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Jamie Humphries - The Rhythm Method Part 3: Pro Blues Rhythm Guitar

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 4 **

Over the past two Rhythm Methods we have looked at building chords, understanding the basics of rhythm guitar, and to wind things up, last guitar lesson we looked at a killer blues guitar chord progression. In this tutorial we are going to continue with our blues guitar progression, but take a look at how to give yours that pro sound.

Have you ever listened to your favourite guitarist and wondered why their rhythm parts just sound more “Pro” than yours? We seem to spend a lot of time learning chords all over the neck, which still is very important. But when we analyse the rhythm parts of guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford, or Eric Johnson, we often see these guitarists playing chords that don’t really resemble the chords that we have spent much of our time learning! This may seem a little disheartening, but before we continue, I want to point out that learning all of your basic chords is essential, and it's also vital for learning scales and arpeggios for your lead playing, so, please, don’t stop practising them! We also need them as a basis for what I am going to present to you in this lesson.

To my mind, and obviously to many other guitarists, the sound of a basic barre variety chord can be too cluttered and thick sounding. For instance, if we look at the voicing of a traditional E movable barre chord it is as follows; 1st, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 1st. As you can see from the list, there are quite a few doubled notes, which are pretty much redundant. In modern Rock and Blues we often use crunch/distorted tones. Often when using these tones, the placement of certain notes really effects how the chord sounds. Too many notes in a chord with a crunch sound will result in a thick messy sound that makes the sound of the chords hard to distinguish. Eric Johnson often employs a technique where by he shifts the position of certain tones within a chord to a give a much sweeter, less messy sound when using overdrive. His favourite technique is to move the 3rd of the chord from the bottom of the chord to the top, and this type of chord voicing is referred to as an open voicing. One of his signature voicings is 1st, 5th, 3rd, producing s crisp open tone that works great with crunch.

Another approach is to eliminate many of the notes from the chord leaving us with the most important notes that imply the sound of the chord. Remember, there are other musicians playing in a band and we can rely on them to imply certain tonalities, leaving us to experiment with more sparse voicings that imply much more sophisticated harmony. The main chords featured in our track this month include a dominant 9th and a 6th chord. Both of these chord types are based around just a three note chord voicing, enabling use to imply more advanced harmony with a smaller chord voicing. You will also notice an A7 chord that only makes use of 3 notes, 1st, b7th and the 3rd. You can see how much more sparse this voicing is compared to a regular dominant 7th voicing.

Another great tool for expanding our rhythm concepts is to include inversions. An inversion is where we simply change the order of the notes with in a triad. Our basic triad is 1st, 3rd 5th. If we invert this so that we have the following order, 3rd, 5th, 1st we result in a 1st inversion. If we change the order again, 5th, 1st, 3rd we have a 2nd inversion. The 1st inversion was used a lot by such legendary guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and by adding this to your progressions will instantly give you that signature sound. You will be able to hear and see examples of the use of inversions in the accompanying video lesson. Now let’s look at our examples;

Ex1: Illustrates all of the chords found in this months featured lesson. As I explained in the video lesson, although I have laid them out in a specific order in the lesson, feel free to experiment with the order of the chords and which voicings you choose to use when performing our blues piece.

Ex2: Illustrates our blues progression in the form of a basic chord chart. Use this chart to help you learn the order of the chords in the progression. You will also notice that the progression is made up of 2 sections, an A and a B section. The form is the same as last month’s progression, but includes our more sophisticated and advanced sounding chords.

I hope you have fun with this lesson; there are plenty of new rhythm and chord ideas for you to get stuck into. In the next issue we'll wind things up with our featured Blues piece and include some rhythmic fill ideas.


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