This solo is from the Jam Zone. Here we play a nice steady blues solo over the 12 Bar Blues in E backing track. The backing music and solo are at quite a slow pace, but the timing is precise. There are parts that will challenge beginners, but nothing ridiculously hard. Stick at it and you'll get some good insights into good blues solo basics.
We'll be mainly using the E pentatonic minor scale to play out some neat blues style licks in this solo. The E pentatonic minor scale is one of the easiest scales on guitar. It only has 5 notes, (hence the name 'pentatonic' which means '5 notes'). The pentatonic minor scale may have a big name, but it's actually one of the easiest scales to learn. It is just like a standard natural minor scale with a couple of notes removed. Read the accompanying page for this ActionTab to learn more about that and other important things that we are doing here.
For much of the melody we emphasize the E, A and B notes - which complement the background chords E5, A5 and B5. Now with the blues, we also use slides and bends a LOT.
We start off by sliding up from D to E and then play the open E and B strings (repeat).
This little melodic 'phrase' or 'lick' (as we call them) is a typical blues style intro - and we use it repeatedly throughout the solo. This intro lick becomes a fundamental part of the melody, as we return to it inbetween other licks and phrases. If the solo was sung by a singer - then this little lick would be the verses. Using little solo 'verses' like this works well in long solos. They give the solo some familiarity and this helps your listeners get into your melody and groove easier.
Pay attention to how notes in the solo are played. Melody is always king when it comes to making music. However, how you play those notes is also very important. Blues is a great example of how technique can be used to make the most of your notes. Bending notes to be just 'off' gives that nice blue-note feel. i.e. don't always bend up by a complete tone or semitone. Bend somewhere inbetween, or just slightly off. You can play the same note a variety of different ways. Doing so helps your solo become more intricate and passionate.
Varying your techniques is especially important when using something like the pentatonic scale where there are only 5 notes. This helps you express even the same notes in quite drastically different ways. Without doing this, the solo will be limited, flat and too mechanical / emotionless. Listen to how the vibrato is used in different places during this solo for a good example...Or how the bends are used - a good example of this is where we first move up to play at the 12-14th frets. That little phrase involves a bend released with a quick pull off.
The bend after that is quite different. There we bend the A and hold it as we then pick the D. Keep the bend on the G string held as you hit the adjacent D note, then start to release the bend and quickly pick it as the string returns to the normal A (the resting note). When done properly, this is a wonderful little trick. It sounds great, and isn't too difficult to do!
When playing the blues, using quick flurries of a few notes and coming to a dead stop is often much more emotive and effective than ripping through scales at 8 notes per second. We use little phrases more than once here. Don't be afraid to use small melodic licks and phrases like this. They are often more memorable than epic solo parts from virtuoso guitar heros.
Lastly, notice how we use the climax of the B5 chord and the turnaround at the end of the ActionTab to do something a little different with the melody. Here we start picking through notes that work with the background B5 chord, then the A5 chord, and then use the G# over the Low E5 chord. The G# is actually a major 3rd (it appears in the E major scale) - and has a strong effect because so far we've only used the minor 3rd note (from the E minor scale), G.
This is a great example of how we can use background turnaround chords to set up a different melodic direction. You need to be careful that you don't play G# over the passing G note in the backing music. That will sound bad. But at this point in the melody it really works well. The G# brings out a different flavour whilst the background chords allow for it. It is a good example of how we use a solo 'turnaround' phrase.