Friday, November 2, 2012

More on Minor Blues


Q: I was just watching the video of you doing the minor blues for the Australian movie soundtrack. I have a few questions about it. I can tell it's a minor blues but what is that chord that pops up in the 3rd bar? And what else is going on in the progression. What are some of the things you are plying in the solo? Especially the pentatonic scale things that you are doing. Great song!!

A: Thanks! Glad you like the tune. Your ears do not deceive you my friend, it is pretty much a minor blues with a few twists. The song is for a movie with some underworld type characters so I wanted it to be creepy. That's where that strange chord comes in to play in the 3rd bar. I've always liked tritones (diminished 5th intervals) and that is exactly what I have going on here.

The song has two sections, an 'A' and a 'B' section. Here is the 'A' section (the tritone is the interval between the C-7 and F#7 chord):

|C-7       |C-7      |F#7       |F#7       |

|F-7       |Bb/F    |C-7 F/C |C-7       |

Besides the F#7 chord, it is pretty much straight up, but the tritone is what makes it interesting. Next up is the 'B' section. The 'B' section is pretty much a standard  garden variety minor blues:

|C-7        |C-7        |F/C  Eb/C |F/C          |
|F-7        |Bb/F      |C-7  F/C   |C-7           |
|Ab9       |G7          |C-7  F/C   |C-7           | 

I wouldn't make too much out of the slash chords, when you think about it they aren't unusual really. The Eb/C chord is really just another way of playing a C-7 chord and the F/C chord could just be thought of as the V chord or even a C-13 chord. You don't have even really think about the slash chords because they are diatonic anyway. Now on to how I approached the solo.

See, this is for a movie so I didn't want to play a bunch of fusion lines. I mean who wants to hear a crap-load of melodic minor scales during a movie? But on the other hand, I didn't want to throw away all the money I spent on a music education so I didn't want to completely ignore my Jazz background either. So I decided to flirt with my fusion side as well without making it sound stupid. So, taking one section at a time:

'A' Section: Obviously I'm just playing C minor blues on the C-7 chord but I'm thinking how to set up that F#7 chord because the C blues scale is going to collide with the F#7 chord like a bird with a 747. So I just looked for the common tone between the C-7 and F#7 chord. What do you think it is? It is a Bb note, Right? Bb is the b7 of C-7 and the 3rd of the F#7 chord. Notice how I play the Bb note on the C-7 chord at 1:40 and again on the F#7 chord at 1:42. Now what I'm going to do is what every decent soloist has told me to do for the last 30 years and I ignored until I got clue: I'm going to pay attention to 3rds and 7ths. First I'm going to Bb and E a couple times (this is the 3rd and b7th of the F#7 chord) at 1:45. Since I'm messin' with 3rds and 7ths, I'm going to do the same thing with the b3rd and b7th of the next chord, the F-7 chord (Ab and Eb) at 1:49. Next, I play an F and C note (which is really the root and 5th of the F-7 chord, sort of continuing on with this motif and finally the b3rd and b7th of the final C-7 chord in the 'A' section (Eb and Bb). People have always said it and it is true, if you play 3rds and 7th you won't need to do much of anything else. Which bring us to the 'B' section:
'B' Section: I’m back in completely familiar territory here because the 'B' section is a standard minor blues progression. If there is anything interesting to tell you about what I play here is that there are three minor pentatonic scales that you can play on any minor chord (When thinking dorian, like we are here). For a C-7 chord, we can play a C minor pentatonic scale (Duh!), a D minor pentatonic scale and a G minor pentatonic scale. That is exactly what I do at 2:12. I start off playing a D minor pentatonic scale, move the same line down a whole step to C minor and finish off at G minor at 2:15. This works especially well because of the F/C chord, D minor pentatonic is the same as F major pentatonic scale so sounds good over the F/C chord. For the following F-7 chord, I use a F dorian scale (2:19), standard fare for Jazz and some blues licks on the C-7 chord. I can’t control myself anymore and use an Ab lydian dominant scale for the Ab7 chord (2:34) and play a double stop standard type of thing for the G7 and C-7 chord bringing us back to the top of the progression. 

'A' Section: I just play blues on the C-7 chord and play with some chord tones and upper extensions for the F#7 chord. I think the lick for the F#7 chord at 2:57 is sort of interesting. I can't remember where I stole this from but basically I play F# on the 6th string followed by the 5th, a C# note with my 3rd finger, I then slide up to the same C# note with my first finger. I continue by playing the note up a 5th from this on the 4th string, a G# note and do the same thing with this note by sliding up to it with my index finger. You get the point I think:

|----------------------11-bend to-13-

Blues again for the F-7 and C-7 chord.

'B' Section: Second time through the 'B' section I do the same exact thing as I did the first time through. That is, play around with the three minor pentatonic scales (C, D and G minor pentatonic scales) over the C-7 chord (3:25), and F dorian on the F-7 chord.

I can’t hold back anymore and use Ab lydian dominant on the Ab7 chord and G altered on the G7 chord basically using the same motif for both chords.

The long ass outro: I mess around a little more mixing up blues and some C melodic minor ideas. I intended to do a fade within the first 30 seconds of the outro but had a fun time goofing around so left it all in. The chords I play at 6:53 are different C minor type chords:


It isn’t brain surgery but I think I got a nice balance between blues and fusion without being too obvious that I studied music. I think that one of the challenges of this song is actually playing the head because of the bending on the 4th string. Bending to proper pitch while using a floating bridge is difficult especially if your fingers are tired.

If you want to pay me a buck for the lesson, download this tune by clicking the 'BUY" link down there. Go on now...

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