and that's bending from a half step below the note I wish to sound. In this case, it's the flat fifth to the natural fifth in the C minor blues scale. I use this technique quite a bit, and in fact, any note that I wish to hold for any length of time is usually a bend. By bending to a note, it allows us a great deal of control over the pitch of that note, and we can get expressive with it. Think about it - if I'm bending to a note, it can give me the opportunity to have a much wider vibrato than I would if I were to fret that note. This is something I learned from three guitar players growing up: David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, And Roy Buchanan.”
Take Your Time Solo - ”This solo is based primarily off of the G minor pentatonic scale, G-Bb-C-D-F, and I'm always tweaking my flatted 3rd a bit to allude to the natural third, as is common in the blues. Tweaking the third is an essential technique and indicative of the blues. It keeps the harmony somewhat ambiguous, which is a cool thing to do as it leaves the harmonic door open a bit. The riff is an uptown groove based upon a minor pentatonic scale that omits the third, so the chord progression itself is neither major nor minor. That can give us a fair amount of options as to how we like to approach it. I took a fairly conservative approach and kept it basically the G minor blue scale. I suggest experimenting with the natural third as well for a brighter sound.”
Affordable Shuffle Solo - ”I would say this is the most difficult solo in this course for a number of reasons - the overall feel, triplet slurs, and of course, the quickly diminished lick. Let's discuss the diminished scale, as everything else is a mixture of the major and minor pentatonic scales. 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.”
Texas Rain Solo - ”Please keep in mind that this is an advanced course, so what does that mean? In this case, I'm not talking about speed based chops, I'm talking about hand control and note choice. To me, those are the hallmarks of a truly great player and what I aspire to every day. Hearing someone who is expressing music and emotion through their hands is always inspiring to me and far more impressive than having a lot of technical prowess. The solo contains some tricky vibrato and bends and also combines the two, which in itself is a lot of work. The relaxed feel and placement of the notes is something that needs to be worked on and given a lot of attention. So, when I say advanced, these are the things I'm talking about. Having control over what it is you want to play.”
Someday Baby Solo - ”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.”
Yee Ha Solo - ”Yup, another difficult one...okay, maybe this is the most difficult one in this course. I'm not sure! Either way, it's a beast, so take it slowly and lick by lick. The best way to learn a new solo to break it down into sections. Listen to each lick and commit it to memory before attempting to play it. If you don't know what it's supposed to sound like, learning how to play it will be twice as difficult. That makes sense, doesn't it? Take full advantage of the Soundslice feature in this course if you have it to slow down and loop each lick. That's the easiest way to tackle it. It may take a while to pull this or any of the solos in this course together, but that's all part of learning. The upside is the better you get at it, the easier it becomes. Man, that was a deep thought...”
Cross Saw Solo - ”The main theme of this solo is motivic development, which is a fancy way of saying taking a theme or an idea and expanding for embellishing upon it. It's a classic approach to take on creating a solo or melody, although they should not be all that different! I'm always trying to think melodically when I'm playing, as all my favorite solos from my favorite players seem to do the same thing. So, as you work through the attached video, pay attention to how I embellish the melody slightly each time. I look at this as a fun creative challenge that pushes me to investigate the options available to me on the instrument. I truly believe this has made me a much better musician and guitar player.”
Floor Blues Solo - ”What blues course would be complete without a tip of the hat to Jimi Hendrix? The sheer intensity and ferocity that he would play with while also having the capacity to be extremely subtle have had a great impact on me. This solo study is about the vibe, big vibrato and overbends that Jimi would use. These techniques require a lot of hand strength and practice! Nailing the huge vibrato and big bends are largely about developing the muscles in your hand to handle it. Vibrato and bending like this do not just happen, it takes a lot of a specialized work and is difficult. But, if the sound appeals to you, it's well worth it. We can hear this playing coming from Stevie Ray Vaughan as well, and that guy had very strong hands.”
All of the performance studies are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and slow down the tab and notation as you work through the lessons. Plus, Jeff includes all of the backing tracks for you to work with on your own.
Grab your guitar and let’s advance our blues soloing chops with Jeff McErlain!