The Importance of Pentatonics(?), or How to Butcher the Blues.

Discussion in 'Playing' started by Jed Curtis, Jun 2, 2018.

  1. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    Recently, I attempted to Jam along with a friend who is a Blues player. And whilst I had no trouble in holding down rhythms in varied bar lengths, when I was given the nod to take the lead I ended up shredding away in musical territories that made my friend somewhat uncomfortable to the point that he simply ended up stopping playing all together.

    He also made a comment that I was "Butchering the Blues"

    In retrospect, I realised that I never really related to Blues music as a whole, and although I can bend my way through the Pentatonic scale I simply find it uninteresting. I've never found any Blues players that have really grabbed my attention or heart, although I am fully aware that most of the music that does is heavily influenced by the blues in general.

    Is it something I should dedicate more time and effort to?
    Does anybody else have this issue?
     
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  2. everfreetree

    everfreetree I... I like trees.

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    All I can think is, don't think about scales. Think about what you're playing and how it sounds and feels.
    Blues is about simplicity and creativity, using even a small overall number of notes to express something that a flood of Yngwie Malmsteen widdly-woddly note vomit could never do (apologies if you're a Malmsteen fan, he's just a good example of someone I never imagine calmly playing a blues lick).
    It's also just generally about expression and feeling more than patterns or scales, which is why folks who have no idea what key they're in or what scale they're playing or whether that was an A or a C# that just went by, can still play beautiful sounding Blues, whether on a guitar, a trumpet, or a sax.

    BUT, if you still want to think about scales, I've been told I play Blues in a Natural Minor, apparently, with some other notes thrown in, and that it sounds pretty nice, overall.
    That knowledge doesn't change anything with how I play, mind you, I just figure it out as I go and think about B.B. King, Albert King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and it somehow works out in the end. Sometimes.

    Sometimes, the key to playing the Blues... is having no idea what you're doing as you do it, and avoiding thinking too hard about it.
    Here's an example of B.B. being... very B.B.



    "That was a beautiful lick that you played from over the D chord and back down to the C chord."
    "Haha... don't ask me to do it again."



    Hopefully that was somewhat helpful, or at least not utter nonsense.
     
  3. Chu

    Chu Well-Known Member

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    I'm definitely a bluesy rock player but I've never been into the blues as such. There was an occasion where I was jamming with three others and the bass player and drummer were so outstandingly good that I stopped playing just son I could fully enjoy what they were doing. But I'd never stop because someone was playing out of the style, the point of collaborating is to explore what the other brings to the mix. To stop and use a phrase such as that is completely douchetastic in my book. Pretentious nob.
     
  4. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    Yes, I appreciate it a lot. Thank You
     
  5. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    Me either...I suppose some people are more intrepid than others.
     
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  6. drittal

    drittal Well-Known Member

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    Where you playing minor pent over major chords?


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  7. mirage2101

    mirage2101 Well-Known Member

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    You could argue that you can play blues over any scale. You'll just skip out on some notes because they don't fit the song.

    Any scale is a tool in your toolbox. The more tools you have, the bigger stuff you can build. If you know it and then decide not to use it, they that's fine.

    And butchering the blues.. well.. without hearing you play that's a matter of taste. If you stray into whatever rock or metal range maybe it doesn't fit. If you don't feel the blues it'll be harder to play it.
    those guys could've kept playing and just said afterwards, hey man that was some wierd stuff there. Maybe a bit more this or that next time?

    And the best advice from my teacher: If you like it and it's hard, keep practicing. If you just don't like it, don't do it.
    Sure, practicing scales isn't fun. But some styles or songs just rub you the wrong way so stay away from them.
     
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  8. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    No. We were playing in Am and I stuck with Am,
     
  9. drittal

    drittal Well-Known Member

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    Well that’s weird as the 5 notes in the Pent are all in the Minor scale. Only thing I can think is if they were doing something like 12 bar blues, or a variation of those 3 chords and a note you were landing on or starting with in Am just didn’t quite match up with the Dm or Em chords being played.


    If the note you play doesn’t sound right you are only a half or whole step from a right note, bend that sumbitch until it does!
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
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  10. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    As far as I know, the "Blues" scale is simply adding 1 or 2 notes to the Pentatonic.
    I don't think I did anything way out of context, except maybe throw a little dissonance into it.
     
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  11. drittal

    drittal Well-Known Member

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    Dissonance is fine, just make sure to resolve it.

    My former band mate was a stud at shredding. I would get lost watching him. During one solo playing live he ended on a bum note. The whole rest of the solo just had everyone in awe, including me. I was looking at him and smiling when he landed on the note and instantly he looked at me with a disgusted look. I just nodded because he just blew everyone away. After I asked him why he was so upset. “Because it was this note and should have been that note #”. Nobody there had any clue besides him. He was the one that always told me if you mess up a note do it again so they thing you meant to. So I told him the Dimebag theory of bum notes, “bend that sumbitch until it sounds good!” He had literally never thought of that.


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  12. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    Its good advice from an awesome player...

    ...I've heard Ler from Primus say "if you land on the wrong note, play it again so everyone thinks you meant it"

    I probably should practice bending a bit more.
     
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  13. ElectricSaga

    ElectricSaga Bearded person

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    Here's what I think: "jamming" is like hanging out with friends but playing music instead of talking. You don't want to be the center of attention or get too out of topic, unless the conversation somehow goes in that direction. And also like hanging out, the point is to have a conversation and not a monologue.

    That said, people go in all sorts of weird directions when they talk about "the blues". They want you to "feel" and hug your guitar and romance the notes and take them out to dinner before you hammer and bend them and pinch them. In other words, they expect something that appears to be emotional and not necessarily technical (regardless of its objective quality and musicality). Some people apparently think Satriani is a soulless player who probably also "butchers the blues" so don't take it too seriously. That said, many blues licks like those from the BB King video are truly nice, but ultimately the point is to be musical and match the mood of the moment or the song.

    I don't think the choice of scales is that important as long as you keep it within your friends' parameters. I bet you could have played something awesome and melodious using only the pentatonic or the pentatonic + dorian or the "blues" scale and your friend would have still not liked it if you went "too fast" all over the neck, while at the same time forgiving and perhaps enjoying a few wrong notes here and there.

    Next time also think moderately sad thoughts, like all the homeless puppies in the world or all the pizza you couldn't eat because you were full and now you wish you had.**

    ** I can't be the only person to ever think about this... I hope.
     
  14. Jed Curtis

    Jed Curtis Electrotheonic Guitaristologist

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    I'm not bothered by the comment, but it did make me think about my approach to playing guitar in the sense that I was possibly limiting myself by not practicing Blues licks and including them in my musical palette.

    In retrospect, the person I was jamming with is a bit of a douche when it comes to Guitar, but a good friend.
    Perhaps he is a bit jealous that I can play lots of different styles of music, and not just the blues.
    I would like to sit down with some other Blues-centric players that are a bit more open minded in future.
     
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  15. ScutMonkey

    ScutMonkey Well-Known Member

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    You aren't.
     
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  16. Simon Park

    Simon Park Well-Known Member

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    Everyone's interpretation of the blues will vary. I've heard a B.B. King interview where he spoke at length about how Jimi Hendrix was a blues player, not a rock player, in his view. When asked by the interviewer to explain B.B. just said "Jimi played blues, he just played it the Jimi Hendrix way" and shrugged, as if it was obvious. Most people would probably think of Jimi as a rock guitarist, but to B.B. King Jimi was a blues player, so it's a matter of interpretation.
     
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  17. Strigidae

    Strigidae I like owls.

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    To stop playing just to say how someone is "Butchering the Blues" sounds like straight up elitist douchebaggery to me, but what do I know. If it sounds good, it's good.

    I spend most of my playing in pentatonics simply because I'm not a very skilled player. Most people would find it the most boring playing in the world, big deal, they can listen to someone else.
     
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