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Flatpicking the Blues

Flatpicking the BluesWhat is in the Flatpicking the Blues course?

This Book/DVD/CD based course was designed with two main purposes in mind:

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 octaves.

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 patterns.


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 the homework page of the website.

Blues Rhythm

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.

Blues Improvisation

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>.