Getting Down to the Blues
Now let’s build a blues solo. It will be based on a characteristic rhythm called
a shuffle that also appears in rock, pop, country, and jazz. The shuffle beat has
a loping feeling that comes from each foot-tap being divided evenly into thirds,
or in musical language, triplets.
Tap your foot or clap your hands slowly and evenly. With each beat, say to yourself
one-two-three, one-two-three as if you were saying rock-abye, rock-a-bye.
Now, instead of calling out three parts of the beat, let’s work with two parts
in a LONG-short rhythm. The LONG part takes up the first twothirds of the beat,
as if you were saying BA-by. You can go back and fourth between one-two-three and
LONG-short in different combinations by reciting the syllables “rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye,
BA-by, BA-by,” “rock-a-bye BA-by, rock-a-bye BA-by,” and so on, in different combinations.
Try reciting these syllables to yourself as you play the following example. To get
a blues sound, sound all three notes by brushing upward with your index finger.
Now that we’ve got the basic beat, let’s play the same music, adding a steady
bass beat to reinforce the rhythm. Do this by playing a bass note steadily along
with each foot tap, like so:
Shuffle with Bass
Keeping that thumb absolutely steady should be your goal. Even the greatest guitarists
sometimes miss a beat now and then, but they don’t like it any more than you do.
Once the shuffle beat and the steady bass are under control, we can move on to
some real blues playing. This piece has a classic country blues sound recalling
the Delta and Texas styles. You’ll be using these chord shapes. Learn them first
and reading the piece will be easier.