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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member PLarson's Avatar
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    Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    I started playing guitar pretty late- I think I was 13-14 something. All my heroes played melodic hard rock- Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Whitesnake and so on. After a while I started to listen to really fast guitarplayers, like Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen. But now that I'm old, I mostly listen to blues and I would like to play the blues. But it's like my fingers want to run away and still play fast, fast.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member Ace139's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Seems like you always want what you dont have. I want to play faster and cant seem to make my fingers do that. Maybe play along with some stuff you like to get the feel for playing slower

    Blues On!!
    Some people call me old fashion - but fire scares me

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by PLarson View Post
    I started playing guitar pretty late- I think I was 13-14 something. All my heroes played melodic hard rock- Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Whitesnake and so on. After a while I started to listen to really fast guitarplayers, like Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen. But now that I'm old, I mostly listen to blues and I would like to play the blues. But it's like my fingers want to run away and still play fast, fast.
    Tjena Larson

    that's interesting. I think one of the reasons i was drawn to playing blues is that i can't play fast!

  4. #4
    Banker
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Ditch the pick, play with thumb.....that'll slow you down and give more expression.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Froum Member duaneflowers's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    More so than any other genre of music, at least for me, the blues has to be felt before it can be played. The notes that express true emotion... pain, hunger, relief, lust... are the ones that go down in blues history. IMHO those that can't effectively express those emotions through their playing are simply not playing the blues. While you may be used to Helloween & Yngwie and Neo-Classical attempts to cram as many notes as possible into an expression to relay a particular thought... with the blues, quite often, one well placed note can replace a hundred... bringing forth a visceral response... and that note will continue to ring out long after the music stops.

    A lot of playahs mastered the blues by copying their heros... BB, PG, EC, GM, DA... etc., note for note. Getting the phrasing and sustain right, learning to put that little, almost imperceptible bend at the end of a note, the tremelo of a mellow jackhammer, the timeless sexiness of Marilyn Monroe or Raquel Welch, the depth of the philosophical inquiries of Plato or Wittgenstein, the playfulness or mirth of a puppy, the inquisitiveness and wide eyed wonder of a new born baby, the lift and soar of an eagle, the colors of the leaves in august, the finality of death... all expressed in various shades of mind blowing tone. That, to me, is the blues... accept no substitutes, as there is nothing else like it!

    So in response to your question as to why it is so hard to play... in all actuality its not that hard at all... but it is hard to do it well. Blues is like communication... and since the meaning of the communication is in the response you get, the quality of the blues you play is in the response you get from your listeners. Do they feel your pain and/or merriment? If not, you are not communicating it effectively enough. Playing live is the only way to judge that effectiveness... especially to larger audiences, because as one person 'feels what you are saying' the contagion of that connection will spread and eventually it will bounce right back to you... after which you can tweak and perfect it and make it your own... at which point it can be called mastery. Playing for yourself might get you off, but it is no substitute for the real deal (yes, we are talking guitars here).
    Tone To The Bone!
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  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member PLarson's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by duaneflowers View Post
    More so than any other genre of music, at least for me, the blues has to be felt before it can be played. The notes that express true emotion... pain, hunger, relief, lust... are the ones that go down in blues history. IMHO those that can't effectively express those emotions through their playing are simply not playing the blues. While you may be used to Helloween & Yngwie and Neo-Classical attempts to cram as many notes as possible into an expression to relay a particular thought... with the blues, quite often, one well placed note can replace a hundred... bringing forth a visceral response... and that note will continue to ring out long after the music stops.

    A lot of playahs mastered the blues by copying their heros... BB, PG, EC, GM, DA... etc., note for note. Getting the phrasing and sustain right, learning to put that little, almost imperceptible bend at the end of a note, the tremelo of a mellow jackhammer, the timeless sexiness of Marilyn Monroe or Raquel Welch, the depth of the philosophical inquiries of Plato or Wittgenstein, the playfulness or mirth of a puppy, the inquisitiveness and wide eyed wonder of a new born baby, the lift and soar of an eagle, the colors of the leaves in august, the finality of death... all expressed in various shades of mind blowing tone. That, to me, is the blues... accept no substitutes, as there is nothing else like it!

    So in response to your question as to why it is so hard to play... in all actuality its not that hard at all... but it is hard to do it well. Blues is like communication... and since the meaning of the communication is in the response you get, the quality of the blues you play is in the response you get from your listeners. Do they feel your pain and/or merriment? If not, you are not communicating it effectively enough. Playing live is the only way to judge that effectiveness... especially to larger audiences, because as one person 'feels what you are saying' the contagion of that connection will spread and eventually it will bounce right back to you... after which you can tweak and perfect it and make it your own... at which point it can be called mastery. Playing for yourself might get you off, but it is no substitute for the real deal (yes, we are talking guitars here).
    Words of wisdom, thanks. I haven't always been playing at home. I was in this blues/rock cover band for a long time. But I started to feel bad, playing the same songs over and over every sunday. I got tired of it and quit. Playing at home ain't that bad. You put on a record listening and playing with the best musicians in the world. But playing live is great. Don't get me wrong. Playing a popular old song for an audience who is near extacy is great! Well, one of these days I've got to join a band again. Playing the blues....

  7. #7
    Les Paul Froum Member duaneflowers's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Tone To The Bone!
    LP=[(CC*8)+(Sig*5)+(R9*2)+R8+R7+R6+(R4*2)+(50sT*2)+Stu D+LPX]+[(EpI*19)+(EsP/Ed*6)+(ToKi*3)+(Ba*3)+(Fe/Bu*2)+(ObG)+(CMS)]

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Play honest. The Blues is truth. Ditch the pick as Banker says and dial down the distortion. Sing the phrase you wish to play, think vocally. The complexity is found in the note, not in how many. Attack, sustain, bent, release and vibroto can all occur within a note. The better you can become fluid and natural with the guitar the better, and when it's called for you can certainly rip it up fast and with intent.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member chuckNC's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    The pentatonic scale may be the same between blues and rock but the style of playing is very different. Most rock players end up sounding like they're playing rock guitar over a blues song because they aren't attuned to the stylistic "language" of the blues. Great blues players are masters of making the guitar talk.

    Elements:

    Timing: Sometimes hitting notes ahead of the beat or behind it -- on purpose of course -- to play around/against the beat.

    Dynamics: Emphasizing some notes more than others the way an interesting speaker would. Because playing the blues is telling the story with your guitar.

    Space: Leaving air in the music. Sometimes in unexpected places!

    These items are a big part of something called "tension and release." Good blues playing is full of this. Like good lovemaking.

    The other element I would mention is funk. This is the toughest thing for guys who grew up on hard rock to get. Hard to describe but I know when it's there. And also when it's not. I struggle with all of this stuff because I grew up a hard rock guy. About the time I lose myself a little bit, my old "native tongue" returns! It helps to listen to a lot of blues. For me Chicago blues especially seems to help get my thinking back into blues territory.

    ____________
    One more thing occurred to me before I hit the Submit button. Most rock guys think playing blues is all about bending strings. If you try to rein that in a little bit you may be surprised how much more 'blue' your playing will be.

    Hang in there, you'll get it!
    If it sounds good, it is good.

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member kidmo's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Get a mean woman, when she steals your money, wreaks your truck and takes your dog, the blues will come to you.
    No comment

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by kidmo View Post
    Get a mean woman, when she steals your money, wreaks your truck and takes your dog, the blues will come to you.
    Wait.....that's the formula for Country! When she kills you, or steals your heart or the devil be taking your soul or your woman or both, or nobody loves you, that's the blues.

  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member guitplayer's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    You have to been in jail at least once.
    " Never Mind Your Face, just show us your card"

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member joemags54's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by renderit View Post
    Wait.....that's the formula for Country! When she kills you, or steals your heart or the devil be taking your soul or your woman or both, or nobody loves you, that's the blues.
    HA! ... ..............Actually, your thread title has the makings of a blues tune, built right in....
    "Big time Bill. Big time. Big time.".... Ronnie Hawkins

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by joemags54 View Post
    HA! ... ..............Actually, your thread title has the makings of a blues tune, built right in....

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member mistersnappy's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Play honest. The Blues is truth. Ditch the pick as Banker says and dial down the distortion. Sing the phrase you wish to play, think vocally. The complexity is found in the note, not in how many. Attack, sustain, bent, release and vibroto can all occur within a note. The better you can become fluid and natural with the guitar the better, and when it's called for you can certainly rip it up fast and with intent.
    Big Al speaks The Truth.

    Here is an example of this: Clapton shredded some blues changes waaaay back in the day. Go to 3:08:50 on this video of some live Derek and the Dominos on Stormy Monday. Check out his 12 bar intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maMYLqQegAc

    Let me know what you think.
    "That's what I love, man, to hear that backbeat popping, that damn bass plonkin' down. Jesus God!"-Duane Allman

  16. #16
    Les Paul Forum Member FretsAlot's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    ...
    Last edited by FretsAlot; 05-06-15 at 07:56 PM. Reason: just cuz
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  17. #17

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    I started out in the 80's playing metal and hard rock, which led me to the influences of those bands, and in turn who influenced those bands.

    Listen to the chords and phrasing of the solos. They are saying something. It's not wanking or exercises. As mentioned slow down, lose the pick if you have to, and make every note count... let one bent note hang and cry as it's released. That'll say more than a thousand 32nd notes. Find your notes in the major and minor pentatonic and blues scales that are bending points (*ALL OF THEM), and use them. Almost think of it as being vocals.

    Then, what's cool is incorporating some of the flash and speed every now and then to your bluesy solos. I know it pisses of some of the purists, but so what! LOL.
    "So I let the poison go, 'cause baby I always know it'll be there for me"

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member herb's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    THe great blues players have put a ton of work into their phrasing. You cannot just play "the right scales" and call it "the blues". Every line you play must be saying something. "Saying something" in music means that you are communicating a musical idea or theme with your listener(s). We've all heard someone we dig play a phrase and think "wow, that really struck a nerve in my soul". If you haven't, maybe a new passion/hobby is in order.

    Listen to someone who is known as a "good phraser" to see how they do it. Transpose a solo to get ideas. Take these ideas and play them with a friend or over a backing track. Ya gotta practice this stuff.

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member clayville's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    My two cents... Play like a blues singer: behind the beat and with lots of emotion. Economy is your friend, but put all your effort into the little details. Slide or pre-bend into notes, toss in some meaningful vibrato, repeat yourself for emphasis, weave in and out of rhythm and melody.

    And study the form in all it's manifestations. "The Blues" is a very big genre and it helps to hear and feel the difference between Texas and Chicago, between Memphis and New Orleans, between the 1930s, the 1950s and the 1970s.

    Start now.

  20. #20

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by clayville View Post
    My two cents... Play like a blues singer: behind the beat and with lots of emotion. Economy is your friend, but put all your effort into the little details. Slide or pre-bend into notes, toss in some meaningful vibrato, repeat yourself for emphasis, weave in and out of rhythm and melody.

    And study the form in all it's manifestations. "The Blues" is a very big genre and it helps to hear and feel the difference between Texas and Chicago, between Memphis and New Orleans, between the 1930s, the 1950s and the 1970s.

    Start now.
    +1

    Play like a blues singer or a horn player. Phrasing is key because they have to breathe in between.

    Listen to a singer sing a line and follow up with a phrase. That call and response is the key to the blues

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Don't forget to swing the beat. Time is everything. You cannot be a good blues player if'n you can't swing/shuffle/and playin' deep in the pocket. Just ride that flat tire. IT IS ALL ABOUT FEEL!!!
    The older I get, the better I was.

  22. #22
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by PLarson View Post
    I started playing guitar pretty late- I think I was 13-14 something. All my heroes played melodic hard rock- Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Whitesnake and so on. After a while I started to listen to really fast guitarplayers, like Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen. But now that I'm old, I mostly listen to blues and I would like to play the blues. But it's like my fingers want to run away and still play fast, fast.
    I play the blues pretty good these days since i lost my job for the second time in 6 years!

  23. #23

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by pyeman View Post
    I play the blues pretty good these days since i lost my job for the second time in 6 years!
    Sorry to hear that man. But that'll make you feel it for sure.
    "So I let the poison go, 'cause baby I always know it'll be there for me"

  24. #24

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    blues is a states of mind, not a musical style.
    forget about all of the technical advice offered here and just dig deep.
    blues doesn't have to fit into any preconceived templates like pentatonic
    scales, etc.
    just tell the truth and you'll be fine.

  25. #25
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by les strat View Post
    Sorry to hear that man. But that'll make you feel it for sure.
    Cheers dude,love your avatar by the way but i can't seem to enlarge it!,think i'll try to talk the wife into posing like that

  26. #26
    Les Paul Forum Member GySgtFTL's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Have you been to Rosedale or possibly Clarksdale? I've heard that helps.

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Member TT100's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Play honest. The Blues is truth. Ditch the pick as Banker says and dial down the distortion. Sing the phrase you wish to play, think vocally. The complexity is found in the note, not in how many. Attack, sustain, bent, release and vibroto can all occur within a note. The better you can become fluid and natural with the guitar the better, and when it's called for you can certainly rip it up fast and with intent.

    This ^.

    Breath it. My favorite players phrase as is they were blowing sax or trumpet. Organic. Give the music room to breath between statements.

    TT
    Life is short but it's wide.

  28. #28

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by renderit View Post
    Wait.....that's the formula for Country!
    Yep. You'll end up sounding like this:


  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member TT100's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Love me some Jon Wayne. What a mess.
    Life is short but it's wide.

  30. #30
    Les Paul Forum Member tdarian's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Tommy Harkenrider was able to help me steer out of a bluesrock rut and into the old time stuff that really fused jazz and swing. It has really helped....my "go to" noodles are now Jazz chords and fills. I would suggest contacting Tommy, he's got Skype students all over the planet, great guy who loves to teach.

    http://tommyharkenriderguitar.com/lessons/

    Here's Tommy with Nico Duportal


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  31. #31

    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    The only way really is to immerse yourself in the music. Listen to the greats of blues guitar over and over, try to pick up their licks and their phrasing, listen to when they rest (as important as playing). As an exercise try restricting the number of notes you fret, say 3 or 4. and trying to put as much expression into those (bends, pull offs, hammer ons , slides etc incorporated). A great player is someone who knows when 5 notes will say more than 15, it can be very tricky, I wouldn't say I've mastered it myself lol.
    My recommended listening would be Peter Green (Hard Road and early Fleetwood Mac), Ronnie Earl (practically anything he's done, he's a master of good taste and restraint), Jimmie Vaughn (solo and early Fabulous Thunderbirds), Eric Clapton (Bluesbreakers Beano album), BB King (50's 60's recordings especially Live at the Regal), Freddy King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Magic Sam, T Bone Walker, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, the list goes on.
    Perhaps zone in on a couple of favourites and study their approach and their influences.
    Ronnie Earl did have an instructional video out with Hotlicks, Blues with soul ? that is a great help with phrasing and minimisation. No idea if it is still available.
    Also for a 30min master class in blues check out Roy Buchanan Live in Austin on YouTube. He does it all, fast, slow, 100 notes or 1 note, no gimmicks, just guitar and amp.
    Practice with a looper (good for your timing and rhythm playing, not all blues is strictly I IV V) or backing tracks. Record yourself and listen back and pick out what worked and what didn't.
    No instant recipe, just listen, watch, and practice
    Steve

  32. #32
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    I find the quick, snaky noodles stuff to be rather easy, when I need to bust out of a rut I simplify. Take it back down low where it ought to be. Live in the pocket, get deep oin that pocket so that your whole being is responding to the beat. Then tell your story with short stabs with sustained notes. Make 'em cry and whine, milk the tone from their bones.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  33. #33
    Les Paul Forum Member Mars Hall's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    From your avatar, if that's you, you are playing a Les Paul, so you have that covered. What kind of rig are you playing through? For me, my rig has to be speaking to me in the sense that it inspires my playing. Perhaps your tone is saying "shred" versus "cry"...
    "What's that man movin' cross the stage?
    It looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page..." Paul McCartney

  34. #34
    Les Paul Forum Member Elmore's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    It is a matter of inspiration. What helped me is learning licks form the CD white boy blues by Eric Clapton. It is very early Clapton. That is the blues guitar that inspires me.
    "What's it SOUND like, baby?" - Ray Charles

  35. #35
    Les Paul Forum Member Kris Ford's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elmore View Post
    It is a matter of inspiration. What helped me is learning licks form the CD white boy blues by Eric Clapton. It is very early Clapton. That is the blues guitar that inspires me.
    I had a cassette of that in the early 90's...wasn't Beck and Page on it as well?
     photo norlin_logo.jpg

  36. #36
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    This post just reminds me of the time i heard zakk wylde apparently "playing the blues"
    It was the worst thing id ever heard in my life , pure torture !!!
    Same thing with Slash


    love both players though , just not playing the blues...

    I try not to play to much blues these days cos it hurts like fuck and its hard for me to come back from that state of mind once ive gone there.

    peace man

  37. #37
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Send me all your money,Let me kick in your stahl ..If that dont give you Blues..Nothing will..
    early morning sunshine tells me all i need to know..

  38. #38
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Why is the blues so hard for me to play?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevmoe View Post
    Send me all your money,Let me kick in your stahl ..If that dont give you Blues..Nothing will..at all
    Fixed it for ya...
    Renderit, You have an interesting perspective and your posts aren't boring...
    Ren, all in all, I'm giving you a C- today's posts...
    Most of what you write with regards to my posts is cryptic nonsensical gibberish like this. I would prefer if you actually added something to the conversation but hey, I haven't walked in your shoes. So being as nice as possible: I look at your posts as if I was dealing with an eccentric cousin who comes to visit unannounced.

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