Sounding Unique in the Blues (Part 3)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Here’s another daring approach to blues soloing that will help you break out of old clich├ęs and introduce new sounds to your playing. In Part 2 of this series, I discussed how to make your blues solos sound more modern and angular by targeting the #4 interval. In this article, I will demonstrate how to create a more ominous sound by adding only one new note, the b2. In a 12 bar blues in E, the first chord, E7, contains the notes E, G#, B, and D. Notice that the intervals between G#, B, and D are all minor. If you add another minor interval after D, you'll create an arpeggio that can be easily visualized as an F diminished 7 built just a half step above the root of E7 (measure 1).

This arpeggio can be superimposed over E7 because it has the same chord tones and only introduces one new note: the F, or b2. In the context of the dim 7 arpeggio, the b2 interval creates a uniquely dark and dramatic effect over its dominant chord. In measure 2 above, I start improvising over E7 with the friendly sounding E mixolydian scale, but then switch to the surprising F dim 7 arpeggio in measure 3. Notice that the dim 7 arpeggio shape can be repeated exactly a minor third up, or down, the neck. In measure 4, I end my phrase safely with the familiar sounding blues scale. For the rest of the 12 bar blues progression, experiment with using a Bb dim 7 arpeggio over A7 and a C dim 7 arpeggio over B7. By alternating between the blues scale, mixolydian scale, and these "outside" sounding arpeggios, you'll create interesting contrasts in your solos that will be sure to turn heads. Tune in to next month's blog where I introduce another fresh approach to soloing involving a scale not usually associated with the blues. Do you want a song or solo transcribed / tabbed out for you? Contact me at for info - rates are competitive and delivery is quick!