Joe Bonamassa on Non-Boring Blues Chording Part 2

June 1, 2010
Last month, Joe Bonamassa showed us how to prevent a standard blues progression from sounding too standard. This month, he takes things up a few notches.

“A guy named Danny Gatton showed this to me a long time ago,” he says. “He said, ‘Pretend you’re an organ player.’” Without missing a beat, Bonamassa hits the line in Ex. 1, making it sound amazingly like there’s more than one guy playing. The trick is to take it slowly at first, otherwise the walking bass line won’t be in the pocket. Hint: You might find it easier to hit the G on the third triplet of beat two using hybrid picking. You’ll need to clip that note short to catch the diads that suggest F and C/E on beats three and four. “I’m a big fan of the little ‘half chords,’” he explains. “You don’t want to just play barre chords or it’ll sound like Lawrence Welk. Some 3rds and 5ths will get the job done.”

Repeat the G7 figure four times and then do the same moves in the eighth position for our IV chord, C7. To set up the turnaround, Bonamassa gets back to our original riff for one bar and then does the tasty pulloffs that lead into the Eb9 to D9 for the V chord. (Tip: You can make the pull-offs even cooler by speeding them up and pulling off all the way to an open G before you play the fretted G.) Check out his Robben Ford-esque use of a D11 in the next bar before some more half chords to imply C7. Finally, there’s his cool chording over the G7 and the D7 tells us we’re going back to the top. The thing that makes Bonamassa’s trip so cool is how easily he blends all these different figures into a compelling pattern. And, although the turnaround chords in bar 11 seem to be a current favorite, the guy doesn’t seem to repeat himself much. That’s why it’s important to get not just these moves, but also dozens of others under your fingers so you can mix and match them on the fly like he does. Damn!

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