I don’t really know how to play the blues.
There, I said it. And it’s a huge load off my mind. For a experienced, black guitar player to claim proficiency on his instrument and not know the blues is somewhat embarrassing.
You see, when I was first learning guitar in the late 70s and early 80s the blues was old folk’s music. Even my parents were more into Al Green and John Coltrane. The young folks were into the funk. Motown was fading and B.B. King was pretty much a trivia question in my mind. I did learn the blues scale, basically a minor pentatonic. I also learned the twelve bar blues progression. But I never learned the turnarounds, bends and other nuances of the form. Over the years I learned to love the blues, mostly the Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and B.B. King. But when I was called on to play a blues tune (not very often) I pretty much played a minor with a few blue notes thrown in. Oh yeah, I faked it big time for years.
I understand that the blues is the basis for most African American music genres, including jazz, rock, R&B and even funk. Some of the top funk guitarists including Eddie Hazel, Roger, and Guitar Watson were all heavily influenced by the blues. So I’ve decided to start studying the blues in depth.
Fortunately modern tech has provided multiple ways to learn. You can find transcriptions online of your favorite players solos. There are lessons in online magazines such as GuitarPlayer.com. There is software that lets you slow down a solo without changing pitch and programs such as Band in a Box that will create a rhythm section based on chords you specify in any style you like. Last but not least are the many videos you can find on YouTube and elsewhere that have seasoned players showing you their secrets straight up.
And here is where it gets interesting. All of these blues instructors are white.
Nothing wrong with that but the irony is evident. It’s well known the the British Invasion of the 60s was the result of young white British lads listening and learning from recordings of African American blues men. These records were essentially banned from American airwaves due to the segregation of the time. The strength of bands such as the Rolling Stones and Cream came from the fact that they were studying the source rather than imitations of the source that young American rockers were exposed to. Here we are 40 odd years later and a not-so-young black player is learning the blues from white guys on the web. And loving it.
Only in America!
Check out Marty Schwartz, one of my favorite instructors.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 and is filed under Lessons, Video.
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