Bridging the Gap Between Rock/Blues Soloing And Jazz Improvisation

I Would Like to Take A Few Jazz Lessons…..

Most if not all of my jazz students come to me with a background in rock ‘n roll and blues. Therefore, the first thing I like to go over with them is the idea of playing the changes, I often share this quote with them that I picked up somewhere along the line:

A guitar solo is a stream of single notes that elegantly, melodically and artistically imitates the sound of the chords.

It is a brilliant, salient thought that I wish I would’ve thought of myself and this simple lukeskywalkerguitarherostatement often points students in a new and fresh direction that they haven’t thought of, because most rock and blues soloing is about working one scale and staying within that pattern, usually the confines of the minor pentatonic (or minor blues) scale which I sometimes refer to as the “pentatonic prison” to drive the point home.  Granted, there is no hot guitar playing without blues scales and minor pentatonic scales -everyone needs to learn to use them and use them well.


In education, scaffolding is a technique that moves students learning and understanding by building on their current skill set and what they already know, invariably hastening the learning process. An educator should provide successive levels of training and support that aid in comprehension and skill acquisition –levels that would not be possible without carefully planned support. Like the scaffolding on a construction site, the ideas remain in place until the building can support itself.  Scaffolding is an indispensable component of effective teaching, and virtually everyone who considers themselves an educator uses various forms of instructional scaffolding as a matter of course.

Compositionally Sound Solos

My first lesson for the skilled rock/ pop / blues player is learning to play and improvise 3 passes of a blues in E, if you are set up for recording I recommend recording them and asking them for their own thought and a self-critique before jumping into an evaluation.  That way, you can use their own words and ideas in your teaching and keep the student from feeling attacked.

Next, I introduce them to this video lesson:

Musically Analyzing the Lesson Plan

Starting off with a well known Blues double stop and a favorite of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn sets the mood and sticks with the style. The 4th bar is the first instance of being slightly outside the box as I am using a diad composed of the b7 and the b5 and sustaining it -challenging the ear.  Rehearsal letter A is all about introducing the “key of the moment” concept and approaching chord tones chromatically, again foreign concept to most studying and learning the guitar. Rehearsal letter B is all about chord tone and tensions before ending the 12 bar pass with an homage to Freddie King’s Hideaway.


Once again chord tones and tensions are leaned on heavily to challenge and develop the ear, bar 4 uses some chromatically ascending 9th chords as an homage to big band and Jump Blues arranging.  rehearsal letter D is strictly a key of the moment approach employing a slightly atypical major 6th arpeggio.


Starting with a well known Blues cliche the third pass is all about rhythmic accuracy.  To make sure students understand the relationship between and the importance of the major and minor 3rd, the point is totally driven home in the second line. The third line is using basic dominant 7th arpeggios before ending with another must know cliche turnaround lick.


Don’t Forget, The Best Guitar School on The Internet Is Free



Three Big Time Reasons Guitar Lessons Must Include The Blues

Young, Sharp Guitar Guys And The New And Improved Way(! ?)

Teaching in the same facility for a long time has afforded me the opportunity to see how lots of other teachers work, the self-taught, the highly educated and all points in between.  Among the new crop of musical school guys there seems to be a disregard for the importance and necessity of a basic understanding of the blues, discarding the innumerable and indispensable benefits and insights that the genre offers to guitarists in their formative years.  Relegating the style to the status of a useless old shoe, an artifact from the past that has no bearing on the new modern way to play is a big mistake. Nothing could be more wrong.

1.)Theory And Songwriting Chops Are Developed Through The Study Of Blues Music

I – IV- V  Harmony is the most obvious and important reason to teach guitar students blues, learning solid, traditional 12 bar blues rhythm parts in particular, is what gives students familiarity and experience with the most important chords in modern American musical harmony,

  • The Tonic (or the one chord)
  • The Sub Dominant (the four chord)
  • and The Dominant (the five chord).

It’s true that the harmonic settings of rock, blues and jazz music are very often a 12 bar blues or an interesting derivative or variation of the I – IV- V harmony.  In a traditional blues, like the one I have outlined below, the functions of the I -IV& V chords are very clearly explained and easily understood, easily heard with a few guided repetitions of the chart that I have reprinted from my book, Blueprint For Hot Guitar.  As I have said before, all lesson plans must be neatly copied and professionally prepared, hopefully with software like Finale or Sibelius, this is my habit of constantly prosecuting the case for musical literacy.


Of particular use to a guitar student is the fact that the IV chord in the traditional 12 bar blues form almost always goes back to the I, the tonic, which makes students question traditional music theory where the IV chord is called the sub dominant and often taught strictly as a predecessor to the dominant chord. In rock, pop, jazz and blues music this simply isn’t true, the blues teaches the flavor and meaning if the all-important I –IV cadence. In this and many other regards, blues is an education in basic songwriting, harmonic ear training and repertoire development, as many famous songs are nothing more than 12 bar blues progressions -especially early rock, funk, electric blues and jazz.

Studying and analyzing the harmonic progressions of the simplest to the most complicated of blues songs is absolutely necessary to anyone who wants to understand modern music.

A recommended book is Modern Blues Guitar By Ken Chipkin

blues book

Great Blues Book By Kenn Chipkin

2.) Blues Always Seems To Be A Part Of The Current Musical Landscape

Blues music has morphed into an industry and a lifestyle. In the modern world of guitar playing, precious few musical genres have ascended to the lofty ranks of the blues. It’s the common ground that guitar players use to play with each other, form groups and bands and most importantly, have meaningful jam sessions. Any pro jam session in any stage around the world centers its activity around blues progressions, there’s just no two ways about it. Understanding and being able to play the blues even a little bit give your students an easy entrance into the larger world of guitar playing, working and improvising with others and helps them to become firmly rooted in the most important traditional American musical style, -giving them the same knowledge base that many of their musical heroes have.

3.)Becoming Active Guitar Players


Being active in the local blues scene is a good way to jam, have fun, get out and meet people and share ideas and moments with other musicians, eventually developing the skills needed to make money the third and final reason for starting the blues is because it’s like a history lesson the syntax vernacular and vocabulary of modern American music is based in large part on the blues, there is no other style or genre that is as influential in the formation of modern American music as blues and any serious course of study and electric guitar should treat blues with the utmost and highest regard and importance. In many great musical education systems such as kindred music and the code I’m historical perspectives and repertoire development are serious and integral part of the method I say and blues guitar playing hold equally as important a place in the study of modern guitar.