Lesson 26: Blues

Master covered some territory last week by talking about applications of the Lydian Dominant in two scenarios – resolving and non-resolving progressions, the latter in examples such as a I IV V blues 12-bar.

While discussing this, it occurred to me that I know very little about the basic framework for playing Blues – my standard approach being just to slap the relevant minor pentatonic from the same root over whatever chord is up at the time (wrong!).

Master spent a little time talking about the backdrop and evolution of Blues which I found beneficial, then we launched into some practicalities of how and where to substitute chords over the vanilla standard chord progression, more of which I will lay out as I get through them.  Here’s some for starters:

Standard progression in G : (I G7 IV C7 V D7)

| G7   | %  | %  |  %  |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| D7  |  C7 |  G7 | D7  |

First off, changing bar 9 and 10 to create a ii V I movement is quite a jazzy thing to do:

| G7   | %  | %  |  %  |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| Am7D7 |  G7 | D7  |

Another common thing is to introduce a ii V I in bar 4 in the key of C (Dm7 G7 C7).

| G7   | %  | %  | Dm7 G7 |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| Am7D7 |  G7 | D7  |

Maybe, to create a V-I movement approaching bar 9, we can introduce E7 in bar 8:

| G7   | %  | %  |  Dm7 G7 |

| C7   | %  | G7 | E7  |

| Am7 |  D7 |  G7 | D7  |

There’s still stuff I am struggling with on a theory side. I find it hard to mentally reconcile the use of all the 7 chords and think in a certain key. Master said ‘let that go’. For example, over the I chord, my natural tendency would be to play G minor pentatonic, playing around the dorian, which says to me that we are in the key of F. Master said to throw this kind of thinking out of the window.  Actually, the above progression is in C and we might approach the tonality as G mixolydian, but even this is too static a way to think. Blues breaks a lot of rules and isn’t described well from a theory point of view. It just sounds good, so let’s let it just be so. I hope to understand why things sound the way they do as we progress.

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