Blues Phrasing - Freshman Year Blues Lesson 7

Previous lessons have built blues solos by combining small music pieces, or riffs. However, some combinations work much better than others. This lesson looks at how to choose good combinations, to create powerful solos.

Blues solos are often like conversations, where one musical phrase asks a question, answered by the next phrase. Listen to this solo


It has 6 phrases. Listen again. You should hear 3 pairs of phrases. The first phrase asks a question, the second phrase answers it. The third phrase asks the same question (that is, plays the same notes), only a little differently. The fourth phrase answers, again a little differently. The fifth phrase asks another question, the final phrase answers it.

Once you become aware of these musical conversations, you will hear them everywhere. Listen to your favourite blues records again, They will now sound different, as you can hear better what the musicians are saying.

Now try the solo yourself. The first phrase is 4D 5D 6B 6B, and sounds like this


The next phrase, that is, the answer, is 4D 5D 4B 4D, and sounds like this


The third and 4th phrases have the same notes as the first two. Listen however for small differences in how the 3rd and 4th phrases are played, compared to the first two. These small variations are important, and make a big difference to the music. The 5th phrase is 4D 5D 5B 4D, sounding like this


The final phrase is 4D 4B 4D 2D 2D, and sounds like


Once you have learnt the 6 phrases, then play along with the solo. Try to match the variations on the 3rd and 4th phrases.

You are now ready to make you own solos. Use this track


which has three 12 bar sections, with the harmonica recorded on the first 12 bar section. Play along with the solo you have learnt. Then, for the remaining two 12 bar sections, make up your own solos, using three sets of call and answer phrases, like the ones you have learnt here.

Blues playing relies heavily on improvisation, that is, making up solos. This lesson has shown a way to do this (there many other ways as well). Using the method in this lesson, and others like it, you will soon create your own solos.

Click here for the next lesson.