For this article a few snapshots which may make life easier when you dig in those strings to get those riffs to come alive.
Most of these ideas do not only apply to blues, they can be used for any form of improvised music and working out solo ideas.
Learn to play a theme
Very important, the theme is like a main riff, or melody which introduces the song. The theme is often followed by improvisation which is meant to be as a variation on the theme. This kind of approach has been used often by Jazz standards but most forms of electric blues uses these ideas as well.
If you can, work out the theme by ear. Why? Because you will find out where the melody is played on the guitar. Once you have the theme, play it in various places. Figure out what makes the theme work, think about rhythm of the notes and what kind of notes are being used. With the kind of notes I mean the intervals: Is theme played in octaves or is it powerchords or……………. Think of “Sunshine of your Love” this can be played with powerchords, but you can also use octaves. Different artists have played this idea in different ways. Make sure you know what is behind the riff, it does help instead of just blasting out the notes and not really knowing what is behind those notes.
Learn One Solo Idea
Once you have your theme look at some of the solos, take an idea you like best and learn this note for note. As with the theme, play this solo idea in one position, then move same idea around in different positions. Do not jump positions like, play one note in one position and move up to twelfth position for next note. This makes for sloppy playing and does not sound good. Play the solo first slowly and clean, speed up your playing once your technique is in place.
Similar as with the theme, ask yourself why certain notes are being used: Are the rootnotes? 5th or b3rd or blue note or……………? The understanding of the notechoice will help you with your own playing.
Learn to Swing
Very important, you need to play with the right rhythms. A solid rhyhm from the backing band will inspire you to play over a song. Sloppy rhythms will make up for solos to sound weak and wrong. There are quite a few major artsist who depend on the strenth of the playing of their band. In any band situation anyone should be strong with their sense of timing and rhythm. When you play on your own always be aware of the feel and rhythm of the song. Playing along with recordings will help you to develop your sense of rhythm.
Once you start to work out solo ideas from other guitarplayers it is easy to get overwhelmed: You hear all these great ideas and you want to grab them all and learn them all at once in one evening. Wrong!! B.B King once mentioned that he was happy to pick up one idea a day. It is better to learn one idea, make sure to understand this idea and run with it. Once you have that idea in your head and under your fingertips, you will be able to use it at will at any time.
Enjoy working out solos and hope to see you soon again,