When it comes to blues phrases, it can be pretty tough to sound authentic. I’ve found a handful of mindsets to get into and a few techniques to get under our fingers to get the most out of our blues soloing.
So here’s a link to my previous blog post about keeping it simple. A lot of good blues soloing techniques comes from around this. Don’t worry about blazing licks or all sorts of fancy runs. A lot of the best blues solos come from simple ideas, not the fanciest ideas. How can you keep it simple? Here are a few ideas:
This is a link to my video on some ways you can limit what you play. I love my Usable Blues Shapes as a way to give yourself little boxes to play in. Spend a little time in each. Start bending, putting on some vibrato and put those note combinations in different orders. If you’re just jamming by yourself at home, I think you can do one time through the Blues Form in each position, slowly climbing the neck. See how much you can play around with each of those little boxes. If you’re in a band context where you only get one time through the form (maybe two if you’re lucky) then climb up those boxes a bit sooner… or not at all! The idea is to get more out of playing less.
If you play a lick, take a breath and play it again. You don’t necessarily have to come up with all these great licks sometimes just restating what you just played is all that’s needed.
Think of it like singing the blues: if you sing “Gonna Skip This Town and Head on Down To Louisiana” that’s your guitar lick. What’s the next thing you’re going to sing? Well most likely either the same thing “Gonna Skip This Town and Head on Down To Louisiana” or maybe a little variation – “Gonna Skip This Town and Head on Down To Louisiana, Take My Advice”. Same thing with your lick, you can play the exact same thing or change it up slightly. See how much you can switch that same lick around! Pay attention to how much blues lyrics repeat, that’ll give you an idea at how much you should base your licks around this same theme within the blues.
-Root Notes Are King–
The Blues almost always revolves around the root note, so try to begin/end your ideas with the root note. A lot of times a great fill in between singing is just hitting that root note on the 2nd string with heavy vibrato or hitting that root note as high as you can on the 1st string and sliding down (cue B.B.!). Root notes are your friend here and try to have your licks revolve around them.
A lot of the best blues players around didn’t have a command of the fretboard or really intimate knowledge of all the music theory. What they did have was a command on the feeling of the blues. That feeling can be duplicated by following these steps. Take your time and remember to keep it simple!