cliche blues lines
Cliche blues licks? Isn't this something we generally try to stay away from? Yep, so it seems eh? The following melodic ideas are simply certain combinations of pitches and rhythms that have been around for a while. Some are pieces of melodies from songs long past, others simply emulate a certain vocal quality that has withstood the test of time. We hear variations of them all over American music in a myriad of different styles and settings. The seasoned blues artist has his own bag of cliche ideas, the following lines are for the new learner, to get some blues coolness under their fingers and start a collection for their own bag of tricks. All part of building one's musical vocabulary. Some of these are my favorites and being a guitar player, perhaps take on that idiomatic quality.
Perhaps the best source of ideas is by listening to your favorite players and simply internalizing all their good ideas then shaping them your own unique way. Historically, players have done this from one generation to the next, it's the aural nature of passing along the tradition and history of the art form. Each successive generation of players gradually expanding the language of the music. Become a part of this tradition by sharing your cool ideas with your friends. If none of the following ideas trigger anything cool to your musical tastes, perhaps default to the cliche sure-fire theory concept to simply sing the line you want to play, then find it on your ax. Perhaps using some of the following licks to jump start your own ideas. Thinking in C blues, major or minor...
From way back, schoolyard days I think. Example 1.
Moving from tonic to Five and flat Seven then back to the tonic on the off beats. Example 2.
Minor tonality, surrounding the tonic with the blue three and seven. The fifth sets up the repeat. Example 3.
Very old idea, Three to Four to tonic, a stylistically Gospel idea in the minor color. Example 4.
Call and response idea, using off beats and blues scale. Chromatic motion in bar 16 is fun. Example 5.
Minor tonality, very common lick, used as a motif, lots of ways to sequence and permutate. Example 6.
Using the minor Nine color in the minor blues format, the minor Nine can be very passionate. Example 7.
Straight ahead blues lick followed by a similar minor pentatonic idea. Can you hear how the addition of the tritone in the first phrase changes the overall color of the line? It's subtle, but potentially way important. The minor pentatonic color is more of a rock or blues / rock color. Adding the tritone bluesifies the line. Example 8.
Simply arpeggiating the blue notes in a vamp like line. Example 9.
Classic tritone lick in the minor tonality, very primitive. Example 10.
Working the Fourth a bit, slur this half step down between the tritone and the Fourth. This is a very common guitar riff. Cool pitches lead in to the tonic on beat four of bar 40, which is in one sense a musical or melodic turn. The Fourth is a very important blues color for the blues player. Example 11.
A sort of honky tonk feel created by alternating the blue third and major third, moving to flat Seven then Five, via the chromatic idea in bars 47 and 48. Example 12.
Permutation of the last idea, now including the Fourth. Same chromatic style ending, different pitches. This might be a good line to push through the 12 bar 1, 4, 5 blues form by transposing the idea to the appropriate chord. Example 13.
Focusing on the half step motion from the tritone down to Four in the minor tonality. Example 14.
From way back, the classic blues lick oftentimes used to end all and any blues tunes. Learn this one in all 12 keys. Example 15.
|one idea per chorus||running one idea through the 12 bar blues form|
|transposing one idea||transposing one idea through the 12 bar blues form|
|call and response||the first form of musical communication?|
|cliche blues licks||some cool ideas for beginning players|
|blues vamp lines||common blues vamp ideas for the creative artist|
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