One of the most iconic sounds in blues guitar is that of a killer double stop technique (when two notes are played together in a lead context). In nearly all cases, this is done using the notes in the blues or minor pentatonic scale. For example, here are two common double stop patterns:
Even though these double stop patterns sound good, there are various issues that most guitarists have while trying to integrate them into their lead guitar phrases:
1. These common patterns are the same ones used in nearly all blues guitar contexts. Therefore, if you use them frequently in your playing, your phrases will lack originality and your playing will sound less creative.
2. Most guitar players equate using double stops with using one of the patterns above and never think of new ways to apply to apply them in a blues setting. Soon, you will learn just how many options you have for personal expression while using double stops (it’s a lot more than you think).
3. The unique intensity created by double stops is usually resolved as both notes in the lick are played in unison after the bend is finished. This takes away from the expressive potential of the technique to sound extremely intense and aggressive.
In a moment you will learn the main elements of a highly creative blues guitar double stop. Before reading this, check out the demonstration in the video below in order to get the greatest benefit from this article:
Now that you have checked out the video above, read the information below to learn the specific elements that make double stop licks sound creative and intense:
Intense Blues Guitar Double Stops Element #1: Using various notes of the scale
The most widely used blues double stops licks are played in a way that uses two notes to basically emphasize the same exact note (as shown in the video above). A more interesting way to use double stops is to use different notes in the scale you are playing. Listen to this in the examples below:
Start by picking the note on the G string and bending it. Then play one of the notes on either the B or E string to compelte the double stop. When you add this additional note into the lick, this is what makes it sound so intense and aggressive.
In the first example lick of the two from above, you can allow the B string to ring with the other two notes since it is in the same key. However, while playing a double stop in other keys, you will need to mute the B string using the fingers of your picking hand so that it does not create unwanted noise (making your lick sound sloppy/bad). Learn the most effective way to do this by checking out this article about muting excess guitar string noise.
Intense Blues Guitar Double Stops Element #2: Prolonging the dissonance in the lick
In general, most blues guitar double stop licks start with an intense clash between two notes that are a full step away from each other. Then the note of the lower string (in pitch) is bent up to create a unison with the higher note and eliminate the tension. As you saw in the video above, I played double stops using an opposite approach to this. The double stop lick begins with a note in the scale that sounds very stable and is then played together with another note to create a very harsh, intense sound. However, this tension is never eliminated as I allow it to continue until I am done playing the lick. This really emphasizes the intensity in the lick and builds up MASSIVE musical tension.
Intense Blues Guitar Double Stops Element #3: Wide Vibrato
Most players think of using vibrato ‘only’ to emphasize single notes in their guitar phrases. By adding vibrato to both notes in your double stops, you will make the lick sound incredibly intense and creative. To hear the difference between these two approaches, listen to the example below. The first part of the audio doesn’t use vibrato, while the second emphasizes both notes using vibrato.
Notice: In order to apply balanced vibrato to each of the notes in the double stop lick, you need to have solid vibrato technique and/or use either a floating bridge or whammy bar. Keep your lick in tune and mute any strings that are not being played to prevent it from sounding sloppy. Learn how to keep your blues licks clean while playing with high intensity by reading this article on how to play blues guitar.
Advanced Blues Guitar Idea: Using a barre to add more notes
You can add even more intensity to your already aggressive sounding double stop lick by playing more than two notes simultaneously (refer to the video above 44 seconds in). An easy way to do this is to first bend the note on the G string and then play two additional notes on the B and E strings. Here is what this will sound like:
Use a barre with your ring finger or pinky to play the notes on the 15th fret. Here are some more samples of what this sounds like:
In order to apply vibrato to these advanced double stop licks, you will need to use a guitar with a floating bridge by pressing back and forth on the bridge with your picking hand (as seen in the video above). However, if you don’t own a guitar with a floating bridge, that is fine too. You can still implement the concepts discussed in this article to enhance your blues guitar playing.
To quickly get good at using the types of double stop licks in this article, practice them in isolation first before using them in your improvisation or lead guitar phrases. Then while you are soloing, use them to inject tons of intensity into your phrase.
The more you work on thinking of new variations the faster you will be able to easily integrate them into your playing. That said, understanding how to create intense blues guitar double stops is just one aspect of becoming a killer guitar player. Find out what you need to work on now to improve your guitar playing as a whole by downloading this free guitar practicing eBook.