Improving Blues Lead Guitar

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Hi all - looking for ideas on how to improve my blues lead guitar playing?
I would say that after 40 years of playing i've just managed to exceed "average" !
Anyone got a better idea than just going on Youtube and creating a playlist of various blues styles in various keys and then just "jamming" over them ?
Thanks in advance
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  • soma1975soma1975 Frets: 2030
    Record yourself and listen back. I had no idea how bad my timing was.
    My Trade Feedback Thread is here

    Been uploading old tracks I recorded ages ago and hopefully some new noodles here.
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  • Listen to BB King. 

    Phrasing and feel is just unreal.
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1987

    What sort of stuff are you listening too?
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 918
    edited October 2019
    weird, un-bluesey music that's still pentatonic focused. like weirdo prog psych jams



    edit: i’d written “listen to”, but it got lost somewhere!
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  • You could look at a True Fire or Artist Works. 
    Sleep. That’s where I’m a Viking. 
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  • PhilW1PhilW1 Frets: 365
    bbill335 said:
    weird, un-bluesey music that's still pentatonic focused. like weirdo prog psych jams

    Loved that! got me through my tea break quite nicely-
    Thanks for that.
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  • I'm a big fan of Griff Hamlin and his Blues guitar unleashed website. I've been learning for nearly 5 years, and it's the best site I've found for blues music.
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  • HAL9000HAL9000 Frets: 5415
    Phrasing is everything when it comes to blues. I don’t know what standard you are at so apologies if this is teaching you how to suck eggs, but this YouTube vid shows how just a few notes played well can sound pretty good...

    https://youtu.be/zSTAvmXG5m8

    Also, pretty much any BB King or Peter Green...

    https://youtu.be/2ieI49hlOUw

    https://youtu.be/RtmW2ek7WkQ
    It might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar.
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  • @HAL9000 thanks - that was a good one and the jam tracks should be useful
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  • nickpnickp Frets: 163
    what do you need to improve - and in what order of priority - song vocabulary and comping?  ability to move around the neck (ie soloing in any position)?  note choice to reflect underlying chord changes?  soloing vocabulary (as in licks etc) ?

    doing all at once is going to be a bit much - best focus on maybe two so say song/comping vocab plus knowing the blues scale in all 5 positions throughly?  for instance
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  • Probably 3 issues:-
    A. I tend to always start a solo on the Root note ie E for blues in E 
    B. Bends don't come naturally
    C. Play too many notes when i need to play less (and make them count more)
     
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  • HAL9000HAL9000 Frets: 5415
    edited October 2019
    A. Using the major pentatonic, a pull-off (Ooo-er missus) from the C# to the B (so that you hit the B on the 'one' of the first bar) is quite a nice way to start a solo in E. Similarly a bend from the F# to G#. 

    B. Try using the 4th position minor pentatonic (you'll often find Clapton using it). IMHO  it probably lends itself to bends more readily than the other positions.

    C. Don't be afraid to leave space between licks or even between individual notes.  It's very easy to feel you have to be filling every available space but you really don't need to. See the examples in my previous post and embrace the space.
    It might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar.
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  • StavrosStavros Frets: 157
    I love my brick
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  • Probably 3 issues:-
    A. I tend to always start a solo on the Root note ie E for blues in E 
    B. Bends don't come naturally
    C. Play too many notes when i need to play less (and make them count more)

    A - Start on other degrees of the scale. (i.e. Modes.) This is pretty common in horn-led Jazz and Blues.

    B - So, work at it. :)

    String bends need to ascend to (or descend from) a discernible pitch. From any given fret position, fret the note two semitones higher. Memorise that pitch. Then, from the initial given fret position, bend until you reach the target pitch. Once there, apply some finger vibrato. This will sustain the note and mask any pitch inaccuracy.

    Once you have the hang of that, try downward release bends. Pre-bend to a raised pitch. Gradually release to the fretted note.

    Some B. B. King licks involve fractional bends. Very slight sharpening at the beginning of a note to provide emphasis - not unlike singing. (Which brings me to ...)

    C - Have something to say. Some famous Blues guitarists have likened guitar phrasing to speech. 
    Be seeing you.
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1987
    Probably 3 issues:-
    A. I tend to always start a solo on the Root note ie E for blues in E 
    B. Bends don't come naturally
    C. Play too many notes when i need to play less (and make them count more)
     

    A) Try starting /targetting chord tones other than the root note. The 3rd (G# of an E chord) is a good option. Even better try playing the b3 (G) leading to the thirds at the start of a phrase.

    B) Early blues players, eg T-Bone Walker don't use a lot of string bending (probably because they were using fairly heavy flatwound strings), so don't worry about this now. The early players used 1/4 tone bends and slides.

    C) Listening to great players helps.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 1201
    I think the single biggest thing a person can do to improve their blues lead playing is to practice hearing a phrase in their head and then playing it on the instrument. All the great blues guys knew exactly how what they were about to play was going to sound before they played it. That’s why their phrasing was so good...because it came from beyond the muscle memory and familiar shapes.  None of this feeling their way around and letting their fingers lead the way. 
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 24
    Have a search for Chuck D'Aloia's Blues with Brains course - its excellent. 
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  • Play the changes!
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  • vizviz Frets: 5799
    Check out Jazz Blues as your next thing
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  • the issue I have is with my picking hand. I can play blues rhythms well, I understand blues chords, theory and scales. when I actually try to play notes from the blues scale, it doesn't sound bluesy. the active melody lesson, like all lessons, focus on notes, scales, but what should we be doing with the picking hand? are guitarist thinking polyrhythms? shuffle? it be great to get some info on how players apply lead blues with the picking hand 
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  • greejngreejn Frets: 18
    This may help: Key of A for example, use the major pentatonic. When the IV chord arrives, shift the scale up 3 frets to Am pentatonic. Fill in the gaps in the scale pattern with chromatic notes. Repeat notes in a rhythmic pattern, stops wandering up and down scales!

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  • RolandRoland Frets: 3215
    finest1 said:
    ... what should we be doing with the picking hand? 
    Try targeting specific notes and letting the other fall where they fall. For most players that means using downstrokes for the targeted notes and lighter picking, often hammers, pull-offs, and slides for the other notes. A lot of metal solos are played with the regularity of a Scarlatti continuo on a harpsichord. Blues is about emphasising specific notes, letting others fall lightly into place between them, and leaving breathing spaces between phrases.
    finest1 said:
    ... are guitarist thinking polyrhythms? shuffle?  
    Yes. A lot of blues phrasing uses triplets, although generally the song is still in 4:4 rather than 12:8.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 24509
    Transcribe, transcribe, transcribe.
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  • HAL9000HAL9000 Frets: 5415
    greejn said:
    This may help: Key of A for example, use the major pentatonic. When the IV chord arrives, shift the scale up 3 frets to Am pentatonic. Fill in the gaps in the scale pattern with chromatic notes.

    ^ This. Using the major pentatonic on the I chord and the minor pentatonic over the IV and V chords definitely gives things a very bluesy feel.

    greejn said:
    Repeat notes in a rhythmic pattern, stops wandering up and down scales!

    ^ and this. It's very easy to fall into the rut of just playing notes from the pentatonics sequentially.  
    It might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar.
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  • vizviz Frets: 5799
    edited November 2019
    HAL9000 said:
    greejn said:
    This may help: Key of A for example, use the major pentatonic. When the IV chord arrives, shift the scale up 3 frets to Am pentatonic. Fill in the gaps in the scale pattern with chromatic notes.

    ^ This. Using the major pentatonic on the I chord and the minor pentatonic over the IV and V chords definitely gives things a very bluesy feel.

    greejn said:
    Repeat notes in a rhythmic pattern, stops wandering up and down scales!

    ^ and this. It's very easy to fall into the rut of just playing notes from the pentatonics sequentially.  
    Or for some out-there jazz blues, try:

    over the A (I chord), G#m penta
    over the D (IV chord), F#m penta
    over the E (V chord), Gm penta

    This works particularly well if you play IV-V-I (D-E-A) because the minor pentatonics slide up a semitone each time: F#m - Gm - G#m. 


    Also works for a 251 (Bm-E-A), using the same sequence of minor pentatonics: F#m-Gm-G#m. 


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  • I, too, am looking at becoming a better Blues guitarist. I have the next 6 weeks off uni, so thought I'd try and dedicate an hour or so every day (or as close as possible) to pursuing that.

    I found this online which I enjoyed reading. A lad coming back to guitar after some absence, gave himself 31 days to learn how to do an improvised 5 minute Blues solo at the drop of a hat. He goes through a lot of basic theories, ideas, techniques. Well worth a read as either a refresher of things you may already now or things you might not yet know.

    https://medium.com/@maxdeutsch/how-to-become-a-master-of-improvisational-blues-guitar-in-one-month-d05a1afcb465
    12:25, 16/01/2019 - Just so people are aware. I have no idea what any of these words mean.
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  • NikcNikc Frets: 343
    get a looper lay down some blues chord progressions and play your arse off - start with a lick or a phrase and repeat and repeat until you love it and then let your fingers walk on from there ;)
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  • There have been some great tips on here - thanks everyone - i think as someone said earlier in the thread, the learning via listening to "songs" is a good way so will stick a few into my drum machine (along with the bass parts)
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  • steven70steven70 Frets: 234
    edited December 2019
    Probably 3 issues:-
    A. I tend to always start a solo on the Root note ie E for blues in E 
    B. Bends don't come naturally
    C. Play too many notes when i need to play less (and make them count more)
     
    A. Don't worry about that, as long as you don't start on the 1st beat as well. Take a breath before starting.
    Try staying on the root through the whole progression. 

    B. This is practice, I struggle, especially when there is not enough tension in the string. Use at least 10s maybe more on a Gibson scale length. Have a listen to Clapton Bluesbreakers and Buddy Guy. Also pay attention to which direction you're bending the string, no right or wrong but they feel different.

    C. This goes back to phrasing. BB and Freddie King. Could always raise your action, make things a bit harder.
    Again, can try playing a 'one note' solo (or two notes), just for fun- mess with the phrasing but stick to one or two notes.

    Edit: Just re read and I reckon you probably know all that after 40 years! Sorry. I'll leave it anyway.
    Reckon the best advice is to listen to Texas Cannonball and try and fathom how he does it.
    I still haven't worked it out but it's fun trying...
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