Tempo, rhythm and groove

When you are involved in playing music you will come across quite a bit of terminology that can be a bit confusing at first. Often there is a dry precise definition but the way people use the terms may be a bit confusing. I find that if you don’t understand the basic teminology you can quickly get lost when they are used a bit more loosely than you are used to. In this article I will introduce how I like to think about tempo, rhythm and groove and how they relate to each other. This is just as important as learning scales.

Tempo

Tempo is perhaps the easiest term to explain. Basically the tempo tells you how fast to play the music. I guess that you often tap your foot when you play or listen to music. Most likely you will tap your foot at the tempo of the rhythm (it is not uncommon though to tap your foot at twice the tempo or at half the tempo). In order to get the full picture though you also need to know what the tempo is referring to. To define this we have the time signature, this tells us how the music notation is divided in to musical bars.

4/4 is a very common time signature telling us that each musical bar contain four quarter note beats. Seems fair as four quarter notes would make up a whole note. However not all time signatures are that simple but let’s leave that for another time. If the time signature is 4/4, then the tempo tells you how man quarter note beats to play per minute. Therefore it also tells you how long a quarter note lasts.

The tempo is notated in bpm, beats per minute. 120 bpm translates to 2 beats every second. In 4/4 this means that a quarter note lasts half a second.

Rhythm

If the tempo is the speed of the music then rhythm is the repeating pattern of strong and weak beats. Every bar the same underlying pattern is repeated. Listen to how drummers play, rhythm is their contribution to the music and their playing with tell you which beats are strong and which beats are weak.

In 4/4 the recurring pattern is strongest beat, weaker beat, strong beat, weakest beat. For a blues harmonica player this is important to understand. People will pay more attention to the notes you play on beats 1 and 3, make sure make them count!

In comparison 2/4 rhythm (typically marches) only have two types of beats, a strong and a weak.

Groove

The best way to think of groove is the feeling of the music. A shuffle has a specific feeling and that is the groove. To be more specific I like to think of the groove in terms of how the sub divisions of the rhythm is handled. How is an eigth note played for example?

In rock music the eigth notes are played very straigth forward against the quarter notes. The eigth note between beat one and two is played half way between the beats.

In a shuffle the eigth notes have more of a triplet feeling, the eight note between two beats is delayed so that it is closer to the second beat. This gives a completely different feeling compared to the rock beat.

Beginner Blues Harmonica Riffs Boogie Inspired Rhythm
Depending on the groove the riff will sound different.

Summary

I hope this explanation will make communicating with other musicians easier for you. Maybe this can be your introduction to learning more music theory. A word of causion though. Different styles of music may use these terms differently. In general the way I have described things work most of the time but you may run into different usages as well. For example a beat can mean an entire track or the instrumental part of a song. Groove may mean that the musician is playing a rhtyhm with a lot of feeling pushing and pulling beats with a pleasing effect.

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How to Change Position

In a previous article I wrote about how to explore positions when playing melodies. Using the original position may not be the best choice for you depending on what you want to do. I have received questions on how to do this practically so in this article I will outline a process on how to change position.

Rough process

The rough process to change position is very simple and either require a little bit of music theory knowledge or a cheat sheet. Follow below to to see it in practice.

  1. Find the position of the tab you are working with.
    1. Most likely the tabs you have will also tell you this. If the tabs do not indicate the position at all my first guess would then be that it is in first position. This is not 100% guess but if the first note (or last note) of the tab is 1+, 4+, 7+ or 10+ it is very likely. Many fiest position melodies start or end on the root note which is on those holes.Find out the position of the song you are working with.
  2. Translate the tabs from hole numbers to scale degrees.
  3. Translate the scale degrees to hole numbers/tabs in the new position.

Also remember that when you change to a new position on a harmonica you will also change the key you are playing in.

Change position in practice

Now let’s look at the process above to change position of “Jingle Bells” that we used as a start for exploring positions. Below you see it as a reminder.

Jingle Bels in first position.

The original tab is in first position, below you find the mapping between tab symbols and scale degrees for first position.

Change position scale degrees first position.
Mapping between blow and draw notes and scale degrees.

Below you find the the melody translated to scale degrees. If you combine the infromation you should end up with the translation below.

How to change position of tabs, scale degrees as intermediate step.
The melody translated to scale degrees.

Below you find the mapping between scale degress and second position tab symbols. As yuo can see I added the 3” to get the second scale degree in the low octave. Also the b7th is there but not the 7th.

Change position scales degrees second position
Second position scale degrees.

Finally the melody translated from scale degrees to second position tabs. Simply combine the information from the images above.

Exlopring positions - Jingle Bells second position
The end result in second position.

Summary

As you can see it is not all that difficult to move tabs from one position to another. Why not try it yourself. For my subscribers I have included a “How to Change Position Cheat Sheet” PDF in the Welcome package to make moving between first, second, third and fourth position quick and easy. With the cheat sheet you don’t have to first go to the scale degrees, it is done for you.

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Exploring Positions

Some time ago I wrote an article on why we may chose to play in different positions. Second position is the what most blues players chose for their day to day needs. With this article I would like to challenge you to start exploring positions a bit more. Since it is close to Christmas when I write this, I will use Jingle Bells as my example.

First position

If you find tabs for melodies it is most likely written in first position. These are often quite simple to play on a diatonic harmonica. However, the possibilities for using the strength of the harmonica for expressions and sounds might be limited. I the picture below you see tabs for “Jingle Bells” in first position. Try it out, it is not too difficult.

Exploring positions, JIngle Bells in first position.
Jingle Bells in first position.

While you play it, think about how it sounds. Do you want to add something? Does it sound interesting enough? Asking yourself these questions i key when exploring positions.

Second position

By simply trying out the melody in second position instead you will get a different feel for the melody. Going from a major melody in first position to second position is often quite OK. Most notes will not be too difficult to play. Below you find the tabs for “Jingle Bells” in second position. Try it out to compare to first position.

Exploring positions - Jingle Bels in second position.
Jingel Bells in second position.

Which one do you prefer? Do you get more chances to express yourself? Whas it harder or easier?

Challenge yourself!

The next time you are playing a melody, don’t just play it everyone else plays it. Take some time exploring positions that might give you a better sound.

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Harmonica Playability for Best Sound and Enjoyment

Previously I have written about custom harmonicas, custom combs and techniques such as reed slot sizing. It can seem like quite a lot to consider and for the average player it probably is. In this article I want to highlight the two things that most increase harmonica playability. I have focused on ease of playing and sound.

Two areas, different effects

Let me first say that if you buy custom harmonicas, the modicfications I mentioned here will definately already be implemented. This is for the player who is mostly satisfied with out-of-the-box harmonicas. You can see them as the first steps towards more advanced high-end instruments.

The thing that I have noticed that increase the harmonica playability most for me is the reed gap setup. Whenever I have a problem with unresponsive reeds I can most often fix it by tweeking the reed gap. Getting this right i dependent on your playing style.

The second thing I recommend is to get the harmonica properly in tune. Which tuning scheme you should choose depends on what type of music you play. For blues players I recommend compromised just intonation. If you only play second position and solo you can also consider pure just intonation.

Joe Filisko made an interesting comment at HMW 2018 when asked about custom harmonicas. He said something like “my personal harmonicas are quite rough but I am fanatical about tuning”.

Summary

If you choose to buy a custom harmonica then harmonica playability will not likely be a problem. I have harmonicas from J.A. Harmonicas and they are beautifully set up to work with my playing style and tuned just the way I like. If you want to stick with out-of-the-box harmonicas then reed gapping and tuning is what I recommend you do to get the most out of your instruments. Reed gapping for how the instrument plays and tuning for how it sounds.

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Custom Harmonica, Do You Need One?

A lot of harmonica players are gear heads, me included. Among the things you can spend money on is buying a custom harmonica. I really like custom harmonicas but before you get one I think you need to consider a few things. In this article I will give you my honest opinion on who really needs a custom harmonica.

Pros and cons of a custom harmonica

First let’s define different levels of customization. What I mean by custom harmonica is sometimes called full customization. The harmonica is basically rebuilt with a new or upgraded comb, the reeds curvature is optimised, the reed slots are compressed etc. If the customization is limited to upgraded cover plates for example and the reeds are untouched I would call it semi customization. The harmonica may still perform better than before but a lot of improvements are left out.

Custom harmonica by J.A. Harmonicas.

Custom harmonica by J.A. Harmonicas.

Now on to the pros and what you can expect.

  • Better fit between all part means no air is lost when playing.
  • Can be played louder due to the overall optimization.
  • Increased responsiveness allows for possibility to play really quietly.
  • Increased reed responsivness allow you to bend with increased precision.
  • Overblows become possible.

And the cons.

  • Cost, the more customization you want the more you will have to pay.
  • Less challenging when starting to learn bends. Although this may seem like something you want it can actually hinder your progress. When starting to learn to bend it is good if you are challenged by your harmonica. It will teach you to adapt to the conditions.

So let’s look at different categories of players.

Total beginners

If you are a total beginner chances are that you will not be able to get the full benefit out of a custom harmonica. As I pointed out in the cons it may actually finder you. Out of the box harmonicas today are very good and should be everything you need.

Intermediate players

This category includes a lot of players. Most people in this category can find everything they need from out of the box harmonicas. if you want to try out a custom harmonica it may be a good idea to first buy one of the less advanced models or upgrade with a custom comb. These players definately benefit from a more air tight harmonica but will most likely not take full advantage of the setup.

Advanced players

If you are an advanced player it really comes down to the music you play. Most advanced players can definately benefit from a custom harmonica but tuning may be the thing that is the most important for example. First figure out what you are looking for and then act accordingly. Custom harmonicas just may be the luxury item that elevates your enjoyment. If so, go ahead and buy as many as you need.

Advanced players with specific needs

This category includes overblow players and players with very specific playing styles. If out of the box harmonicas does not produce the level of performance you need then a custom harmonica is probably just what you need. You may need different setups depending on what song you are playing. Your needs and your wallet will set your boundaries here.

Summary

As you can see increased playing proficency and increased specific needs are what drives the need for the indivivual player regarding a custom harmonica. However, I must confess that it is a luxury I like to indulge myself in. It is up to each and everyone to decide. Just make an informed decision.

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Make Learning Scales a Game

This year when I was in Trossingen for the Harmonica Masters Workshops I had a discussion with my friend Hendrik, aka Bigharmonicaman, about learning scales. He wanted my opinion on what he could do to learn scales. Hendrik is a great player and has a great ear for music. I actually questioned if he needed to learn scales, I think he knows them intuitively. After discussing it for a while I understood that what he was looking for was to increase his understanding of music. Scales is definately in tool in that respect. In this article I will share what I suggested to him.

A common problem

For many musicians learning scales is a pre-requisite for more advanced studies. Often people approach it as something to pass and be done with. Like many things learning new patterns take a lot of repetitions. If you don’t enjoy those repetitions you may just skip it and move on. Later on you may find that the work you didn’t do now hinders your application of music theory for example. I suggest getting out of the blind repetition method.

Making learning scales fun and challenging

I am not saying that you don’t need to do a lot of repetitions, what I suggest is a way of making those repetitions more enjoyable. What we are looking for is a way of getting lots of repetitions and keep your interest up.

What I suggest is combining setting limitations at the same time as you use a scale. Basically you choose a subset of the scale and then improvise using that subset. You can either make up the subsets in advance or make it random. To make it random you write the scale degrees on pieces of paper and draw a few from a bowl. Whichever scale degress you get you use for solos over a number of 12 bar rounds.

This process will challenge your creativity (especially when you only have a few notes to choose from, engrain the placement of the scale degrees and teach you how the notes sound over the chords.

Go do it!

If learning scales has been a problem for you before, I now hope I have given you a reason to pick it up again. Try this method and let me know how it works for you!

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Common Breathing Problems for Harmonica Players

The diatonic harmonica is a very interesting instrument. It produces sound both when we are breathing in and we are breathing out. However if you are interested in blues, the bluesiest sounds are available when breathing in (second position for example). As human beings we are very good at taking air into our lungs but we are not very comfortable keeping the air out. This fact is what causes a lot of the common breathing problems for harmonica players. In this article I point out these problems and suggest how you might solve them.

Main categories

There are basically two main categories of breathing problems for harmonica, not getting rid of air and filling up on air too quickly. In the end both categories result in the same thing, your lungs being filled with air and you being very tense. Joe Filisko talked a lot about this in his class at Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018.

Filling up too quickly

By far the most common of the breathing problems for harmonica when filling up too quickly is breathing in through the nose. When you breathe in through the nose you take in air that does not contribute to your playing. It is basically waste. To fix this you first need to become aware of that you are doing it. Set your focus on your nose and play for a while, can you feel any air going in through your nose? If so you need to practice not doing that. A nose clamp is a good place to start. When you can play comfortably with a nose clamp, try removing it and see if you have rectified the problem. This will take time, but it is really essential to get right.

Another problem may be that you are leaking air in around the harmonica. If this is your problem you need to practice in front of a mirror and try to locate where the leak is. Make sure that your lips form a tight seal around the harmonica. This is especially common if you have just taken up tongue blocking.

If you are not taking in air throught the nose or leaking air around the harmonica and still fill up too quickly, you may be playing too hard. Practice playing both softly and hard to get used to both “gears”. In practical situations don’t play harder than you need to. Save your breath for when you need to be louder.

Not getting rid of air

As we want to play as many in notes as possible to get the bluesiest sound we need to figure out ways of getting rid of air. The first thing we can do is make sure that we don’t start playing with out lungs half full (may also be a reason for filling up too quickly). When we are relaxed after breathing out are lungs are not empty, they are actually about half full. Try first breathing out until you feel relaxed and then really push out all the air. You will notice that there is quite a bit of air still to get rid of.

It is a good idea to get into the habit of first pushing out all the air before you start playing a phrase, especially if it is a long phrase with lots of in notes. You also need to be mindful of not taking a breath immediately before placing th ahrmonica on your lips, this is a quite common error.

The next step to solving these breathing problems for harmonica is to find spots in the music where you can dump air. If there is a pause between phrases, simply take the harmonica out and push the air out without it going through the harmonica.

You can also use any out notes and breathe out through the nose at the same time (out is OK but not in). This will make playing a long passage of in-notes a whole lot easier.

An exercise

To help with most of the breathing problems for harmonica above there is a great exercise you can do easily. Start by pushing all the air out of your lungs, pause for a brief moment before slowly letting the air in again through your mouth. Experiment with your breathing here. This will allow you to notice how you are breathing and how quickly you fill up. You will feel some discomfort that you can get use to but you please make sure not to cause dizzines or blacking out. The idea is to get use to some discomfort and teach your body that it doesn’t have to get air in as fast as possible.

Summary of common breathing problems for harmonica players

Basically if you can teach your body to slowly take in air through the mouth and quickly push aor out throught the nose when possible you will have solved most common brathing problems. This will result in a big improvement in your playing.

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Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 Trip Report

Since 2007 I have been attending the Harmonica Masters Workshops in Trossingen. I did miss 2008 but after that I have been a regular (every 4th year is skipped dut to the World Harmonica Festival). This was the 12th edition of the event and it was bigger than ever. I am recently back from Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 and this is my trip report.

Planning

Planning for this trip actually started in November 2016, since there was no event in 2017 it was a long wait but the calender was marked already back then. In December of 2017 I made my booking to Hotel Bären which is my ususal spot when I go. In may the flight was booked during October the final travel arrangements were made. Getting from Stuttgart Airport to Trossingen takes some planning, either by train/bus (4-5 changes), or by taxi (a bit pricey). This year we were lucky that our friend Thomas from Denmark was already in Germany and had a rental car.

Trip to Trossingen

On Tuesday October 30th my trip to Harmonica Masters workshops 2018 started for real. I took the train from Landskrona around lunch my friend Mattias joined me on the crowded train. We got to Kastrup Airport in good time to get through security where our harmonica cases are always taken aside as they look ver strange in the x-ray machine. It has been a tradition to start with a burger (or ribs) and a beer (or two) while waitning for boarding. During this time we were joined by our friend Jolo who took a later train. We had a great time as always waiting for boarding, although airport prices are HIGH!!!!

harmonica masters workshops 2018 pre flight meal

Pre flight meal.

Our plane trip to Trossingen was quite OK, had a few laughs and Jolo’s guitar actually got to ride in “business class” in front of us. We landed on schedule and our friend Thomas picked us up and we headed for Trossingen. Now Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 was close!

When we arrived in Trossingen we immediately checked in at Hotel Bären and then went to Hotel Traube close by, where most HMW veterans gather on the night before the event. This time is a time of great joy when you meet all your friends from previous years and also make some new friends. These nights never end early.

harmonica masters workshops 2018 Traube crowd

Some of the ususal suspects.

Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 kick-off

The event itself started on Wednesday afternoon with registration at the Music Conservatory. We were all greeted by the mastermind of the event Steve Baker who also presented all the teachers. This year there were 148 students and workshops by Joe Filisko, Eric Noden (guitar), Greg Zlap, Marko Jovanovic, David Barrett, Mitch Kashmar and Riedel Diegel. There is basically something for everyone. Steve Baker himself taught private lessons to a few students.

After the introductions we all went to our respective class rooms for our first workshops. I attended Joe Filisko‘s class, he is a great teacher and has a lot of focus on getting great big harmonica sound. In his teaching method he uses original study songs that allow the students to dig deep on the different topics.

The workshops start

On Wednesday we had two workshop sessions. Joe started with explaining the key elements to develop to get a good sound and how to effectively use what you know. We also started working on the first study song. The first task was to work on a short riff with basically no technique at all, then we built it out with more and more complex tqchniques added. It really kept us working. Something seemingly simple can in fact be really complex and to execute it well you need everything in order.

Wednesday evening

The evening in Kesselhouse started with a meet and greet hosted by Hohner. They treated us to pizza, beer, wine, t-shirts and competitions (everybody won!). It was a very nice event. Hohner is really supportive of the harmonica community and a great sponsor of Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018.

The first musical event of the evening was Joe Filisko’s informal acoustic jam. I participated on a few songs and Joe asked if I would sing as well. I sang “How many more years” which I have done on stage 2016. It was all great fun. After the jam we had an opportunity to go onstage and perform with the help of Christian Rannenberg and Eric Noden. I wanted to try a new song I had been working on so I got up, see it below. The song is in Dm and I played third position on the harmonica.

There were lots of great performances in the sessions as always. One of them was Rohan Singhal who turned 13 that night. Very inspiring to see. It had been a long day so after the last session performance was over I went back to my hotel to get some sleep.

Thursday

Before the classes started I got a chance to look at the products from Lone Wolf Blues Company who had a stand with their equipment on display. I am not a big advocate of pedals or buying new equipment but they have some interesting stuff. Heinz Jörres was also there with pictures from previous years. I was very happy to find one of me that I could buy.

harmonica masters workshop 2018, lone wolf blues company products

The Lone Wolf Blues Company display.

The workshops contunied with the material from Wednesday and we worked hard on the box shuffle song before the lunch break. In the afternoon there was an opening of an exbition of blues pictures by Heinz at the Harmonica Museum. Joe, Eric and Steve performed a few songs as well.

In the last workshop of the day Joe opened the floor for people to perform and get feedback. There were some amazing performances during that hour and a half. Joe creates a safe place and people get a lot out of the feedback. I have played in class 2016, 2015, 2014 (Born Blind and Train Imitation), 2011 and 2010 but hadn’t prepared anything for this year.

Sessions

Thursday night followed the same patterna as Wednesday night with acoustic jam followed by an on stage session. As on Wednesday we got to see some amazing performances. I performed again on stage but was not very happy with my performance. It is a very safe environment though, so I didn’t feel too bad. I decided to be smart and go to bad reasonably early this night as well.

Friday morning

Friday morning I left a little earlier to go and see the demo room for Marble amps. They had a small room where players could test their equipment. Great sound in that room! There were so many people there that I didn’t get to play but it was fun to listen to.

harmonica masters workshops 2018, marble amps

Some of the amps.

In the workshops we continued working on the material from before and Joe introduced the “Inhale Only Blues” that really challenged us to step us our breathing and get as much blues tone out as possible. The great thing about this is that it is easy to pinpoint what you need to work on yourself depending on what your goal is.

Friday afternoon

Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 had less extra curicular activities due to the holidays but one thing that was very interesting was the exihbiyion in the harmonica museum. There was a special exhibition about sonny Terry with lots of cool things from his estate. His glasses, a shirt, a harmonica and many pictures and stories. It was my first time in the museum and I am happy I got to see that.

harmonica masters workshops 2018, sonny terry harmonica

One of Sonny Terry’s harmonicas.

After the tour I decided to get some extra rest before the evening and skipped the last workshop of the day. I heard there were some great performances there.

Friday concerts

After a nice supper at Hotel Traube I went to Kesselhaus for the Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 Friday teacher concerts. Kesselhouse was already full when I got there, it was impossible to get in front of the stage. The top floor was also full from what I heard. There were three concerts, first David Barrett who played a great selection of tunes highlighting the old masters of blues harmonica. Second was Marko Jovanovic who has a different approach and mixes a lot of styles into an interestin blend. Last up was Steve Baker who was on fire and played material from his latest CD release.

Steve Baker on stage at Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018

Steve Baker with the band.

Unfortunately there were no onstage session after the concerts due to the packed program. This was really missed by a lot of the workshop participants.

Saturday

Saturday was the last day of teaching. Joe continued with the drills based on the study songs. A new study song in the style of Walter’s Boogie was introduced and we worked on key riffs and breathing. After lunch I had a nice rest in the hotel before going to the last workshop of Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018. It was a workshops with all intructors and all students. It was a Q&A session with all instructors mixed with jamming. A good way to end the teaching.

Joe Filisko at Harmonica Masters workshops 2018

Joe teaching in class.

Saturday concerts

Saturday night followed the same pattern with Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 instructor concerts. Once again Kesselhaus was filled to capacity. The evnng started with Greg Zlap who played with lots of enegry and captivated the audience. Second was Filisko & Noden who played material from their latest album “Destination unknown”. This was the highlight for me. The concerts ended with Mitch Kashmar who brought his students onstage for one song.

Filisko & Noden on stage at Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018

Filisko & Noden on stage.

Once again we missed the open stage sessions after the concerts. satyed on an talked to a lot of friends as it was the last evening and some people would leave early.

Sunday

Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 ended with a chill out brunch before most people headed back home. It is always sad to say good bye to everyone but we were all looking forward to 2019.

Harmonica Masters Workshops 2018 chill out brunch

Joe and I at the chill out brunch.

The trip home went smoothly although with a lot of waiting.

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Better Solos through Playing Backup

When most people think about blues harmonica they often think of the cool solos they have heard. Maybe this is what got you into playing as well? It was certainly of of the things that drew me to the instrument many years ago. However the more I play the more interested I get in playing backup. The training I have received by David Barrett has really opened up my eyes on this topic. In this article I will highlight how playing backup can make you a better soloist.

Types of backup

When you are playing backup you can choose a number of different approaches. These types are generally categorized something like this:

  • Hooks
  • Riffs
  • Sonic
  • Rhythmic
  • Horn lines
  • Bass lines

A hook is a riff that gives a special character to a song, something that needs to be there for people to recognize the song. A good example is Hoochie Coochie Man, I think we can agree that if you take that out the song lose too much.

Playing riffs that are not hooks is another way often used, the key then is to match the complexity of the riff with repetition. You can use complex/busy riffs if they are repeated over and over again. The riffs also need to work beneath the vocal lines without disturbing them.

A sonic approach is when you play long droning sustained chords that sound a bit like organ chords.

The rhytmich approach calls for ghost chords that add rhythm without too much pitch sound. Kind of like hand percussion.

Horn lines are riffs that sound very much like the stabbibg lines horn sections often play.

Bass lines are what we are going to be focusing here, they are riffs based mainly on chord tones that follow the chord progression closely. Think of it as what the bass player would play.

The magic of bass line for playing backup

The reason bass lines are so great for making you a better soloist is that they are music theory in practice as David Barrett puts it. Bass lines form the outline that the rest of the music can rest in. Since bass lines also both follow the chord structure and rely heavily on chord and scale tones, where to find these tones will become engrained into your mind. When you instinctically know where the chord tones are you can easily adapt your playing to the chord the band plays. Also, the chord tones should make up the bulk of the notes you use in your solo to sound professional. If you play too many outside you notes you will sound original but also very weird.

Other benefits

Other benefits of using bass lines for backup is that you learn to communicate with the band, especially the bass player. You will tighten up your sense of rhythm which is always good. And last but not least, if you get into the habit of playing backup you will play more during the songs and when it is time to solo you will be more into the groove. This last thing is true for when using the other approaches as well and has become super important to me.

Do it!

I hope I have inspired you to start playing backup (or more if you already do some) and now I want you to go and learn more about it. Let me know how it goes and don’t hesitate to send me any questions.

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Third Position Beginner Riffs

Playing in more positions than just second position is a great way of becoming more versatile. One of the first positions to work on then is third position. I think getting to know the scales and chord tones of the new position you are working on is very important but learning a few riffs can get you started quicker. Here I have collected some third position beginner riffs to get you going.

Descending riff

First off we have a nice decending riff that uses the blues scale and resolves on the root note.

third position beginner riffs - descending riff

Descending riff resolving on root.

You can listen to it here in 70 bpm.

Ascending riff

Here is an ascending riff for you that moves from the root note to the root note one octave higher.

third position beginner riffs - ascending riff

Ascending riff from root to root.

Listen to it here in 70 bpm.

V-IV-I-tunraround riff

Handling the V-IV-I-tunraround can feel a bit akward in a new position so it is a good thing to have one in your arsenal to begin with. This one has quite a standard feel to it and is quite easy to play.

third position beginner riffs - V-IV-I-turnaround

IV-IV-I-turnaround riff.

You can listen to it here in 70 bpm.

Summary

These third position beginner riffs won’t make you an expert third position player but they will definately give you a place to start. In later articles I will focus on how to build your riff bank further and how to reuse what you already know in second position. To get inspiration for playing third position, Little Walter is a good idea to listen to.

If you are looking for second position riffs you can also find them in previous articles, beginner riffs, V-IV-Is, turnarounds and buildup riffs.

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