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MojoJim
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1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by MojoJim »

Well, I'm still working on learning to play my guitar and getting a recording I can post. This is my first time through the process and I continue to encounter surprises. Today's challenge is about counting time while playing. The way I see my progress so far as:

1. Learn the notes of at least one scale up and down the fretboard.
2. Put those scale notes into licks and riffs and learn to noodle around without too much trouble.
3. Harness these new skills into the 12 bar blues format and play some simple blues. This is where I'm having trouble.

First, something I consider good news. I've always read that blues artists say they seldom play the same song (or solo) the same way from performance to performance. I always thought that would be really hard and that meant they were highly skilled. I'm finding that if you can noodle around (improvise) a little bit then the natural tendency is to play something a different way each time. That's what I do so I'm really pleased about that. Of course, you tend not to play very well when you're just noodling around - so that's a problem. You also don't pay any particular attention to musical time.

The hard part is to play it the same each time. If I'm playing along with a backing track and I like what I'm playing I'll just keep going. Then I find that I stop about a measure and a half past where I was supposed to stop. If I play it again I wind up in a different place.

The 12 bar blues format is simple and I've actually got a good sense of rhythm - it's clear that I just need to count the time and keep track of the measures as I move along. But right now I can't concentrate on my playing and simultaneously count the time. I'll be playing along and trying to count and suddenly find I'm completely lost on both things. I have to wait for a chord change so I can sync up again. And if I concentrate real hard on the count I find I'm playing the blues with only quarter notes - and that ain't the blues. I can play in time with the beat just fine. But I get lost as to where I am in the overall 12 bar structure.

So the question is: Do I work on the skill of simultaneously keeping the time and also playing the music? That's probably possible. It's like keeping the alternating bass line going with your thumb while playing country blues (I can't do that either). Or learning to play the keyboard with your left and right hands working independently (I can't do that either). Or patting your head while rubbing you tummy (I can do that). It's training your brain to do two asynchronous things at once.

When I do trial recordings now I get the time worked out by converging on a solution through successive approximations (see - there's that engineering background again). I record with a backing track and if I find that I've gone long because I was busy noodling then I go back and rework something so it's shorter. Then I record again. If I've missed it again that I rework something else. That works fine sitting in front of my computer - but not if I actually hope to perform some day.

Any advice?

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nxsneil
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by nxsneil »

IMO, most of the troubles you are coming across can be solved by listening to blues recordings,it's a "feel" thing. Concentrate on identifying and playing the changes (eg in "A" blues from the 1 chord A to 4 chord D then back to A etc) this will help your timing. If your playing a Major blues try using the Major scale for the 1 chord then change to the Minor scale for the 4 & 5 chords this can also help.
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BadBluesPlayer
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by BadBluesPlayer »

I agree with nx. To get the timing of the chord changes, you need to develop a feel for where you are in the tune, rather than counting the bars. I also agree that the best way to develop this feel is to listen to and play along with your favorite recordings - the tunes you already know the best. My feeling is that backing tracks are good for making a recording, but they're not that good to practice with, because they don't usually have much of any structure to them. Playing with your favorite tunes is way easier.

Another thing. Learn to play rhythm guitar parts first and then start throwing in a few licks here and there, and then you can start playing long lead parts. Playing rhythm is how you will engrain the 12 bar tempo into your brain.

If you can learn the basic blues bar chords, the E major and minor forms, the A major and minor forms, the 9 chord - this one:
Image
- the note labelled R in the diagram is the root note, or the key that you're playing in.

these are most of the chords you'll need. I hope this helps.

bluesinbflat
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by bluesinbflat »

Don't overanalyze blues, just play your heart out.

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VikingBlues
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by VikingBlues »

The more you practice and work at it the more you'll find that what you play will fit. Knowing where you are in the piece will also get better and you'll find you won't be thinking about it - your ears will be telling your brain and your brain will be telling your fingers and often you won't notice that these messages have been passed on - it just happens. :clap:

You will notice the word "feel" coming up a lot in the replies to this sort of question and it's true. Work at the theory, yes, but best not to over-analyze.

If I play around with a new backing track and it doesn't have the chord changes in the "usual" places it takes a few run throughs and it trips me up a bit at first .. but .. you find you start to play the right notes to fit the chords, and once you're doinf this your musical memory means when you come back to the backing track later you know how it works.

It's a bit like walking quickly downstairs - if we had to concentrate on moving every muscle and keep a count so the rhythm of our walk was right we'd end up in a heap at the bottom. :thumbsdown: We just do it from learned memory and instinct.

The fact that you're recognsing what is happening should give you encouragement - you wouldn't beleive how many years some of might spend in total ignorance that we've not got it right. :big_smile:
JimRR wrote:I've always read that blues artists say they seldom play the same song (or solo) the same way from performance to performance. I always thought that would be really hard and that meant they were highly skilled.
It's easier playing it differently and it's a great creative outlet. Pieces can evolve and it means we don't get bored playing the same note sequence time after time. Some of the varition will be part of your mood and it means the emotion of the piece will sound right for your mood at the time when you're playing it. Having ploghed through a number of years of classical guitar lessons I can tell you it's much better for my soul to play blues. :banana:
An improv a day keeps the demons at bay!

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12bar
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by 12bar »

I agree with the above - counting is not a real option. You need to feel when it's chord change time.

However, I know that it's sometimes easier to say than to do. If I play to well known Blues standard in the 12 bar form, it's a no brainer (my favorite English word btw. :big_smile: ), as long as it's in a common key. Lately I played with a sax player, who could play fluid unknown songs from sheet music :yikes: and I was lost. I felt like a total beginner, although usually I can improvise to a Blues in E or A for hours. We had some Blues sheet music for sax in strange keys and it contained chords I usually don't use. It was hard. But now I know what to do next - learning more chords. Yes, I can play barre chords and I thought I could easily move up and down the CAGED thing, but this only works if I have the time to fiddle out the positions...

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Blindboy
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by Blindboy »

Heh! Not only do I seldom play a solo the same way twice, I don't think I CAN play a solo the same way twice. :whistle: I rarely know what I am going to pay beforehand, beyond what kind of "feel" it will have or what part of the neck I will play on, etc...
I agree with other posters who say that counting is not the best method for knowing where you are in a song. Practicing with actual songs, rather than backing tracks is a good method. You will be playing "songs", after all. Vocals give a song structure that is easy to hear, and practicing playing rythm and tossing fills between vocal lines will help ingrain that structure in your head (and hands). This will probably also help your soloing sound more "vocal", which is good. You will probably find that you are "playing the changes" before too long. :chicken:
"Throw yo' big leg over me Mama, I might not feel this good again!"

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MojoJim
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by MojoJim »

Thanks for all the great suggestions. Yes, I can see that counting while playing is probably about the same as someone dancing a sweeping Viennese waltz while counting 1-2-3, 1-2-3. You may have to do it at the beginning - but you had better not do it for long or you will never learn to really dance. Why, that's a no brainer :whistle: .

Playing with actual songs that I know rather than just backing tracks sounds spot on. I hadn't seriously considered that because I thought I would have to much competition with the vocals, lead guitar, orchestration, etc. - but I bet that's going to be the best way.

Playing the rhythm parts with lead flourishes also sounds like a great suggestion. I've been wondering about that and developing the notion that rhythm playing is a discipline in itself and not just strumming in the background. Another whole aspect of playing to explore.

I hear the repeated advice about developing a "feel". That sounds like the real solution long term and everything else is just a means of developing this "feel". I expect it will come with time, playing and lots of listening. I probably I can't rush the process of getting a "feel" with lots of rote practice.

Thanks again!

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VikingBlues
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by VikingBlues »

Blindboy wrote:Heh! Not only do I seldom play a solo the same way twice, I don't think I CAN play a solo the same way twice. :whistle: I rarely know what I am going to pay beforehand, beyond what kind of "feel" it will have or what part of the neck I will play on, etc...
I'm glad someone else has this problem!! :big_smile:

The best I have managed is where there's a repeated sort of chorus I play on a track that as an unintended benefit acts as a reference point for the listener. I very rarely manage to do one of these though and it's usually on a peice I've found more difficult to get to grips with.
That means i've had to work on it more and analyse it more so there's more chance of a short passage of notes sticking in what passes for long term memory in this tired old brain. :oldie:

Usually I don't take long enough over a piece to get a regular routine or pattern going and its all "play as you go".

I should work on musical structure more but there's lots of things on the "should do list" and no time to do them all.
JinRR wrote:I hear the repeated advice about developing a "feel". That sounds like the real solution long term and everything else is just a means of developing this "feel". I expect it will come with time, playing and lots of listening. I probably I can't rush the process of getting a "feel" with lots of rote practice.
That "feel" is well on the way from what my ears tell me while being in the blues room. Good stuff. :thumbsup:
An improv a day keeps the demons at bay!

cruisemates
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Re: 1-2 3 4 2-2 3 4 3-2 3 4 4-2 ........

Post by cruisemates »

IN my humble opinion after YEARS of not following my own advice - you MUST play to some kind of rhythm - even of it is just a metronome.

These days you can find tons of drum patterns online (try youtube), or buy a midi keyboard with a built-in drum pattern selection. ALWAYS practice to something, not just your own playing. You will develop a lot of bad habits if you dont have rhythm to back you up.

Here is a little secret - there are some roch rhythms that are a bitch to play - even for someone who has been playing lead for 40 years like me. Try the Beatles song "Rock 'n Roll Music" for example (not the Led Zep version).

I like that advice of playing rhythm & tossing in lead - that will get you started with the concept of solos with a beginning and end.

Also - look for the things that trip you up - and practice those.

Here is something I have been practicing to build up speed:

1 -----------------------------------------10---13---10--------------------------------------------
1 -------------------------10--12--13--------------------13--12--10-------------------------------
1 ---------10--12--13----------------------------------------------------13--12--10-----------------
1 ---12----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Play it as straight eighth notes as fast as you can picking each note - repeating it indefinitely. Look for other similar patterns you can play non-stop like this that are a CHALLENGE.

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