Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Focus on Rhythm Guitar Improves Lead Guitar

A good friend of mine was in the buffet line with his father and they came upon a mystery dish in the lineup. His father asks the hot table attendant “what’s that” to which the attendant replies “hotdish.” “Oh, hotdish” replies his father and he proceeds to load up his plate. Those from Minnesota may understand this better than others (hotdish is sort of like a casserole) but I recently discovered that rhythm; not the “who could ask for anything more” type but specifically Rhythm Guitar, could be like “hotdish” when it comes to improvisation techniques.

I bought one of the “Guitar World Presents” DVD packages, Blues DVD Vol. 1 some time back. The cover has slogans such as “Sting like Albert King”, “Rip Like Stevie Ray Vaughan”, and “Wail like Eric Clapton” which do not imply a treasure trove of Rhythm Guitar technique lurks within. Nonetheless, Andy Aledort takes you through a great primer on blues rhythm guitar basics; 12-bar blues form, root fifth, root sixth chords, root flat seventh, and walking bass figures. He closes the primer with approaches to turnarounds including a straight forward but cool sounding walking figure up to the 5 chord. In E blues this was E, G (with a half step bend up to G#), A, b flat, B and goes on to comment how this riff is common to all different kinds of blues in all tempos; a staple of the blues guitar sound. In other words, hotdish!

If there are staples of the blues guitar sound it follows that one should incorporate these staples into one's improvisation if you want the listener to know they are hearing the blues. No different than my friend’s father knew he was getting hotdish in the buffet line rather than a mystery dish. So, I experimented with using this walking figure at different areas of the fretboard and then incorporating it into playing over a 12 - bar 1,4,5 blues progression and dang if it didn’t sound a lot more like the blues when I played it back! Lots more exploring to be done but a promising start.

Thanks to Andy Aledort I got another set of fundamentals to start working on with the added benefit of a “hotdish” moment to help me think outside the “box” on improvisation.

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