Joe Bonamassa on Minor Blues Soloing

November 4, 2014

IN OUR LAST INSTALLMENT WE SAW JOE Bonamassa take us through a sweet and sorrowful minor blues progression. Now he’s going to show you how to work through your sadness by absolutely shredding over those same changes. Before we let the healing begin, keep in mind that this chart is just an approximation of what Bonamassa played. His lines are more of an intro cadenza and are played molto rubato, i.e. in free time. He speeds up and slows down at will, so the rhythmic designations here are just vague suggestions. Also, by his own admission, this is not how Bonamassa would typically approach an emotional solo: “I normally wouldn’t play that technically.” As woodshedders we should be glad that he did, though, because each bar stands as a great chops builder.

He starts it off with a classic pentatonic lick with a twist: Despite the Cm backdrop, Bonamassa still adds a quarter-step bend to the b3, blurring the distinction between major and minor. It seems like it wouldn’t work, but it does. At the end of bar 2 the burning begins. These four-note groupings are a recurring motif for him, and even though he can whip them off machine-gun style, it’s okay to break them up with pauses, bends, hammers, or pulls. Over the Fm chord in the 4th bar he sweeps an arpeggio and then cruises up to the thirteenth position for some triplet-infused hammer-ons that bring in the 9 (G), a potent flavor in a minor blues. When we get back to the I chord, Bonamassa throws down another of his blistering four-against six runs. Again, treat what’s written here as an exercise, and then in a solo, just use as much or as little as you see fit.
When we get to the V chord, he does a tasty augmented run that fearlessly makes use of both B and Bb. There’s definite gold in this bar—mine it! As we near the end, dig the bend that connects the Fm to the Cm—it spans two full-steps and is packed full of emotion. Get these moves under your fingers and go tell your tale of woe!
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