Over the past few weeks, I’ve been really getting into Chuck D’Aloia’s “Blues with Brains.” and I’ve extolled the matter-of-fact and easy way Chuck makes learning how to play the blues. With just a few sentences, he reveals some incredible things that I’ve inherently known, but could never really articulate or understand.
The other day, a buddy of mine sent me an e-mail that contained a link to one of Doug Seven’s free videos. For those who aren’t familiar with him, Doug Seven is a chicken-pickin’ master, and he teaches this stuff online. Like Chuck D’Aloia, his stuff isn’t meant for the rank beginner, but if you have some experience in playing, what he presents will boost your technique.
I’ve got one of his courses, though I haven’t spent much time with it – it was mostly learning chicken-pickin’ licks, but this video that my buddy sent me falls right into line with Chuck D’Aloia’s approach; that is, it’s not necessarily technique, but it covers an important aspect to soloing. The cool thing is that a guitarist of any level can benefit from this.
Before I give you the link, I’ll give you the crux of what he talks about. Essentially, when you’re playing over a minor blues progression, let’s say an Am progression – Am Dm E7, for instance – you can play a major scale against it. Doug talks bout experimenting and finding what that major scale is against the root chord, and he shows you how to find it on the fretboard in a single step, without knowing what the major scale is. The assumption is that since scales fall into a pattern, once you’ve got the root note, you just follow the pattern. Very cool.
For a more theoretical answer, what you play is the scale of the relative major to the root minor chord for the minor blues progression. So for Am, the relative major is C. Basically, the notes of the scale of a relative major and minor are the same. They just have different starting points. In any case, check out the video.
Admittedly, this was a bit of a review for me, but I don’t want to discount its value. Yeah, yeah, experienced soloists may scoff a little at this, but I think it’s incredibly powerful. Why? Simply because there are times when you’re gigging where you can’t come up with an idea, and something like this gives you a great fallback position to perhaps stumble upon an idea. And it works both ways! If you’re playing in a major key, you can use the relative minor scale – remember, same scale notes as the major, but different starting point, so it’ll give you a different “color.”
I once was playing a ceremony where the band had to play an instrumental in D for something like 20 minutes – half of which I had to quietly solo over. I did some exploration for about 5 minutes, and was coming up with some great ideas, then suddenly, I hit the wall. Just drew a blank. So, I did a couple of standard licks that I know, then just started noodling a little in Bm. After about thirty seconds, I was able to stumble upon an idea, and used that idea for the rest of my solo time!
I love coming across stuff like this, even if I know it already, because I love sharing it.