Son House once said that a great many guitarists " ... play some sort of boogie in E and say it's the blues - well it ain't !" When asked by someone "What is the blues?", Big Bill Broonzy told them "If you have to ask you'll never find out". How did the old blues guitarists create that great musical style? How can you learn old sounding blues - 'the real deal' ? In this article I'm going to take a look at a few classic blues guitarists techniques and how you can approach their finger picking techniques.
Ragtime and Blues Guitar - Back To The Roots - Blind Arthur Blake
I always thought it a little funny that there exists just one photo of Blind Blake, the King of Ragtime. He cut more than 100 sides for Paramount in his short lifetime and was reportedly extremely popular. Surely other photographs must have been taken? Even the great Robert Johnson had two likenesses taken and , at that time, he was less well known and famous than Blake.
Ry cooder says he thinks Blake picked guitar using a light feel, but others told that he had a hole in his picking thumb, meaning that he had a heavy touch. On tracks he exclaims 'boot that thang' - which also indicated that he may have had a heavy touch. I've experimented playing Blake in many ways, employing a gentleand heavy feel on different gauge strings, raising or lowering the height of the guitar bridge accordngly. It's incredibly tricky to reproduce the playfulness of some of his songs in G, like That'll Never Happen No More and Too Tight Blues.
A Bit Of Broonzy Does You Good!
Listen to Big Bill Broonzy's guitar style, for example - it's quite easy to work out where our left and right fingers should go, but that very infectious swinging beat is something else entirely! It's almost magical. This is a a quotation from Broonzy referring to timing - " you can either ride on the front of the horse, or on the back of it and that's what happens when I play the blues". His picking thumb tempo stays a little behind the beat and produces a 'swing' feel. Easy to describe, but have a go at it! Simultaneously, he's using just one finger for the treble strings to create some syncopation.
How Can We Learn To Play Blues Guitar ?
The reply is inevitably 'from someone who can do it'. There is a huge number of blues guitar tuition videos offered on the internet, with various styles and prices. Many are even free! (A word of warning here - mostly in life, you get what you pay for.) All too more often than not, the lessons offered don't match up to expectations. Sometimes the picking doesn't quite match the tablature! Many courses teach riffs or tricks to give your playing that 'bluesy feel', but is it the blues?
Search for a guitarist who can really play this stuff. Search in your local area, or search the web. When you've found this man, ask him for some tuition. If he doesn't give lessons then listen to him and go to his gigs, if you have to. Like most things in life, if you want it badly enough, you'll have to chase it. A real blues man is not interested in taking a fortune for their tuition.
Don't listen to lots of modern blues guitar players . The old styles can become weakened and changed too much, particularly that great timing and syncopation. DO listen to as many old blues guitar recordings as you can, specially if there is film of the man performing . Take my word, you can get a lot from just watching Big Bill Broonzy play Hey Hey again and again and again.
Obviously, practice as much as you can - specially the basics. Control the movements of that right hand thumb! One hour early morning and an hour in the evening is minimum. You don't suppose Robert Johnson sold his spirit to the Devil do you? No, just like Eric Clapton, he hid himself away for a couple of years until he could play with the skill we can clearly hear from his old recordings.
As far as I'm concerned this is vital - when you are playing guitar , BE that song or that blues man. The lives of these men were difficult and very unlike ours. Saying that, everyone gets the blues from time to time and this is how we can relate with these men. The blues feeling is all of these - a woman, having no job, bad kids, the weather, death and hundreds of other things. Express it with your fingers.
Get the techniques first of all, don't take it too fast with the basics and finally, put everything you've got into it.
Article Source: http://www.abcarticledirectory.com
Jim Bruce is a working blues man making a living playing blues guitar. His acoustic lessons are fast becoming the standard to reach for acoustic blues guitar picking lessons.
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