HOW TO PRACTICE TIME, FEELING AND SOUND GREAT
In this article I will present a simple, yet effective way to play the blues right away. There will not be any significant chord changes, everything will be more or less based on your feeling.
Ok, let's get to work. Firstly we'll focus on the rhythmic aspect of your playing. We'll take a shuffle rhythm in 4/4 measure. So basically we have 8 eight notes in a measure, but we play every second eight note as it was the last one in a group of three triplet eight notes. The easiest way to get the feeling of a shuffle rhythm is to check it on YouTube. Basically it's ta--ta-da--ta-da--ta-da--ta, or if you count 123 123 123 123 and play every 1st and 3rd note, while playing every 1st note on the beat.
Ok, so now we have cleared that. Now you can start to play. For example, we'll later play in A minor pentatonic, so we'll play this rhythm on tone A on 6th string continuously. It's important to remain cautious on the length of the measure, so taping your foot on every beat would be really good. This will be our rhythm 1.
For the rhythm 2 we'll add some chords on the last two beats in a measure. Basically we'll add chords C and D, the order of those two chords I leave to you. So now we'll play like this: A-AA-AA-AC-D, or A-AA-AA-AD-C. The chords C and D you can play as power chords, or you can play 5th fret on 3rd and 4th string simultaneously for C and 7th fret on same two strings simultaneously for D. For A you can play A7 bar chord, A power chord, or even just the sole tone A. Or a combination, for example, on the first beat of the measure you can put A7 bar chord and then continue to play just the tone A until chord change. Be creative, find what sounds good to you.
It's starting to feel like the "real" music already, right? Ok, wait for what comes next.
Now we'll add some soloing. Basically, we'll play the rhythm for one measure, and solo for next measure, rhythm for one measure, solo for one measure etc. For soloing you can play a simple A minor pentatonic, you can add blues phrases that you might know, or you can just improvise. The important thing is to return back to rhythm on the first beat of the following measure. Playing like this, you'll develop a strong feeling for time, but you'll also expand your creativity, while practice switching from rhythm to solo playing. Yep, more than one of the most essential areas of musicianship, all at once. On the other hand, being limited by the length of one single measure will force you to play short phrases, which are often more memorable, more simple and more effective. When you play something you like, try to repeat it(a phrase being short comes handy now, huh?), write it down, memorize it, and put it in your personal arsenal of phrases that you use.
If you want to complicate things a little bit, try playing phrases also between your rhythmic measure. For example, play the rhythm(a tone or a chord) on the first beat of the measure, then play a phrase, but return back to rhythm on the 4th beat of the measure (play chords C and D, or D and C as usually). In this case you don't really have to think too much on which note you'll end your phrase, because chords C and D will sound like the ending of the phrase. That way you'll sound good no matter what you play, as long as you're in the key and (most importantly)switch back to rhythm on the last beat of the measure. This way you'll also play both rhythm and solo on every measure.
When you'll develop a strong feeling for time, you can make your own rhythmic patterns with your own chord progressions, your own licks and phrases in different scales and keys. When you do that, only the sky is the limit to your creativity.
This article was written by Slovenian guitarist, composer, producer and professional guitar teacher Nejc Vidmar. He's presented this exercise to his students many times, and witnessed their rapid progress in playing, while having a lot of fun.