Chord riffs and Horn lines

Blues Guitar Lessons

In a band setting, every musician has a distinctive place. Within a song this place can change: backup to solo, full chords, riffs, etc. Leaving space is important, especially when playing accompaniment. Hammering away bar chords on every beat is a no-no. But you do want to make the harmony clear!

Chord Riffs Ex 1 - CD 24    (mp3 click here : )

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 01

In this example, you're playing the top three notes of a ninth chord, sliding them up two frets and sliding back.
All the notes you're playing come from the mixolydian scale and by playing these broken up chords, you're defining the whole harmony. The rhythm leaves enough space for a vocalist or soloist. When you're moving to the IV and the V chord, just move the whole thing up to the D and E positions (5 or 7 frets).

Chord Riffs Ex 2 - CD 25

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 02

You can play the same notes/chords a lot closer together by using the chord forms in example 2.
Play the D7 and E7 forms by barring your index finger across the top three strings.

Chord Riffs Ex 3 - CD 26

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 03

Example 3 combines a short bass line with a chord pattern that's a bit thicker. At high speeds it can be a challenge!

Notice how you continue the pattern on the V-IV-I-V (bars 9-12) progression while changing the chords. You can experiment by adding different bass lines or changing the rhythm. Make sure it keeps swinging and that your backup stays away from the soloist (turn down the volume; I know, I know, it's a cruel world).

Inner logic with chord riffs

Blues Guitar Lessons

As with intervals and single line solo playing, you can use the inner logic of the mixolydian scales when you're using chord riffs. Chords are made from scales and when you move from chord to chord, the notes you can use in solos and accompaniment move with the chords.

Chord Riffs Ex 4 - CD 27    (mp3 click here : )

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 04

The next example deals with this inner logic. The pattern you find in bars 1-4 can easily be moved up to the 7th and 9th fret when you move to the IV chord C and to the V chord D. But why walk a marathon, when you could stroll around the corner?
By changing just 1 note, the same riff can be applied to the IV chord. Move this IV chord pattern up 2 frets and you've got your V chord riff.

If you use this riff in a medium tempo song, play only downstrokes, except when playing triplets. Use up and down strokes when the tempo is too fast or when you're playing those triplets. When you play this way, the groove sounds fresh and upbeat.

Chord Riffs Ex 5 - CD 28

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 05

Example 5 looks a lot like Ex 4 above, but uses different strings. This way of playing backup was refined by R.J. Lockwood who used it on the I chord, moved it up to the IV and the V chord and then played exactly the same riff.

The same trick used in example 4 can be used here. Move the major third of the I chord (B on the 3rd string, 4th fret) down one step to get the 7th of the IV chord.


Chord Riffs Ex 6 - CD 28

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 06

Play those three notes of the C9 chord with your index finger and use your ring finger for the alternating chord at the 5th fret. You can wrap your thumb around the neck to get some extra support. Move the whole pattern up 2 frets to get the V chord version.

Chord Riffs Ex 7 - CD 29

TAB Chord Riffs Ex 07

Something similar was used in "Boy from N.Y. City" by the Manhattan Transfer and "Learn to Treat Me Right" by The Fabulous Thunderbirds. A fun groove which you can move with the chords. Just use the D form as a starting point; your tonic is on the 2nd string. Play the Am triad with your pinkie and try to hear the whole groove as a D chord groove.

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