The Blues: Mixing-Up Lead & Rhythm Ideas

This post is going to focus on the basics of tastefully making use of lead phrases in-between rhythm playing in a blues situation. Although this exercise is arguably quite sterile, it’s going to be an invaluable first step to get you more comfortable with the concept. Once you’re familiar with it you’ll be allowed much more freedom with your playing.

Below is the structure for what we’ll be playing. This relies on a good knowledge of the 12-bar blues in E, (here’s a link to that lesson), the difference, as you can see below, is that every alternate bar is room for you to solo. In the final bar, however, we’re not going to solo because the turnaround is quite interesting already.imageThe placeholder lick I’m going to demonstrate this with is the following. There’s no reason you have to learn this phrase, if you have your own arsenal of blues or blues-rock licks in the key of E they will do the job just fine.
I would suggest, however, if you’re not going to use this to try and use something in the open position, as it will be easier to play that rather than jumping up to the 12th fret for a bar.image

Here we go! The backing tracks below are longer versions of what I played over in the video, with a piano as well so it’s a little more obvious when the chord changes happen.

Start off with the slower backing here:

Then work your way up to the target speed of 120bpm like the track below:

So now what?

If you have your own blues licks, use them. Even better, move them around the fretboard to accommodate for each chord. As in, when the rhythm is playing an E, play the lick in E, when they move to A, move the lick to A as well. This is called chord-tone soloing and is the secret weapon of many blues greats, (it’s a pretty big deal in jazz too).

If you want to learn some blues new blues licks the implement, you can go here:
L Taylor Guitar’s Blues-Rock Licks #1

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