Tips to Turbocharge Your Blues Guitar Solos
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Now, here's your host, Steve Stine!”
Dan Denley: Supercool! How are you, Steve?
Steve Stine: I'm good, how are you doing, buddy?
Dan: Good. Hey, thanks for joining me today!
Dan: Listen, if you don't know who I am, I'm the founder of guitarzoom.com, Dan Denley. This is my sidekick, Steve Stine, my partner in crime, chief guitarist in residence. And if you would like to learn how to play some cool blues solos and keep watching if you want to learn even faster, check out Steve's new course “Blues Licks”. You can check that out. There's a link somewhere here below. Or just go to guitarzoom.com.
Alright, Steve, let us have it, man, turbocharge our blues solos!
Steve: Yeah, so basically I think one of the biggest things that people get wrong when we're trying to build blues ideas is we use the same old, same old all the time. So if you think about just coming from the traditional minor pentatonic, the first thing I want everybody to think about is the idea of dynamic's, like even when you play adding a little palm muting, or picking a little harder and softer in different places and speeding up and slowing down just these subtle elements that can really make a difference in your playing.
Even just starting with something as basic as that can make a really big difference if you're always just going...You know, there's no variety of anything happening, and you got to keep things kind of spicy if you will, try and make them interesting, so... And adding a little vibrato, you know...
Dan: Nice! And so, that kind of keeps it from sounding like a scale...
Steve: Well, that's the whole point is you want to try and try and turn what you're doing into a voice. Think of it as singing, but you're doing it on your guitar, right? So even just these little things I'm playing, you know...I'm not trying to do anything too fast or anything, but you just...And again, somewhere along the line, Dan, we're going to we're going to do another hangout where, you know, I talk more about bending in some unique things like that you can do...But right now, what I want to do is just give you some ideas to really try and change up the way you're approaching your guitar. So the first thing is it's just trying to kind of use some of these basic ideas, of kind of speeding up, slowing down, adding some dynamic, some energy by playing a little louder and a little softer, that sort of thing.
Dan: Very cool! So the very first thing is, like, dynamics - soft and loud, speeding up, slowing down...
Steve: I think of it as variety, you know? Another thing you can do - that I think works really well is, you know, you can call it to string skipping...I just think of it as not playing everything in order, right? Instead of just going...You know, you try and think of... Notice how I can double up on notes and... And you don't have to play exactly what I'm doing. I'm just trying to show you some ideas and of course, we cover all of this in the guitar course, too, but just something to think about a little bit. The next big thing, though, Dan, before we move on, I want to show you that I learned a long time ago when I was a kid. Was this what I've always called a crossover... Like I take these two sevens on the fourth and third strings and I can, you know, do that anywhere. So I've always just thought of it as either on that side or that side of the pentatonic, choosing two adjacent strings and playing, you get real bluesy kinds of sounds that way, too.
Dan: So you're playing two notes on the same fret, different strings?
Steve: Yeah! The big one I'm using here is the two sevens on the third and fourth strings.
Dan: I think that's amazing that that sounds so cool and it’s only, like, three notes.
Steve: Yeah, and that's the thing is we put too much emphasis on all of this other stuff. And don't get me wrong, the other stuff is cool, too. But you can make really good music with minimal amounts of stuff if you just really start thinking about what it is you're trying to do.
Dan: Dude, okay, that sounded so cool. I want you to do it again. OK, so it's like three notes. If I'm seeing correctly, you're only playing three notes. That's just standard pentatonic minor. Something everybody knows.
Steve: Yeah, I’m just playing the A right here, the C and the D of the pentatonic, and then what I'm doing is thinking about how I can double notes, do that crossover...
There are so many things you can do!
Dan: That’s so cool!
Steve: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: Do you have a - to kinda put you on the spot - like, a backing track you could maybe show how you'd play those three notes over a backing track?
Steve: Let me see...
Dan: Or were you set up for that today...
Steve: I mean, I'm not sure how the audio is going to be, let's try this...
That’s so awesome!
Steve: Yeah, you know, it works well, just little things like that. So we, we always... You know, the biggest thing that I try and always teach is that it's not just that you're learning how to do something or you've learned something...It's learning how to use what you've learned. Right? So when you learn a scale, obviously, everybody does the same thing. We, you know, we learn to play it up and down and from a technical perspective and a memorization sort of thing. But we need to learn how to get in there and start trying to make it more interesting. So the next thing I want to show you is that same idea, but what I'm going to do now is I'm going to add in a new note, and this is what we call the blue or blue note that we're going to add into this scale. So now I'm going to be in the same spot right here on this eight. Again, pentatonic is where I'm at. So I'm going to play this... And that new note right there with my pinky...And what I want you to think about with that note is that it's really kind of ugly not to play and hold. So what we do is we use it, we go to it, and then we leave right away. And I can go to it by picking it...I can go to it by sliding...So if I come from, for instance, the top part of the scale - I'm thinking toward the floor here - if I do this…
Dan: That's nice.
Steve: Again, whatever you want to use, but...
Dan: That's super cool. And you can also bend up to it?
So you can bend up a half step, and then bend up a whole step.
It’s all about learning to have control, it's not just how much you learn, it's learning to control the things that you do when you play. Right?
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Steve: I can decide how fast I want to play that, or slow or, you know, right now my volume wasn't even very high. Now if I turn my volume up. Now I'm getting more aggressive.
Dan: So cool.
Dan: I love it. So guys, as we're going through this, just keep in mind that we’re just scratching the surface on Steve's new “Blues Licks” course, which is going to take you to step by step through all the things that he's going through right now. This is just a small little taste of what you get. If you want to check that out just go to guitarzoom.com or check out the link around this video. What else you got for us, big guy?
Steve: ‘K, next thing we're going to do is we're going to take that same idea, but this time what we’re gonna do, we're going to add in what's commonly referred to as the major six. And again, it doesn't matter if you know what that is, but basically what I'm going to be doing here is taking my pentatonic again...And right there...It's right there. OK, so I'm going to the seventh fret - I’m in the key of A here - I'm going to the seventh fret of the second string. Now, the trick with this particular note is if I play all the notes of the pentatonic and I add that note in, it doesn't sound pentatonic or it doesn't sound bluesy, it just sounds like something maybe melodic that you'd play. So here the trick is, even though you're adding new notes and it's not like because you've got a new note, you just add it with everybody else. Sometimes it's, again, how you're using it. So here's what I want to show you...So when I go to this string, the second string, and instead of playing seven and eight like I used to or excuse me, five and eight, and then we have five, seven, and eight. This is my new note. What I'm going to do is I'm going to leave out the eighth fret and I'm just going to play five and seven on that string. OK? Now, if I go to the first string and I play my five-eight like I normally do - you get that bluesy sound.
Dan: Oh, that sounds sweet!
Steve: ...And then my crossover here…
Dan: It almost sounds like major or something?
Steve: Yeah, yeah. So oftentimes as I'm descending this direction, I'll play the five-seven. This new note I've got here, skip the eight. And when I come back toward the ceiling - that direction, then oftentimes I'll play both of those. Now, again, I don't want to play too fast or anything, but I just want you to notice that again, my point is I've added this new note, this seventh fret of the second string right here, which is actually the note F sharp. But just because I've added it doesn't mean I want to play it all the time. And it doesn't mean I want to play it with all the notes, so I have to think and listen to...how it responds. With all the other notes that I'm playing around.
Dan: That's so freaking cool, dude.
Dan: And what's really cool is you're adding these little, extra notes, it seems like to me, to that pentatonic minor that everybody knows. And they're just like, extra little bonuses that you get there with your pentatonic minor, that just completely change the sound of it.
Steve: Yeah, and like I said before, the trick is, are you really got to learn to work them properly. Like when you're when you're playing all these things, if you just think of it all as it's all one thing like I almost think of it as like a 3-D visual like I've got my pentatonic and then I've got these new notes that are kind of hovering over the top and I selectively decide when I'm going to play these and when I'm going to avoid them. So it's not just everything all at the same time, because if you have that mentality, then you might as well just play all the notes on the guitar all the time. And then it wouldn't sound like anything, like, what really makes it sound more bluesy is the fact of how you're combining those notes together.
Dan: Very cool!
Steve: Yeah, works out really well.
Dan: Nice. So guys, look, if you're enjoying this, you'll love Steve’s blues licks course, cleverly titled - “Blues Licks”! We’re really creative here at Guitar Zoom! If you want to learn more about that course, go to guitarzoom.com or click on the link below.
Steve: No, I think that's enough for now. We'll figure out something else for another, hang out sometime and do some stuff.
So can you kind of recap what we did today? Yeah, this is a quick recap because we just covered a lot of stuff.
Steve: Sure. The first thing is just learning to think about variety when you're playing, play loud and soft. Learn how to play with a variety of your notes too, by thinking about jumping over notes, you know, we can call it to string skipping, but really just trying not to play sequentially all the time. Like this...You're trying to think about it. And then I start adding in some subtle elements like bends or vibrato and maybe doubling on notes, things like that. The second thing we did is we started adding in the blues note...And start really deciding how we wanted to manipulate that sound. Maybe we bend to it...Maybe we slide to it. And then we put it in context of our scale, and then the next thing we did is we added in that, that major six sound, but we were really careful not to just add it in, so it just sounds like a scale, but instead trying to combine the sound with some of the other minor pentatonic notes around it. Especially if I add that blues note.
Dan: That's magical.
Steve: Yeah, it’s cool.
Dan: Dude, thank you so much for sharing
Steve: Yeah, absolutely!
Dan: Amazing. So, guys, if you like this, check out Steve’s “Blues Licks” course, I think you’ll love it. Go to guitarzoom.com and check it out. And other than that, this is a rapper.
Steve: Absolutely. This is awesome! Thank you so much, buddy.
Dan: Thanks for being here, man. Thanks for spending time with us.
Steve: Next time on the Steve Stine Guitar Podcast:
If you go to the seven, you can bend up to nine. If you go to the eighth of the second string, you can bend up to 10. And if you go to the eighth on the first string, you can bend up to ten. So they're all whole step bends, and you can just practice...learning to bend until you hear the pitch that you want.
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Millions of YouTube views and decades of teaching made Steve Stine into one of the biggest guitar-teaching authorities in the world. His new, university-level blues guitar course - “Blues Licks” is now available on guitarzoom.com.