First, we wanted to teach you how to play traditional blues
(rhythm and lead) to the extent that you could feel comfortable
improvising the blues in a jam session. To this end the course not only
includes theoretical material that will help you understand the scale
patterns, layout and use of the entire fingerboard, and the rhythmic
shuffle which help define the blues, but also includes ear training and
free-form improvisation exercises which are designed to increase your
improvisational skills in a graduated, step-by-step manner.Secondly, we wanted to be able to show you how you can add a
blues influence to the songs that you already know how to play, be they
folk, rock, country, or bluegrass. To that end we not only include the
scale patterns and exercises that aid in that process, but give you
examples of blues licks and phrases and how you can fit them into the
songs that you already know.
In order to acheive our goals, we began by introducing some scale
theory. We started in the key of G and demonstrated how a major scale
is built and presented the G major scale played in several different
positions on the neck. The G major scale is shown before the blues
scales as a basis for study, terminology and theory. This foundation
helps you to understand the theoretical concepts that are presented when
you begin to work with the blues scales. Throughout the book each of
the various scale positions and exercises is shown in standard music
notation, tablature, and on two different fretboard illustrations (one
vertical and the other horizontal) as shown below.
After presenting the G major scale we talk about the layout of
the fingerboard and give some graphic illustration of patterns that you
can use to visualize the fingerboard in your mind so that you can better
understand its layout. Throughout the first section of the book we are
working towards the goal of free-form improvisation in the context of
the blues. Being able to visualize the fingerboard is essential and we
work a lot with this concept throughout the book.
Next we move on to a short section on the G minor scale. We are
working towards the G minor pentatonic "blues" scale and we are taking
logical steps in order to get there. We start with the G major scale,
move to the G minor scale, then the G minor pentatonic scale, then the G
minor pentatonic blues scale. In presenting the G minor scale, again we
show the scale several positions on the neck and across a couple of
Next we move on to the "blues sound" by presenting the G minor
pentatonic scale. We present the scale in notation, tab, and graphic
illustrations at several positions and across a couple of octaves. Now
the real practical blues training begins. After you have worked with the
G minor pentatonic scale, we begin to provide you with blues ear
training and free-form improvisation training using this scale as a
basis. We feel like the ear training and free-form improvisation
training section of this course are unique and are the two most valuable
aspects of the course that will help you become an improvisational
player. Here is some more detailed information about these exercises:
Ear Training: The ear training sections of
this course are presented on the audio CD that accompanies the course.
Being an improvisational player requires that you be able to take what
you are hearing in your head and play on your guitar instantaneously and
spontaneously. Through ear training practice and technique, we teach
you how to develop this skill. We start out slow and easy. We begin with
two note intervals based on the G minor pentatonic scale. This means
that you only have 5 total notes to work with when listening to, and
finding, these two note intervals. After presenting some two note
intervals, we then present some one-bar phrases, again only working with
the 5 notes of the G minor pentatonic scale. We then move those same
five notes to a new octave and do some work there. We add the first five
note position to the second five note position and give you some
intervals and phrases to work with based on these 10 notes. There are a
total of 8 ear training tracks on the audio CD, each building upon the
other. Again, the goal here is to teach you to hear something in your
head, and then immediately find it on your guitar. Ear training
exercises are scattered throughout the course. The
"answers" to all of the ear training exercises are given on our website.
Free-Form Improvisation: All ear training
exercises in the book are followed by free-form improvisation exercises.
Again, we start out simply and build slowly. After working with a scale
at a specific position on the neck you are asked to turn to one of the
various rhythm tracks that are on the audio CD and practice free-form
improvisation using only the scale you were given in the ear training
sessions. In the beginning you are only working with groups of 5 to 12
notes, so it makes the task of improvising less complex. We build slowly
so that you can learn to grasp this concept. Free-form improvisation
practice exercises are scattered thorughout the book. Eventually you are
asked to improvise over an entire 12-bar I, IV, V progression in a
couple of different keys using the entire fingerboard and embellishments
such as slides, bends, pull-offs, and hammer-ons. If this sounds like a
big task to you, but something that you would love to be able to do, it
is something that you can acheive by the end of this course and we take
you there step-by-step.
After working with the ear training and
free-form improvisation training for the G minor pentatonic scale, we
move on to present the scale which is at the core of this course and the
core of the blues. This is the six-note G minor pentatonic "blues"
scale. We work with this scale at various positions on the neck, we work
with ear training exercises based on this scale, and we work with
free-form improvisations using this scale. We also give you a variety of
scale patterns all over the neck to work with in order to really
solidify this scale in your ear, in your mind, and under your fingers.
If the scale practice in the book is not enough, we provide
additional scale work on the website.
After presenting specific scale patterns and exercises we then
move on to a more general discussion of the G blues scale by showing
"box patterns" that will help you move this scale all over the
fingerboard. Anytime new scale patterns are shown the reader is
encouraged to go back and pratice free-form improvisation with the
rhythm tracks on the CD to help solidify the new scale positions and
Next we include a
section on note bending, which is a prevalent technique employed by
blues players. We then encourage the reader to go back through all of
the free-form improvisation scale exercises and add embellishments such
as slides, pull-offs, hammer-ons, and bends to the exercises.
Next, on the DVD and transcribed in the book, Brad Davis
demonstrates how to play a "straight"major scale based version of "The
Nine Pound Hammer" and then he shows how he will use the scale patterns
that have been presented thus far in the book and on the DVD to help him
play a bluesy version of the same song.
So far we have only been working in the key of G. The next
section of the book explores the keys of C and D. We show how to
construct the "blues" scale in C and D and we present fretboard graphics
that help identify patterns on the neck which aid in moving from G
positions, to C positions, to D positions. The student is then
encouraged to work with a free-form improvisation exercise using a G, C,
D rhythm track on the audio CD.
Throughout the course the student is assigned homework problems
which are designed to take concepts that are presented in the book and
solidify them in the student's mind by challenging them to figure some
things out on their own. We believe that this part of the course is
extremely valuable as it helps the student learn how to "teach
themselves." The answers to all of the homework problems are posted on
homework page of the website.
The next section of the course deals with Blues Rhythm. On the
DVD and in the book Brad demonstrates the blues shuffle rhythm using
various chord shapes, connecting runs, resolves, turn-arounds, and embellishments. He then demonstrates how to play several variations of a
12-bar blues rhythm using the blues shuffle rhythm style.
The next section of the course begins to build on the scale based
improvisations by adding blues licks. The first section shows you how
to integrate blues licks with blues rhythm, a handy skill to have when
playing the blues. In this section there are improvisation examples,
riff ideas, licks in G, C, and D, double stop licks, and stylistic blues
licks in the style of Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn,
and even Bill Monroe mandolin style licks transferred over to the guitar.
Adding the Blues to Bluegrass
In the next section of the book and DVD, Brad Davis demonstrates
how you can add the blues flavor to your bluegrass songs and fiddle
tunes by giving bluesy examples of standards such as "Nine Pound
Hammer," "Lonesome Road Blues," "Salt Creek," "John Hardy," and Brad's
original blues vocal "Petticoat."
Moving to Other Keys
In the last section of the book, we talk about moving the blues
to other keys. Thus far most everything has been in the key of G. This
section talks about how to transpose to other keys and then gives
examples of key E scales and Key of E rhythm. Key of E rhythm tracks are
included on the audio CD so that you can practice all of your Key of G
free-form improvisation exercises in the key of E.
Web Site Support
All of the information in the Book, on the CD, and on the DVD is supplemented and added to at the www.flatpick.com/blues
website. Thus making this a true multi-media instructional package.
Additionally, Brad Davis' email address is included in the book so that
you can email Brad and ask questions about the course and about any
difficulties that you may be encountering.
If you have any questions about this course, please do not hesitate to email us. Click <here> to send an email message. Please use "Flatpicking the Blues" as the subject line of your message.
If you are interested in ordering the Flatpicking the Blues course, please click <here>.