Beginner Playing the Blues and the Blues Scale

freddysilk

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I have a question about playing the blues. I've been away from playing sax since my teacher is no longer at the music school but I still have a few riffs he gave me to practice.

The riff included notes of the blues scale in D which I played with and liked the blues sound. Until recently I got a blues playalong by Lennie Niehaus and he uses other notes outside the scale.

I played along and sounded okay but when I experiment and add other notes outside the scale, my blues sound seems to go away. I know articulations play a big part as well as embelishments but am I doing something wrong?
 

AndyB

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Hi, Freddy. I'm a total blues freak.

I think the answer to your question is going to depend on what style of blues and what type of blues progression you want to solo against. For example I can crank up my guitar and play my best electric blues licks against an Aebersold blues track and it sounds all wrong. It isn't the same style of blues. Likewise you're not going to hear a ii-V-I in any blues jam in the part of the country I live in. In fact a lot of people don't even consider jazz blues as blues, but just jazz. But a more open-minded viewpoint is that there is a lot of diversity under the blues tent. On the other hand, we always have to remember that the blues originated in northern Mississippi and not in New Orleans. And even though blues guitar came before blues sax, blues was played on a diddly bo and washboard first.

Niehaus might be playing to heavily altered blues progressions that don't fit the blues scale.

Here's what the good ole boys call "real blues" in B flat. Actually its an adaptation of T-Bone Walker's Stormy Monday Blues. Try your blues scale and I-IV-V dominant 7 arpeggios over this and you'll have fun. This is my all-time favorite slow blues backing track.

http://tinyurl.com/nykvlr
 
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ArtyLady

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I love the real slow blues tunes (Rock me Baby etc) in fact I think I probably prefer them to jazz blues (mainly cos they're slower I think lol!). I got into it at blues jams - I seem to often lapse into blues while playing jazz (tutor tells me off haha! unless it fits what we are playing ;})
 

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
I love the real slow blues tunes (Rock me Baby etc) in fact I think I probably prefer them to jazz blues (mainly cos they're slower I think lol!). I got into it at blues jams - I seem to often lapse into blues while playing jazz (tutor tells me off haha! unless it fits what we are playing ;})
Yeah, "Rock Me Baby" is awesome - both the Muddy Waters and the B.B. King versions.

What would you do with a slow blues with static harmony like Howlin' Wolf's "Commit A Crime" ?
 

ArtyLady

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....

What would you do with a slow blues with static harmony like Howlin' Wolf's "Commit A Crime" ?
Probably what I would do is pretty much the same as I would do with a standard 12 bar sequence - vamp along to the singing part and then solo in the usual way on a blues scale - and vary it with rythmical changes

That sounds really thick doesn't it! my theory is rubbish - I am very much a play by ear and feeling player (probably why I'm rubbish haha!):sax:
 
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freddysilk

freddysilk

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Cleveland, Ohio
I found the answer to my question

Out of curiosity, I purchased Jamey Aebersold DVD, "Anyone can inmprovise" and he answered the question by demonstrating how he added various scales together and he still kept the blues sound. He also mentioned that sticking to the blues scale gets boring after awhile so he went over pentatonics and minors scales to name a few.

I just have to choose my notes a little more wisely and try to match what's in my head even if I have to play outside the scale.

Thanks for all of the replies.
 

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
PHP:
Consider Thelonius Monk's 'Blue Monk'.
Rising semitone runs. What kind of blues scale is that?
If it sounds good, it is good.
I've heard a few writers use the term "blues sensibility" and I think it may fit "Blue Monk" regardless of what scales it uses. I heard this term applied to Cannonball Adderley and I can hear how even when he's playing jazz he has a link to the blues tradition that I don't hear from Charlie Parker, for example, even though Parker played a lot pieces that were theoretically blues-based.

Even though the timing of "Blue Monk" is non-traditional, the phrasing and melodic material are very rooted in blues singing.

I think the extreme example of "blues sensibility" is the one-chord vamp. There is no 12-bar progression to hide behind in that type of blues. Either it has "blues sensibility" or it comes out as something other than blues.
 
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