Blues Guitar Lessons

Making your presence clear without being in everybody's face all the time, that's what playing backup is all about. Using two notes (of a chord) is a good way to do this. The next examples are cliche accompaniments in the swing blues style. You can combine them with chords, basslines and fills. Experiment with different rhythms, too!

To play these riffs, you first need to know where the tonic is. Find the tonic and you'll know where to start the riff. Sometimes the riff starts on the tonic, no problemo. In other cases, you need to "calculate" the starting point of the riff: one fret back, one string down or two frets up, same string. Find out what works for you.


Intervals Tritone Ex 1 - CD 5    (mp3 click here : )

TAB Intervals Tritone Ex 01

The two notes you're playing here sound nasty when played without a bass note or full chord. They are the two most important notes of a dominant 7th chord: the third and the flat seventh.

When you move this "tritone" interval down 1 fret from the tonic position you're playing a tritone on the IV chord: the 3rd and 7th. Moving them up one fret gets you to the V chord.

Combined with a bassline it could sound like this:

Intervals Tritone Ex 2 - CD 6

TAB Intervals Tritone Ex 02

In this example every bassline pattern comes in blocks of two bars. Each time we play the tritone interval, we approach it from a fret below to create tension (and release).
Bars 9 and 10 are tricky; play the first note of each bar with your ring finger.

The last two bars are a standard bass run to the V chord and back. Play beat three of bar 11 with your middle finger and slide into the D#7-E7 progression.

Note: Inner Logic

The 7th of the I chord (in this case the G in an A7 chord) leads to the 3rd of the IV chord (the F# in D7). The 3rd of the I chord (a C# in A7) leads into the 7th of the IV chord (a C in D7).
This inner logic of a blues chord progression can also be used in your solos. The same logic can be applied to the V-I chord progression.


Blues Guitar Lessons

Intervals Thirds Ex 1 - CD 7    (mp3 click here : )

Intervals Thirds Ex 01

This example uses sets of third intervals, both major and minor. They are derived from the mixolydian scale. Move them up to the IV and V position to get the riff for the C7 and D7 groove. All these riffs are played relative to the tonic. Find the tonic first and then play the riff. The tonic for this riff (a G) is the last note you play.

You can also play them like this:

Intervals Thirds Ex 2 - CD 8    (mp3 click here : )

Intervals Thirds Ex 02

Again: the tonic of this riff is the last note you play.
Move this pattern two frets up to get the D7 chord variation.

Thirds are all over the neck. You can form a third interval on any two adjacent strings, like this:

Intervals Thirds Ex 3 - CD 9

Intervals Thirds Ex 03

Move this riff up 5 frets to get the C7 variation and another 2 frets to get the D7 pattern.

Intervals Thirds Ex 4 - CD 10

Intervals Thirds Ex 04

Another groovy one that is similar to Hollywood Fats' riff in "She's Dynamite".

Note: Inner Logic

As with tritone intervals, there is an inner logic to playing third intervals over these chords. First listen to Example 5. What's goin' on?

Intervals Thirds Ex 5 - CD 11

Intervals Thirds Ex 05

Whenever you use a riff with notes from the mixolydian scale and you change chords (for instance from G7 to C7), you've got to change scales.
The first pattern on G7 uses notes from G mixolydian. On C7 you use notes from C mixolydian.

These scales look a lot alike (see Scales / Chords). By changing only one note of the first G7 riff, you can use it on a C7 chord. Move this one up two frets and you're set for D7.
Whenever you play a riff with intervals or broken chords, there is a good chance you can play the same riff on the IV and V chord.

If it contains the third of the I chord (B in G7), move that note down one fret. Bingo! Move the riff up two frets from there to get the V chord version.

If the riff contains the seventh of the I chord (F in G7), you've also got to change the riff when you land on the V chord. Look at bar 9 of example 5. On beat two you're playing an F# on the B string, not an F!

On the C7 the F sounds hunky dory because it's part of the C mixolydian scale. These kinds of riffs are used a lot by experienced players.
Instead of moving all over the neck to play these riffs, they change one note and look way cool while giving the girls (or boys ...) in the first row the eye.

Swing Blues Lessons Home Page