Do you know how to play a creative Blues rhythm part on your guitar? Most Blues player focus all their efforts on learning how to solo and simply ignore the rhythm side of playing. This is a pity, because there is much more than power chords and shuffle rhythms out there. Let’s see some easy options.
The problem seems to be that many guitar players are afraid to study harmony… and it’s a pity because it’s not so difficult to do and there are many rewards in doing it. On the other hand most players seem to simply try and learn by heart a certain amount of patterns, and then use them rigidly. It’s difficult to be creative under these conditions.
Many players who know how to build their own patterns can also improvise using chords, creating more than one melody line at the same time. Think of what players like Eric Johnson can do with chords: it’s because they haven’t learned these patters by heart, rather they know how to build and modify them depending on the context. Wouldn’t you like to get started on this in a simple way?
The solution is for us to make friends with an interesting musical interval: the tritone. To hear a tritone (that can also called diminished 5th or augmented 4th) try playing the notes C and F# on your guitar. Yes, it’s dissonant! But dissonance is not bad, dissonance is “spice”. Too much, and you have ruined your music, but if you don’t put any then your music is boring.
In Blues specifically the tritone is one of the most used intervals to give that zest that is typical of Blues music. Despite the bad reputation that the tritone gets from classical music – where it was often called “the interval of the devil” and used only with extreme care – the tritone sounds great in the right context. It’s in fact the interval at the core of most chords used in Blues. To see how to use it in practice, watch this video:
What should you do now? Well, no amount of reading or video-watching will substitute for direct experience and ear training so… pick up your guitar and play everything I played in the video. You will see immediately that it’s very easy to create some nifty harmonies just by adding notes on the first or second strings as I explained.
As a side note, this is also one of the best ways to learn “Jazz chords”. Rather than committing all these patterns by heart yo are much better off to see how they are built and what kind of “freedom” you have to modify them, as we have seen here. Of course, the video contains only a small fraction of all the possible Jazz chords, but the important thing here is the method. Have fun with it!
About the Author
A professional guitarist, teacher, and composer, Tommaso Zillio enjoys particularly writing about music theory and its application to guitar playing