There are too many Blues guitar players out there who know how to play a solo but with no idea on how to play a rhythm. So in this article we will focus on some ideas that go beyond the usual power chords most people play.
The problem is, of course, that most guitar players are scared by harmony. Sure, they may know some chord patterns (after all many of us start by learning the “cowboy chords”), but they have no idea how they are built, what are the main notes in them, and more importantly how to modify them in order to be creative while playing rhythm. It’s actually much easier than it sounds!
You may have seen advanced Jazz or Blues players being able to improvise using chords. It sounds impressive, but it all boils down to know how to create your own chords patterns. Of course the best way to learn this is not to start with a full-blown improvisation, but “just” by learning how to play some creative rhythm. Let’s see how.
The solution is for us to make friends with an interesting musical interval: the tritone. To hear a tritone (that can also called diminished 5th or augmented 4th) try playing the notes C and F# on your guitar. Yes, it’s dissonant! But dissonance is not bad, dissonance is “spice”. Too much, and you have ruined your music, but if you don’t put any then your music is boring.
In Blues specifically the tritone is one of the most used intervals to give that zest that is typical of Blues music. Despite the bad reputation that the tritone gets from classical music – where it was often called “the interval of the devil” and used only with extreme care – the tritone sounds great in the right context. It’s in fact the interval at the core of most chords used in Blues. To see how to use it in practice, watch this video:
What should you do now? Well, no amount of reading or video-watching will substitute for direct experience and ear training so… pick up your guitar and play everything I played in the video. You will see immediately that it’s very easy to create some nifty harmonies just by adding notes on the first or second strings as I explained.
As a side note, this is also one of the best ways to learn “Jazz chords”. Rather than committing all these patterns by heart yo are much better off to see how they are built and what kind of “freedom” you have to modify them, as we have seen here. Of course, the video contains only a small fraction of all the possible Jazz chords, but the important thing here is the method. Have fun with it!