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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Blues?
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13 posts
Dec 21, 2020
6:52 AM
What to do when the chord changes? How do you play the blues?
This question may sound weird but I didn't find an answer anywhere. There are lots of YouTube videos about how to play the blues scale or how to play a particular blues, and they are very good.
But when you play e.g. a twelve bar blues I assume it won't be enough just to improvise ANYTHING in the blues scale. What do you have to do when the chord changes? How do you pay the blues??
I hope I could phrase it understandable :)
108 posts
Dec 21, 2020
8:31 AM
Start Here, Jon Gidick lays it all out

10328 posts
Dec 21, 2020
12:41 PM
At the most basic level you want to use the notes from the new chord for your playing, and remember that the root is the note you got to to make it sound like you've reached the resolution.

You can use notes from other chords though, but mostly as passing notes or to create tension.

If you want to take the dive into music theory I think that part that would give you the most useful information would be functional harmony, but it's kind of booky stuff. Depending on how much theory you already know it can be pretty tough. I've been getting into it a little watching 12tone's videos on YouTube but I took a couple of semesters of music theory back in college so I understand some of the terminology.

Mostly though, feel the groove, focus on making your solo fit each chord, flatten the 3rd a bit and remember to come back home to the root to give people a sense of resolution when it feels right.

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First Post- May 8, 2009
262 posts
Dec 21, 2020
7:06 PM
@Troni The beauty of the blues scale is that it works (mostly) over all three chords in a 12-bar blues. I also highly recommend Jon Gindick's lessons to get you started.

This is what I recommend.

(1) Start with simple riffs from the blues scale and play them over all three chords. Don't worry too much about the chord changes yet. It will sound fine.

(2) Use your ear to experiment with slight modifications to your simple blues scale riffs. You'll soon start figuring out what sounds good, and will add variety to you playing.

(3) Learn which notes on your harmonica correspond to the root notes of the chords in the 12 bar blues. Start targeting your riffs to start and/or end on these notes.
I chord = 2 draw, 6 blow
IV chord = 1 blow, 4 blow
V chord = 1 draw, 4 draw

Happy 12 bar blues riffing!

Jim McBride
Bottle 'O Blues microphones
87 posts
Dec 21, 2020
7:52 PM
What took my playing and understanding of blues music to another level was playing basslines and even chords. The I and IV chords are right there for you. Dissect these and you have what you need.

Basslines break down the chords and give a roadmap for the song. Even a simple bassline gives you an idea of what notes work. Then you can add passing tones in between once you get more comfortable.

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