5 Blues Solo Don’ts, or Why You’re Doing Acoustic Blues Wrong

blues-solo-donts01As all aspiring blues guitar players, you, too will (or already have) experience the growing pains of envy at other acoustic blues guitar players. How come they manage to nail their solos during the jam sessions? How do they manage to sound that much better than you – or, better yet, why do your solos sound as if it’s simply going to dwindle off into nothingness? Ask older or more experienced blues guitar players about what you should be doing and they’re likely to give you a vague explanation like “learn the rules, so you can break them”, or “feel the music”. Since such statements aren’t likely to help you any, today’s post breaks down the most frequently encountered mistakes that inexperienced players tend to make. The reasoning here is that if you become aware of what you’re doing wrong, you will be less likely to repeat theses blues solo don’ts.

1. The king of blues solo don’ts: avoiding the rolling motion

In more scientific terms, a “rolling motion” is the same kind of finger movement which guitar players use to play the interval of a fourth – the finger plays two musical notes which come one after the other, on different strings but the same fret. A blues solo without a rolling motion sounds incomplete, as if it were missing something, and you can be sure your audience can tell that something is amiss, even if they don’t have a theoretical musical background.

2. You overuse the downbeat beginning

The problem with starting each musical phrase on a downbeat, irrespective of instrument or musical genre, is that it makes the player sound monotonous, unskilled and lacking imagination. It’s also interesting to note that most listeners will detect players who commit this mistake, even if the musicians themselves are oblivious to it. That’s because most listeners pay attention to the rhythm, not the pitch of a note. The recommended three step solution to this issue is to first improvise a solo that only starts on upbeats, then to alternate them precisely (one downbeat after an upbeat), then to improvise freely, without  a predefined structure. This final stage is the sign that you have become sufficiently accustomed to the mechanisms of improvising solo.

3. You bend your strings wrongblues-solo-donts02

Bending a string should be done according to very specific rules; most often, you need to bend up to a certain pitch. You can learn how to recognize the right pitch by using a tuner during rehearsals. It’s going to take practice, as well as some getting used to it, but with time you will discover that it can come naturally. Otherwise, you will go on committing one of the most atrocious blues solo don’ts, i.e. sounding like your guitar is completely out of tune most of the time.

4. You abuse the pentatonic pattern

Listeners will detect register just as much as they will slipups in terms of rhythm. As such, if you want to keep your solos creative and non-repetitive, stepping out of your ‘comfort zone’ on the fret board is a good idea. Become aware of what your favorite pattern on the fret board is, in order to gain freedom of movement. Learn all the scales, because one of the most aggravating blues solo don’ts is to use the same octave over and over again.

5. You don’t switch positions on the fret board

This has a lot to do with the last one of the blues solo don’ts mentioned above. Most beginner acoustic blues guitar players will overuse the pentatonic scale, but it is equally possible to be ‘stuck’ in another position on the fret board. Consequently, your solos fall flat and fail to develop into greatness. To solve this issue, play your favorite pattern in one fret, then repeat it 12 frets over. Alternate between them, and you will soon be on your way to developing your skill.

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