Everything starts with the blues form

Are you a blues guitarist? Are you a rock guitarist? Are you a jazz guitarist? Are you a country guitarist? Are you a bluegrass guitarist? Are you a folk guitarist? All of these styles have a form in common. The Blues. The blues form is the most universal changes in music. It is simple and the best place any guitarist could start with. In this lesson you will learn what the blues form is, how to create it and how it works.

HISTORY:

You may or may not have heard that the blues was created in the late 1800s from slaves. It was highly influenced by things like spirituals, work songs and chants. The real meaning of the blues, however, comes from the purpose of it. It was intended to sing about serious life topics. Bad relationships, bad work, harsh life styles were common topics of blues. There are some songs that are happier, but of a serious matter. One of the ways slaves were allowed to express themselves was through music. So blues was an important part of society.

 

Lyrics and Melodies:

Lyrics and melodies of the blues form were often extremely simple.  These were created in an AAB style. What this means is that you sing something like “this is the blues” then you repeated it. Then you sing “The days keep going, they don’t die off”. Here is an example of what a blues melody looks like.

 

This is the blues

This is the blues

The days keep going, they don’t die off

 

Here is an example in a song by Albert Collins:

Because of how the lyrics are made, the melody is in the same form. It repeats then changes.

 

The Chord Progression:

In the blues form there are 3 chords used.  All of them are dominant chords. The blues form is 12 bars long. Here is the chord progression.

I7    |        |         |      |

IV7  |        |I7     |      |

V7   |IV7  |I7      |      |

 

All you need to do is fill in the chord progression above in the key you are in then you will have the blues form in that key. You can listen to the example above and hear this chord progression.

 

Alterations:

There are always exceptions to everything. Especially in jazz, there are all kinds of alterations to this progression. Jazz treats this form as “goal posts” in a way. They will hit these chords, but add extra chords between them or substitute other chords in their place. To view a whole lesson on this click here.

 

In other styles like rock or country you may see similar chord progressions that are slightly changed. The most common thing you will see is changing the order of these chords. For example:

I7 |     |IV7    |      |

V7 |    | IV7   |      |

I7   |    |V7     |      |

 

You may also see chords added to this sometimes. Also in rock you will move more away from the all dominants toward the harmonized scale. So the fourth degree would be a major 7th, not flatted 7th. To learn about harmonizing the major scale click here.

 

Hope you enjoyed this lesson. Feel free to leave comments and share your opinions or ask your questions.

Arpeggios are important to jazz guitar

If you play a popular style of music such as rock, metal, country or blues you are probably very aware of how scales are important to soloing. A common question I hear a lot and have asked myself is “what scale is he using”. However in jazz it isn’t the question stated above it is the question “what arpeggio is he using” and “what alterations is he using” Scales are also used in jazz but a large percentage of true jazz is arpeggio based.

If you listen to jazz music early in jazz history you will see a lot of arpeggios used.  Let’s take Louis Armstrong for example. Listen to his playing and you will hear tons of arpeggios. Listen to Coleman Hawkins and Django Reinhardt. All of these musicians and many more use arpeggios extensively.  As mentioned above, scales are used in jazz as well, but they take on a different role. Everything in jazz is based around arpeggios.

Which arpeggios are important? There are only 6 that you need to know.  Only 4 are really important for starting out. The 4 most important arpeggios are Major, Minor, dominant and minor 7(b5). The 3 extra ones you need to learn are diminished and augmented. This beats memorizing a bunch of different scales. It is good to learn to play arpeggios in one octave. 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 are the important notes that make up these arpeggios.

With the knowledge of arpeggios you can add more advanced techniques to them to add more interest and have more available interesting uses.  There is lesson that you may find valuable to get some more bebop sounds using arpeggios. Adding some chromaticism to arpeggios can spice it up and create an interesting melody that sounds really hip.

Try playing around with triads and seeing what melodies you can come up with just using them. They may seem simple at first, but these are the building blocks you can use to build an awesome jazz melody with. Spend some time listening to early jazz and trying to listen to the arpeggios that they use. I also suggest transcribing some of the melodies that you hear. Good luck with your jazz journey.