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Blues Grooves for Beginners and Beyond

SAMPLE
Readable sections are shown by yellow highlighting in the table of
contents. Not all sound files are included in this sample document.

By Darrin Koltow
www.MaximumMusician.com
Copyright © 2003 Darrin Koltow

1
Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 4
Before You Start............................................................................................................. 4
What You’ll Learn .......................................................................................................... 5
Getting Help .................................................................................................................. 5
The Right Hand .............................................................................................................. 5
Take Your Time............................................................................................................... 5
Practice Habits .............................................................................................................. 5
Use the Music Samples ................................................................................................. 6
Reading Chord Diagrams and Tablature...................................................................... 7
Tablature ............................................................................................................................ 9
Other Things You’ll See................................................................................................... 11
Technique ........................................................................................................................ 12
Right Hand ................................................................................................................... 12
Left Hand...................................................................................................................... 12
Blues Chords and Progressions...................................................................................... 13
Basic Chords ................................................................................................................ 13
The Full Chords............................................................................................................. 15
Blues in G.......................................................................................................................... 17
Blues in E ........................................................................................................................... 18
Ingredients of the Blues .............................................................................................. 20
A New Strum Pattern .................................................................................................. 23
Blues in A .......................................................................................................................... 25
More on Seventh Chords............................................................................................... 27
Not “ Supposed” to Be There..................................................................................... 28
Playing Triplets ................................................................................................................. 31
Portato Versus Staccato ................................................................................................ 32
How to Do It ................................................................................................................. 32
The Staccato Blues...................................................................................................... 34
Minor Blues ....................................................................................................................... 35
Movable Chords ............................................................................................................. 35
Learning the Fretboard .............................................................................................. 35
Movable Shapes ......................................................................................................... 36
Movable Blues ............................................................................................................. 37
How to Play (Almost) any Dominant 7 Chord ......................................................... 41
The Bar Chord.................................................................................................................. 43
Origin of this Bar Chord Shape .................................................................................. 43
Rhythm Blanks.................................................................................................................. 49
Double Bar Chord........................................................................................................... 51
Origin of Double Bar Chord ....................................................................................... 51
Combining Chord Forms................................................................................................ 56
Apogee Slide Blues......................................................................................................... 59
Minor Movable Blues ...................................................................................................... 61
More Movable Chords ................................................................................................... 64
The C7 Shape Revisited.............................................................................................. 64
Two More Movables ................................................................................................... 66
Movable Dominant Seventh Review ........................................................................... 68
The Dominant 9th............................................................................................................ 70
Rhythm Riffs...................................................................................................................... 39
Hammers and Pulls...................................................................................................... 39
A Blues Riff .................................................................................................................... 40
2
How Does it Work? A Puzzle....................................................................................... 74
Arpeggios and the Pentatonic Scale ...................................................................... 74
The Blues ....................................................................................................................... 76
Mixolydian Scale ......................................................................................................... 78
Basic Shuffle ..................................................................................................................... 42
How it Works ................................................................................................................. 44
The Muffle Shuffle ........................................................................................................ 82
Souped up Shuffle....................................................................................................... 82
The Backbeat .................................................................................................................. 45
The Boogie Shuffle .......................................................................................................... 86
Turnarounds ..................................................................................................................... 91
The Main Point ............................................................................................................. 94
Movable Shuffle .......................................................................................................... 95
Adding Harmonic Variety ........................................................................................ 100
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 107
Additional Resources................................................................................................ 107
Chord Reference .......................................................................................................... 108
Notes on the Fretboard.................................................................................................. 47
Introduction to Reading Standard Notation............................................................... 48
How to Get the Complete Version............................................................................... 49

3
Acknowledgements

This ebook is more than just one person wanting to help others play guitar more
effectively. The inspiration and knowledge gained from other resources has
helped make this ebook helpful for you. One of those resources is
GuitarNoise.com. GuitarNoise.com has lessons for guitarists of every skill level,
covering many, many aspects of playing guitar. This includes advice on careers,
“ Scary Stories,” detailed lessons on playing popular songs, songwriting, forums
and much more. It’s hard to imagine a guitarist who would not benefit from
GuitarNoise.com materials. Visit them often, at www.GuitarNoise.com.

4
Introduction

What is the blues, and how does this guide help me learn it?

There’s no mistaking the sound of the blues. It has a unique sound. Yet, it doesn’t
take a lot of effort to make the basic blues sounds. The blues is composed of a
few basic ingredients, one of which is the blues scale. Two of the notes in this
scale are sometimes added to the major scale to give a blues feeling. We talk
more about creating the blues feeling under the subheading Ingredients of the
Blues, in the Blues in E chapter.

A set of rhythms and a set of related chord progressions are other ingredients of
the blues. A traditional blues progression contains three chords in 12 measures or
bars, and is structured like this:

C|C|C|C
F|F|C|C
G|F|C|G

This is a progression in C major. Each of the chords is a major chord, but can be
replaced by a dominant seventh chord. A C dominant seventh chord is written
as C7.

Do you need to have all of these ingredients to make a blues sound? No. For
example, you don’t need to play a blues progression to communicate a blues
feeling. Doing something as simple as changing a major chord or major scale’s
major third to minor, and then switching back again to major, is one way to
“ bluesify” your music.

This guide will show you how to create the blues using these ingredients. When
you can smoothly play an exercise in the guide, you’ll be playing the same
sounds that the great blues players play.

Creating a blues feeling sounds simple, and it generally is. But also be aware that
the blues is a foundation that you can create many musical layers and colors
with. For example, you can add a note to the basic dominant seventh chord to
create a 9th chord, which has its own distinctive sound. We’ll cover the
dominant nine in this guide.

Before You Start


Before you start reading this guide, it would help you to know a few basic things
about playing guitar. This text does cover many of the basics of playing guitar,
but if you want more introductory material, see the free ebook Playing Guitar: a
Beginner’s Guide, available at this web address:

5
www.MaximumMusician.com/book1.htm

What You’ll Learn


You’ll first learn open and movable chords and then progress to learning riffs. You
won’t have to memorize as many chord patterns as you might guess; this guide
shows you how to turn basic, open position chords into movable chord forms,
which can be used to play many different chords. This will give you more
confidence in playing anywhere on the fretboard.

Getting Help
Each exercise in the guide builds on the preceding one, so if you get confused
at a certain point, it might help to go back and review. In any case, reviewing
material is a must for building real skill.

If you need more help on the basics of playing guitar, check out these other
resources: the Playing Guitar ebook at www.MaximumMusician.com/book1.htm,
and the sites www.GuitarPrinciples.com and www.GuitarNoise.com

Also, you can get your questions about the guide answered by sending email to
me, Darrin Koltow, at this email address:
www.MaximumMusician.com/feedback.dsk . Make sure you put a meaningful
subject in the Subject line of the message. For example, you might write:
“ Subject: help with straight 8ths.”

Stay with the program. You may already know how long it takes to build guitar
skills. The time it takes doesn’t matter at all, though, when you’re enjoying the
learning process. If there’s a technique that’s not coming to you right away, let it
go for a while and come back later. Nothing beats persistence, desire, and just a
bit of belief that you can build the skill you want.

The Right Hand


Your left hand will have plenty of fretting to keep it busy, but your right hand --
which is like the engine that produces the blues rhythms -- will also get a workout.
You’ll learn how to apply a range of rhythms to get different blues effects. This
includes staccato and percussive strumming, straight or swing 8ths, and shuffles.

Take Your Time


Speed is not nearly as important as the volume of talk about it would make it
seem. For instance, as good as Eddie Van Halen’s guitar skills are, how easily can
you sing the intro to his tune “ Hot for Teacher” ? By contrast, how easy is it to
recall the opening riff to Eric Clapton’s “ Cocaine” ? More important than speed
is how and when you play notes, and your understanding of how the blues
works. These elements will determine how effective you are at communicating
the blues.

6
Practice Habits
Using a metronome when you practice will greatly increase your effectiveness in
communicating blues rhythms. Work with a metronome before jumping ahead
and playing with the sound files. Smooth out the “ wrinkles ” in your playing un til
you can play an entire exercise smoothly with the metronome. At that point,
play along with the sound file.

Use the Music Samples


The sound files that go with the lessons help you make sure you’re playing the
exercises correctly.

But before we get to the lessons, you’ll want to tune your guitar. You can do that
with the following sound files. Click on the names of these files to open them. You
can do the same thing with other sound files and also with hyperlinks.

http://www.__TuningHighE.mid
http://www.__tuningB.mid
http://www.__tuningG.mid
http://www.__tuningD.mid
http://www.__tuningA.mid
http://www.__tuningLowE.mid

With some sound files, you may hear drum beats introducing the music. This gives
you time to prepare to play along when the actual music starts.

Much of your success in communicating the blues will come from how much
feeling you put into it. So, remember to have fun when you play and to take the
time to listen to and enjoy the playing of others.

7
Reading Chord Diagrams and Tablature

Here’s a sample chord diagram showing the C major open position chord. If
there’s an X above a string, do not play that string. If there’s a 0 above a string,
that string is played “ open. ” In other words, don’t put any fingers on that string.

By the way, if any diagrams are hard to see, use the Zoom tool in the Acrobat
Reader to zoom to 125% or 150%. The Zoom tool is under the View menu, and it’s
called Zoom To.

In chord diagrams, the numbers in circles tell you which finger to use. This guide
assumes you are right handed, and play the guitar by fretting the notes and
chords with your left hand.

Here’s an example of a bar chord:

8
When you see a figure like this, make a kind of bar with your first finger, and a
mini bar with your third finger.

9
Tablature
You’ll find both standard notation and tablature in the exercises, so don’t worry if
you can’t (yet) read standard notation. It’s a good idea to learn it at some point,
but you can use the tablature diagrams for now. If you do read standard
notation, you still need to read the tablature to see where on the fretboard to
play something. Standard notation does not show you this.

Tablature is a way of expressing music on paper. A page of tablature tells you


what notes to play to make the song happen. Standard music notation is
another way of communicating songs on paper. Classical musicians usually have
to know this kind of notation. We’ll stick to the basics and just describe tablature
in this section. You can find a primer on reading standard notation at the end of
this guide.

Let’s look at a piece of tablature:

Tablature

Here’s how these notes might look in standard notation:

Standard notation

Notice that the tab doesn’t tell you how long to play each note for. To find out
the note duration, use the sound files and standard notation included with the
exercises.

Look at the figure labeled Tablature. Each of the long lines going from left to right
represents a guitar string. The top line is the high E string (the thinnest string), the
next line down is the B string, and so on. The numbers represent frets that you
play, not the fingers you use.

The first group of notes is played one at a time. The second group of notes shows
the notes stacked on top of each other, which means you play them at the
same time. This group of notes played together is called a chord. The first group
of notes is called an arpeggio. Think of arpeggios as a busted up chord.

10
The numbers tell you which frets to press. A “ 0 ” means you play the string open,
or unfretted.

Some tablature, or “ tab ” for short, also tells you which fingers to use. Look for
finger indicators in some of the tabs shown in this guide.

There’s not much else to learning tablature. You can learn more about it through
these resources:

Resources
OLGA, the On-Line Guitar Archive. OLGA (www.olga.net) is a library of files,
including those for tab, that shows you how to play songs on guitar.
How to Read and Write Tab, www.olga.net/faq/tabbing.php
Newsgroups: rec.music.makers.guitar.tablature and alt.guitar.tab.
Free software for composing and playalong: Power-tab.net. Power Tab. Simply
an excellent composition tool, MIDI sequencer and guitarist’s playalong partner.

11
Other Things You’ll See

Here are some other things you’ll see in the text:


“Hammer” or “Hammer on”: this is when you pick
one note, and “ hammer ” your fretting finger down
on another note that’s higher up on the same string
as the previous note.

Pull off: Pick one note. With the finger you used to
fret the note, pull away from the string so the finger
catches the string to sound a second note. Do not
pick the second note.

Slide. Put your fretting finger on one note, and


move it up a fret or two on the same string, without
lifting your finger. That’s an example of a slide.

Repeat. When you reach the end repeat figure , and


look for the that occurs previously in the music,
and continue playing from there.
Down and upstroke indicators. These tell you which
direction to move your pick in, up or down.
D.S. al Fine. Continue playing from the sign and D.S. al Fine
keep going until the word Fine, which will be the
end of the music.
D.C. al Fine. Start playing from the beginning and D.C. al Fine
keep going until the word Fine, which will be the
end of the music.
Tempo indicator. This tells you the Beats Per Minute
(BPM) setting to play at, which is a measure of
musical speed.

12
Technique

Right Hand

Holding the Pick

Do not hold the pick using the fleshy face of your index finger. Holding the pick
that way will sap your picking strength quickly. Instead, hold the pick so it’s
sandwiched between the side of your index finger and the end of your thumb.
You don’t need to squeeze tightly. You should be able to move the end of the
pick up and down a bit with your other hand.

When strumming or picking, don’t hold your fist too tightly. But do curl your fingers
in a little, as though you were making a loose fist.

Remember that some of the shapes you’ll make with your hands may feel
uncomfortable at first, but that you’ll grow into them the more you play.

Left Hand
Most of the time you’ll keep the thumb of your fretting behind the guitar neck,
midway between the top and bottom of the fretboard. In other words, keep
your thumb where the bulge of the neck is greatest.

At other times, you will move your thumb up over the top of the neck. You’ll learn
when to do that as you work through the exercises.

See the pictures at


www.guitartutoronline.com/beginners/02_basics/b_hold_guitar.htm for more info
on holding the guitar correctly.

13
Blues Chords and Progressions

Basic Chords
We’re going to play a simple blues progression. To do that, we need to know a
couple of basic concepts:

• Chords
• Chord progressions

A chord is a collection of three or more notes played at the same time. (When
two notes are played, the difference in pitch between the two is referred to as
an interval.) Let’s look at and listen to a simple chord.

First, the name:


“ G major chord, ” or just “ G. ”

Then, the sound. Remember that, on most systems, you can click the following
text and the sound will play:

http://www.__ezGmajor.mid

Here’s where you play it.

And here’s what it looks like in music notation:

14
It’s Your Turn
Now that you’ve seen and heard what the G chord looks like, it’s time for you to
play it. Use your fret hand to form the shape shown in the diagram. Then, strum
the chord, making sure all the notes ring out. Use only downstrokes for this
example, and strum just the first three strings.

You don’t need to apply too much pressure with your fretting finger. If a note
doesn’t sound, examine what’s happening with each string under and near your
fretting finger.

Practice strumming this chord with a metronome set at a comfortable speed.


When you feel ready, play along with the sound file:

http://www.__strumPractice.mid

How it Works
Where do the notes in this chord come from? They come from the G major scale:

If you’ll look back to the last tablature example, or look at the notes we’re
playing in our easy G chord, you’ll notice that the D is missing. This is okay. The D
isn’t totally necessary to create the sound of the G major. In a little while, you’ll
learn a full G chord with a D in it.

Other Chords in G Major

You’ve just seen how to make a G major chord from the G major scale. You
might be wondering, “ Can I make other chords with the G major scale besides
the G major chord?” Yes, you can -- many more chords. For right now, we only
need to work with G major and two other chords from the G major scale: C
major and D major.

Here they are

15
Now that you can strum the G chord, practice strumming the C and D chords in
the same way, first with the metronome, and then with the sound file.

Here are the sound files:

http://www.__EzC.mid

And

http://www.__Ezd.mid

The Full Chords


Once you feel comfortable playing the easy G, C and D chords, it’s time to play
the full chords. Here they are:

16
Notice the blocked A string in the G chord. Use your third finger to block it. Or,
you can play the B note on the A string, second fret. This is shown in the second
G major figure above.

Make sure you feel comfortable strumming these before moving on to the next
section.

17
Blues in G

With the G, C and D chords you can now play smoothly, you’re ready to play
the first blues progression.

Before you see what this progression looks like, you’ll want to listen to it. Play this
sound file:

http://www.__BluesInG.mid

As you listen, notice the change from one chord to another.

Here’s a common way of displaying those chord changes:

Notice the musical symbols in this example: the and D.S. al Coda. The D.S. al
Coda means continue playing from the and keep going until the end of the
piece.

Practice playing this chord progression along with the sound file. If you find the
chords change too fast, play with a metronome first. Increase the metronome’s
BPM (beats per minute) as you become quicker at changing chords.

18
Blues in E
Here’s another blues progression that will sound pretty close to the first one you
played. The major difference from the blues in G is that this one is in E. We’ll
explain more about the differences and similarities between the two blues after
you can play along with the sound file.

As we did with the first blues, we’ll give the easy chord diagrams and the full
chord diagrams. Here they are:

Those chords are fairly easy to get your fingers onto, because they only use three
or four strings. But, when you’re ready, move to the full chords. Here they are:

19
Practice playing with this sound:

http://www.__BluesInE.mid

Here’s the rhythm notation for this exercise.

20
Use downstrokes on this, as before. Also, the rhythm pattern is the same: count
“ One, two, t hree, four,” saying one number per beat.

Use the simple chords first, then use the full chords. If you’re fingers can’t get
every note to ring, or your fingers can’t yet make all the shapes, don’t worry. If
you relax when you play, focus on the sound, and practice a bit every day, the
sounds and shapes will come.

Ingredients of the Blues


Although the blues in G and the blues in E might seem totally different, they
actually have a lot in common. For one thing, they use the same chord
progression, but with different chords. You can describe that progression as
follows:

Play four bars of the I chord.


Play two bars of the IV chord.
Play two bars of the I chord.
Play one bar of the V, and one bar of the IV.
Play one bar of the I, and one bar of the V.
Repeat this sequence.

What’s all this I, IV, and V stuff? These are Roman numerals that refer to chords.
Every key has its own set of I, IV, and V chords, which are the only chords used in
the basic 12-bar blues that we’ve been playing.

You want to be able to instantly figure out the I, IV, and V chords of any key
you’re playing in. Here’s a chart to help you find those chords.

Scale Degree
I II III IV V VI VII
C D E F G A B
C#/Db D#/Eb E#/F F#/Gb G#/Ab A#/Bb B#/C
D E F# G A B C#
D#/Eb E#/F G G#/Ab A#/Bb B#/C D
E F# G# A B C# D#
Key

F G A Bb C D E
F#/Gb G#/Ab A#/Bb B C#/Db D#/Eb E#/F
G A B C D E F#
G#/Ab A#/Bb B#/C C#/Db D#/Eb E#/F G
A B C# D E F# G#
A#/Bb B#/C D D#/Eb E#/F G A
B C# D# E F# G# A#

Transposition chart

21
In a blues that’s in a major key, the I, IV, and V chords can be major or dominant.
A chord with a 7 in its name is dominant. For example, V7 in E means the chord
B7. But a plain V means a B major chord.

How to Create the I, IV and V Chords from a Key

Now that you know what chord goes into the blues progression in any key, let’s
go into more detail to find out what notes go into the chords.

This is what you’re playing when you play an E major chord:

And these are the notes in an E major chord: E, G#, and B

Do you see that the notes you’re fretting are those in an E major? That just means
you’re playing an E major chord correctly when you play the above chord
diagram.

To create a major chord that’s based on a major scale, use the first, third and
fifth notes of that scale.

For example, we create an E major chord using the first, third and fifth notes in
the E major scale:

Notice that we’re using Roman numerals here: I, II, III, etc. This is a common
convention when you’re talking about the notes or chords of a scale. When you
see Roman numerals in another lesson, it’s a good bet the lesson is talking about
the chords or notes of a scale, and not something like finger numbers or some
other number.

22
Notice the E major chord doesn’t contain every note in the E major scale, but
only three notes: the first, the third, and the fifth notes, or degrees.

Since we build the E major chord starting with the E note, we call the E major
chord the (I) (“ One ” ) chord in the key of E major. This One is one of the three
chords we play in a blues. The other two are the IV (Four) and the V.

Here are the notes in the IV (Four) chord in E major, which is the A major chord.

These are the same notes in the E major scale, but arranged to start on the IV
degree.

Here are the notes in the V (Five) chord in the key of E major, which is the B major
chord.

For more info on building chords from scales, see www.MusicTheory.net,


www.WholeNote.com, or especially the excellent book by Mark Levine, the Jazz
Theory Book.

An Extra Note
In the E blues we played at the beginning of this section, we didn’t exactly play
the regular I, IV, and V (E, A, and B) major chords. We played dominant seventh
chords, which have a bluesier sound than regular major chords. When you want
to make a major chord sound bluesey, turn it into a dominant seven chord.

Some Missing Notes


There’s another important point about the easy chords we first played for the E
blues. Take a look again at the easy chord for A7:

Easy A7

23
This chord has only the notes C#, E, and G but a true A7 chord has four notes in it:
A, C#, E and G. The A note is missing in our easy A7. Is that okay?

Let your ear tell you if the chord works to communicate the blues or not. You’ll
find that, when you play the E blues with these easy chords, you’re getting a true
bluesey sound, even though the chords don’t have all the notes they’re
“ supposed ” to have. So, it’s okay to use less than the four notes than a full
dominant seven chord has -- if you make sure that the notes you do include are
the ones that sound the best.

Which notes sound the best?

Guideline: For a dominant seventh chord, the notes that sound the best are the
third and seventh of the chord. In E7, this means the G# and the D sound the
best. You can leave out the B and even the E. For a B7 chord, that means the
best notes are D# and A.

A New Strum Pattern


Up until now we’ve just been using downstrokes or down strums to play the blues.
It’s time to get some upstrokes into our playing now. This next sound file is a
simple exercise with one chord. Use it to practice smooth strumming that
alternates between down and upstrokes. Listen to it first, then play along. Use the
full E7 chord you learned in the previous section.

http://www.__altStrum.mid

Here’s the rhythm notation for this exercise:

The arrows tell you whether to move your pick up or down across the strings.

Once you feel comfortable with that exercise, let’s do a complete blues. Listen
first, then practice, then play along.

http://www.__UpstrokeE7blues.mid

Here’s the rhythm chart for this blues:

24
Rhythm chart: “Upstroke E7 blues”

25
Blues in A

We’re going to do a blues in another key, A major. But before we do that, we


want to continue building our strumming skills and creating interesting strumming
patterns.

Listen to the sound file showing what you will play in this exercise:

http://www.__OhYesXr.mid

Here’s the A7 chord you’ll need for this exercise. It’s the same A7 you used in the
previous section.

Open A7

And here’s the rhythm chart:

“Oh, yes, I play the blues”

Practice this exercise until you can play it smoothly.

Let this exercise give you ideas to create your own strumming patterns.
Experiment with down and upstrokes. Listen to the rhythms you hear in your
head, and in your favorite tunes, then recreate those rhythms in your playing.

Once you can play the last exercise smoothly, let’s do a full blues in A using the
same strumming pattern. Here are the IV and V chords in A, which are D and E.
We’ll use the dominant 7 forms, because they’re more bluesey than the major
chords.

26
Chord diagrams for D7 and E7

Here are the sound files and rhythm charts for the blues we can call “ Oh, yes: I
play the blues.” Refer back t o the exercise in this section info on the strumming
for this blues.

Here’s the sound file for this exercise:

http://www.__OhYesFull.mid

Rhythm chart for “Oh, yes, I play the blues”

To make your strumming smoother, which is important when creating new


strumming patterns, have a look at this Web site: www.GuitarPrinciples.com

27
More on Seventh Chords

What’s the difference between a dominant chord and a major chord?


In this exercise we’re going to get your ears to notice the difference between
the major chord and the dominant 7 chord. And we’re also going to make it
clear how much more bluesey a dominant 7 chord is compared to the major
chord.

Notice the following chord diagrams. The column on the left shows major chords
while the column on the right shows dominant 7 chords. Listen to the sound file
and play the chords yourself.

http://www.__MajDomDiff.mp3

Each of the dominant 7 chords has only 1 note that’s different from its major
chord. That note is called the b7 (“ flat 7 ” ). The b7 note has been highlighted in
28
the diagrams just shown with the dominant chords. Here’s another view of the
difference between the major and dominant chords:

Difference between the major and dominant chords

Not “Supposed” to Be There


Be aware that sometimes the dominant chord may sound great and bluesey,
and that it also breaks some traditional rules of music. Let’s explain that.

Take a look at the C major chord. It has these notes: C, E and G. That chord is
based on the C major scale, which has these notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Now
take a look at the notes in the C7 (“ C dominant 7 ” ): C, E, G, Bb. You’ll notice
that the Bb is not a note from the C major scale. Therefore, according to the
traditional rules of music, the C7 chord does not belong to the key of C major.
Using a term from music theory, we can say the same thing in another way: the
C7 chord is not diatonic to the key of C major.

But, rules, or no rules, the C7 finds its bluesey way into music that’s mostly in C
major, and sounds great when used correctly.

So, when you see a C7 in a C major blues progression, it’s breaking some
traditional musical rules. But this is one of those cases where breaking the rules is
not only okay, it’s necessary to get to sounds we call the blues. Remember to let
your ear be the judge.

Let’s practice playing a progression that points out the difference between the
major and the dominant seven.

First, let’s make sure you can play each of the following chords.

29
Chords for progression explaining dominant-major difference

If you want to peek ahead to learn how to make a full Bm chord, look at the C
minor chord in the section Minor Movable Blues. Also, for the A major chord, you
can play it with just one finger instead of three: bar your first finger across strings
2, 3 and 4. Let your first finger mute the first string.

Play along with the sound file on this progression. Although a plain downstrum is
shown for this, you can use any of the strumming patterns you’ve learned. Here’s
the chord progression:

30
Here’s the sound file:

http://www.__Dom7Diff.mid

This progression we just played is not a blues progression, but it sounds bluesey in
some parts, because of the dominant 7 chord. Do you see how much difference
one note (the b7) can make?

31
Playing Triplets

Here’s another way of adding some interest to the rhythm of your blues playing:
apply triplets. Triplets break up the measure not into groups of four notes, as
we’ve been playing, but into groups of three notes. Listen to this example of
triplets contrasted with non-triplets:

http://www.__triplets.mid

In the first part of this sound file is a non-triplet rhythm. In the second half is a
triplet rhythm applied to the same beat.

Here’s a blues in A that uses a triplet rhythm.

http://www.__tripletblues.mid

Note that the strum patterns shown are just suggestions. You might feel more
comfortable with another pattern.

32
Portato Versus Staccato

You may have noticed that sometimes chords don’t ring out for the full beat.
With these chords, it might be more natural to scat along by singing “ doo-wop,
doo-wop,” instead of singing, “ nah, nah, nah, ” for chords sounding for the full
beat.

Playing staccato means playing notes or chords that do not last the whole beat.
They give rhythmic variety and punch to your playing. Let’s listen to an example
of staccato playing and contrast it with its opposite, which is called playing
portato.

http://www.__staccato.mid

The first four strums are played portato, and the second four staccato. Every
exercise we’ve played in this guide so far has been played portato. Here’s what
the rhythm notation for these sounds looks like:

The dot under the slash is the only thing that makes the rhythm slash staccato.

How to Do It
Now that we know what staccato playing sounds like, how do you do it? In other
words, how do you make sure the sound cuts off abruptly instead of continuing
to ring? There are at least three ways that are fairly easy to apply.

Staccato Method 1
Hand damping. Try this: strum a C7 chord (or any chord you choose) with a
simple downstroke. Immediately after strumming downward, muffle the strings
with any part of your strumming arm, hand or wrist. It might seem tricky at first,
but move your strumming arm around, and practice this for a bit. You’ll see it
becomes natural pretty quickly.

Staccato Method 2
With method 2, your fretting hand does the damping of the strings. Play the
chord again, and this time, lift your fretting fingers a little bit off the strings so the
notes stop playing. This method might be a bit trickier, because not all chords
have your fingers positioned to dampen all six strings – especially open position
chords.

33
However, if you’re playing bar chords, which we’ll learn in a later section, left-
hand damping is easy.

Staccato Method 3
With staccato method three, your strumming hand once again does the work.
Except this time, you’re not strumming; you’re plucking.

You can call this technique the “ Pick fingerpick, ” because it combines both
normal picking and fingerpicking. Here’s how to do it: hold the pick as you
probably already are doing: between the thumb and the first finger. Now, loosen
up fingers 3, 4.

Now, look at this tab carefully:

|-0-- pinky
|-1-- finger 3
|-0-- finger 2
|-2--
|-3-- pick
|----

The left part of this tab shows you where to place each of your fretting fingers,
and the right part shows which finger on your right hand to use for each string.
Notice we have no more fingers left to cover the E note on the D string. This is
one drawback to an otherwise useful technique. Possible solutions: just ignore
that note. You won’t need it in most situations. Or, toss the pick completely, and
go totally fingerstyle. Or, neglect another string instead, like this:

|-0-- pinky
|-1-- finger 3
|-0--
|-2-- finger 2
|-3-- pick
|----

This technique might feel unusual and uncomfortable to you at first. That’s okay.
You’ll grow into it -- and it’s worth taking the time to grow into it, because the
Pick Fingerpick lets you play staccato with almost no effort at all. Besides that, it
allows you to play certain chords much more easily than simple strumming can.
For example, look at this interval:

34
This is going to be difficult to play with simple strumming, because it’s hard to
avoid striking the fourth string, which is not included in the chord. If you use the
Pick Fingerpick, playing this chord will be a piece of cake.

The Staccato Blues


Here’s a blues in G that uses staccato. It also shows the difference between the
major and dominant chord sounds.

Here’s the sound file for this blues:

http://www.__staccatoBlues.mid

35
Movable Chords

Learning the Fretboard

Before we begin learning the movable chord forms, you might want to begin
learning the notes on the fretboard. It’s useful to know all of them at first glance,
but you don’t need to have this knowledge: it just makes learning new material
easier.

If you do want to learn the fretboard notes, rather than trying to memorize each
note, simply learn the cycle of fourths, and apply it as needed to figure out a
note for any intersection of string and fret. Let’s explain what the cycle of fourths
is, and use it to figure out an arbitrary note on the fretboard.

The cycle of fourths is a sequence of notes, where each note is a perfect fourth
up from the previous note. This is truly useful for learning the notes on the guitar,
because almost every string on a guitar with standard tuning is a perfect fourth
higher than the string previous string. For example, the A string is a perfect fourth
higher than the E string.

Here is the cycle of fourths starting from C:

C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G

Let’s learn one more piece of info: the notes on the sixth string. Here’s a diagram
showing those notes:

Notes on string 6

With these two pieces of info, you can find any note on the fretboard. Let’s say,
for example, you want to find the note on the third string, fret 9. How do you do
it?

36
Start by looking at the sixth string. What note is at fret 9? Db. Now, count the
number of strings between the sixth string and our target string, string three: There
are four strings here, including string 6 and string 3.

Use this number, four, to name four notes in the cycle of fourths beginning with
Db: Db, Gb, B, E. E is the note you’re looking for: string 3, fret 9.

Each time you use this procedure, you’ll get faster at identifying the notes.
Remember to keep in mind that, if you want to find a note on the second string,
you have to change the procedure just a bit. Use the procedure to get a note
name, then name the note that’s a half-step down from that one.

For example, let’s find the note on string 2, fret 6. Count the number of strings
involved: string 6 minus string 2 plus one equals 5 strings. Use this 5 on the cycle of
fourths, starting from the Bb: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb. Now, move one half step back
from Gb: F. That’s the note on the second string, fret 6.

Movable Shapes

Up until now we’ve been playing using mostly open position chords, which refers
to chords that have at least one note on a string that you don’t put any fingers
on. You can get a lot of good sounds from using just the open position chords,
but you’ll notice that you’re not making use of the remaining 75% of your guitar.
You want to get the full value out of the money you paid for your guitar, and you
definitely want to hear what sounds you can make with other parts of the
fretboard. For that reason, we’re going to start learning movable chord shapes.

Once you learn movable chords, including bar chords, you will be able to play
blues progressions in any key. Let’s learn the first movable chord position. Here’s
the chord diagram for a C7. It probably looks familiar to you:

C7 from movable form, root on string 5

Notice that the 1st and 6th strings are not played. How do you stop them from
sounding when you strum?

In this form, the thumb comes over the top of the neck to block the sixth string
from sounding. But, remember that usually the thumb should stay in the center of
37
the neck, where the bulge of the neck is greatest. Also, notice that your first
finger blocks the 1st string from sounding.

Make this movable shape now, and practice strumming it. Adjust your fingers as
needed to get just the inner four strings to ring out. You probably won’t need to
adjust your fingers too much. When you form this shape, you’ll see how the first
and sixth strings naturally get blocked by your first finger and thumb.

Movable Blues
Let’s practice moving this chord shape using a blues in G. Here's the sound file:

http://www.__movable1.mid

Let’s play this blues. To do so, you’ll need to know how to play the D7. It’s easy:
just slide the C7 form you just learned up two frets. Here’s the diagram:

D7 from movable form, root on string 5

This blues does use one open position chord: the G7. Here’s the rhythm chart for
this exercise:

38
Notice how you don’t even need to take your fingers off the strings to move from
the C7 to the D7. By contrast, with open position chords, your fingers are
constantly shifting, coming up and coming down on different strings.

39
Rhythm Riffs

Chords aren’t the only way to communicate a blues rhythm. There are melodic
ways, too. We can call these blues melodies riffs.

Riffs often make use of the techniques called Hammers and Pulls, or Hammer-ons
and Pull-offs. Let’s briefly describe what they are before learning riffs.

Hammers and Pulls

Hammers

Hammers, or hammer-ons, are used to make a note sound without striking the
string with your picking and strumming hand. The note you hammer onto is
higher in pitch than the previous note. It’s also on the same string as the previous
note.

When you play a note like this, it results in a smoother transition from the previous
note. This is because the string does not stop and restart vibrating from the
previous note. It continues vibrating throughout.

Here’s an example of how a hammer-on is notated:

To do the hammer, pick one note, and rapidly bring your fretting finger down on
another note that’s higher up on the same string as the first note.

Be aware that usually you’ll hear a hammered note most clearly when a string is
already vibrating from playing another note on the same string. However, it’s
also possible to hammer onto a note without having played a prior note. The
more force you can use in your hammer, the clearer the note will sound.

The Pull
The pull, or pull-off, is like the opposite of the hammer-on: you’re descending in
pitch instead of ascending. The pull is like the hammer in that you use your
fretting fingers, not your picking fingers, to sound the note. The pulled note is on
the same string and a lower fret than the previous note.

40
Here’s an example of how the pull is notated:

Here’s how to do the pull: with the finger you used to fret the note, pull away
from the string so the finger catches the string to sound a second note. Do not
pick the second note.

A Blues Riff
Let’s listen to and play a blues riff. Here’s the sound file:

http://www.__Riffs1.mid

Now, it’s your turn to play this riff. Here’s the notation for it. Pick these notes using
alternate picking: start with a downstroke, followed by an upstroke for the
following note, and continue alternating.

41
The chords with the “ 5 ” in their names are called power chords. You’ll learn
about these in the Basic Shuffle chapter.

42
Basic Shuffle

Here’s a blues shuffle in A. Here’s the sound file:

http://www.__shuffle1.mid

Here’s the notation for it. Notice the fingering.


How it Works
How can so few notes produce such a bluesey sound?

Although you’re playing just two notes at a time – called double stops – these
double stops can substitute for the I, IV, and V chords in a blues. The specific kind
of double stop we’re playing here is called a power chord -- a chord with no
third. Chords are usually thought of as having three notes or more, but the power
chord just has two.

Take a look at the first bar of the blues, the A7 power chord. You’re playing notes
A and E. These are the root and the fifth of a chord, which are the two most
stable notes in major, minor and dominant chords. In that same bar we’re also
playing the sixth of the chord, which has a way of sounding a bit wistful. It gives a
bit of color to the power chord, which otherwise has a neutral feeling. A chord
needs to have a major or minor third, or a major or minor sixth to have some kind
of “ sweetness ” to it -- especially the third.

We’re also adding in the b7 of the chord, which is one of the two most bluesey
notes you can add to a major chord. The other is the b3. When you combine
these notes, the major 6th and flat 7th, put it into a shuffle rhythm, and put that
in a blues progression, you have the traditional blues shuffle.
The Backbeat

A crucial part of some blues tunes is the backbeat. In words, using a backbeat
means putting more stress on the notes that don’t usually get the stress. Listen to
and play this blues that illustrates the backbeat.

Here’s the sound file:

http://www.__Backbeat.mid
Here’s the notation for this exercise:
Notes on the Fretboard
Introduction to Reading Standard Notation

You don’t need to learn how to read standard music notation to play guitar. In
fact, many guitarists can’t read music. They rely on other forms of notation, and
they also learn songs by ear. If you do want to read music, start on this page.
What follows is a crash course in standard notation.

Here’s how to count the rhythm of a simple piece:

How long does each note last?

= = =
One whole note equals 2 half notes equals 4 quarter notes equals 8 eighth notes:

Where are the notes on the guitar?


E2 F2 G2
B1 C2 D2
G1 A1
D1 E1 F1
C1
C1
Fr. 1 Fr. 3
Frets 1 through 3

Note: For many notes, there is more than one place to play the note. For
example C1 is found in these places:
• fret 3, string 5
• fret 8, string 6

Learn more about reading standard notation at The Introduction to Reading


Music, at www.datadragon.com/education/reading, is an effective primer. Learn
treble and bass clefs, how to count rhythms, types of rests, and other elements of
standard notation.
How to Get the Complete Version
If you enjoyed learning the material in this sample of Blues Grooves, there’s much more to be
learned in the complete version.While supplies last, you can download your personal copy of
Grooves by clicking here.
http://www.sregnow.com/softsell/nph/softsell.cgi/item/7753/4/startudst3melodyisaction/add_to_cart/linkid/bg1.htm
Blues

The complete Blues Grooves covers additional subjects that give you a deeper understanding of
blues rhythm guitar. Plus, you’ll get Power Tab files (available only for Windows users) that
illustrate many of the guide’s lessons. You can edit and play the Power Tab files using the free
at powertab-central.net.
Power Tab editor, available www.powertabscentralsoftware/powertab.net/

In the full version of BG we cover these additional topics, plus others:

• Rhythm Blanks. Give your blues playing a driving, percussive feel.


• Combining Chord Forms. Exercises to get better at switching among the essential
movable chord forms while playing the blues.
• Apogee Slide Blues. A technique to add chromaticism – and character – to your
playing.
• Minor Movable Blues. A blues too seldom heard and too powerful to miss.
• Several movable chord patterns. How to apply them to the blues, and where they
come from.

Also, you’ll learn these:

• The Dominant 9th. To jazz up your blues.


• Rhythm Riffs. How they work, what scales to build them with. Many examples.
• Right hand techniques for adding personality to your shuffle and riff playing.
• The Boogie Shuffle. The infectious -- and easy to create -- sound featured in such
tunes as ZZ Top’s Lagrange.
• Turnarounds: a great opportunity to apply your creativity, with several examples.
Learn the fretboard better with turnarounds and develop your comprehension of
harmony.

To learn more about Blues Grooves, please visit


www.MaximumMusician.com/bluesGroovesRhythmGuitareBook.htm. Or, contact me at
www.MaximumMusician.com/feedbackdsk.htm. Send snail mail here:

Darrin Koltow
2812 North Powers Drive
#69
Orlando, FL 32818
407 292 0871

If you didn’t understand something in this book, contact me through the info just listed. Also, you
can read more about other ebooks to build your musical success and enjoyment at
www.MaximumMusician.com. And you can learn about chords, playing by ear, and other topics of
musicianship from Max Music articles. Thanks again for your interest and time. I wish you
happiness and success in your playing.

Darrin Koltow
www.MaximumMusician.com