February 21st, 2017
When I first started listening to the blues, I found myself traveling back and forth between worlds. It was a bit like changing my diet. I remember times when I ate a lot of candy bars and fruit would taste weird, like it did not belong in my body. Or like it was a pale substitute for the concentrated sugar rush of chocolate and caramel… Then I would swear off sugar for a while and my taste buds would change and I would get used to apples and peaches and actually crave them, and then a snickers bar would taste weird and too sweet.
There seems to be some kind of audio taste buds that resist going from heavy blues to to other forms of music that have a very different vibe. When It comes to playing the blues, really going down past the superficial levels into the depths of the music, I’ve found in my own life that I had to immerse myself to the point where I would instinctively start avoiding other kinds of music.
I think I finally figured out what was going on. I had to get completely away from the gravitational pull of the major scale in order to live in this other world long enough to start claiming my own form of dual citizenship.
It is like the difference between studying German once a day for an hour when you live in Cleveland Ohio and moving to Berlin and getting a job somewhere where you have to understand German or you will get fired.
Eventually you will be able to toggle between German and English, but to add the German to your mind – body operating system you have to get away from the gravitational pull of English for a while. It just scrambles your signals…
And so it was for me – learning blues meant living with the sounds around me all the time. The greats – Muddy, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I & II, all the usual suspects plus anyone else that came along that had the mojo.
But there is one more element that I have developed a great respect for and that is the physical process of playing the blues scale. There is something about getting really good at playing those six notes in every possible combination you can come up with that will make you feel like you are finally starting to inhabit the Blues instead of just visiting from time to time.
The process of playing the Blues Scale notes in sequence and then recombining the notes as many different ways as you can think of can become an obsession that will change the way you feel inside and the way you listen to music.
I did not grow up in a blues culture. I’m making up for lost time by building reflexes into my system through massive repetition. Now when I go back to listening to Blues, I can hear things that used to get away from me.
I put a video together on ways to practice and explore the blues scale -You can download the tab here: blues scale tabs Grab a harmonica in the key of A and check it out… here it is:
Please take a moment to leave a comment below if you have ideas / lesson requests- thanks!