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How to Play a Blues Solo

Learn how to play a blues solo with this keyboard tutorial from Howcast.


Hi, this is Stephanie Sanders from Tomato's House of Rock and I'm going to show you how to do a blues solo. So, the most crucial thing when you're playing a blues solo is really knowing the blues form. So, let's look at it in the key of C. There's a specific pattern that happens with the blues and while there are a couple variations, like you may have heard an 8-bar blues, a 12-bar blues, a 16-bar blues, there's a core formula that's always happening in any key of the blues.

So that formula is that we're going start with the 1 chord. Which, for us, in the key of the C, is going to be C. Then, you want to go to the 4 chord. And then often, you back to the 1 chord again. And then, from there, in about the second half of the form, we're going to hit the 5 chord, which in the key of C, is going to be G. And then you're going back down to the 4 chord. And then bring it all the way back to the C chord.

And then at the end, sometimes for the last measure, people like to back to the G, which is the 5. Just to sound like it's coming back around again, back down to your C. So, just to show you one time through the form with chords now, I'm just going to do pretty simple, open, shell voicings. So here's our 1 chord, and then, we're going to go the 4, and back to the 1. And this one normally gets held twice as long, so I'll hold it again. And then, we'll go to the 4 again for twice as long. And now, back down to the 1.

Now, we're going to get our 5 chord. To the 4 chord. And then back down to the 1 chord. And like I said, if you want to go back to that 5 really quick, you can. And then, we start all over again on the 1. So, very familiar sound. And like I said, there's many variations on that, but that's really the core form for our blues that we're going to work on. So what you really want to do is get that form in your bones. Get it in your blood, get it in your sleep. Get it so that you don't even have to think about it anymore, because that's going to make taking a solo over those changes feel much easier.

Another tip for starting a blues solo is just pick one minor pentatonic scale. And typically, the best one to use is going to be the scale from the one chord. So, since we're playing a C, we're going to want to use the C-minor pentatonic over that. So, I threw in the blue note again, our sharp 4, because that is definitely crucial to taking a blues solo.

Just for an example, if this were in another key. Let's say we were in the key of G, where G would be our 1. C, now, is our 4. And D would be the 5. I would still think about what my 1 chord is, which is the G. And I would use the G-minor pentatonic. So again, we would have...

Now, I'll go to the 4 chord. Still with the G-minor pentatonic. And just so you can hear it with the 5 chord, the 4 chord. So there it is, whatever key you're in, find the 1 chord, find the minor pentatonic for that 1 chord and then just use that scale through the entire solo.

Make sure to get your minor scale and even more specifically, your minor pentatonic scale really under your fingers, so it feels really comfortable when you go to solo with it. So let's see how it sounds in an actual solo with some music.

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