Tip #204 – Bluesy Vamp

Another vamp chord progression you can use is this:

I – IV7

Some of you might be thinking “but the IV chord isn’t usually a dominant-seventh chord… nor does it resolve to the I.”

Remember this from previous posts: in the twelve-bar blues progression the IV chord resolves more naturally to the I than the V does. Plus, the IV chord harmony appears more frequently than the V chord.

In addition, the IV7 chord provides the b3 scale degree. b3, which is in the blues scale.

Play around with it and see how it works!

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Tip #192 – Understanding a Cliché Blues Ending

While it might be wise to avoid clichés, you can certainly learn a lot from them. Musical clichés are what helps group the idioms of certain genres/styles together. Trying to emulate a particular style might mean using a musical cliché – but adding your own unique twist.

Take for example this bluesy melodic ending over a I7 – V7 – I progression:

Let’s dissect into this.

One thing that pops out in an instance is the use of a chromatic line against the upper tonic drone that leads down towards the fifth of the V chord.

Try that for yourself. Build a chromatic line that alternates in pitch between a drone. Now, lead the chromatic line toward the next chord, and after that to the following chord. Listen to how the contour and dissonances shape the forward moving motion towards a cadence.

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Tip #71 – Understanding Half-Swing

Take a look at the image below:

You might have recognized instantly that the top staff is a notation of straight/even eighths, and that the third staff is of a triplet swing rhythm. Also, you might have figured-out that the last staff at the bottom is a “jagged” and pretty square swinging rhythm.

But what about the second staff??

That is the approximate (and that term is used VERY loosely) of a “half-swing” feel that is roughly in between the straight eighths and common triplet swung eighths.

Be aware; this is a feel for a performer to play. While the notion is good for programming purposes in a DAW, do not ever give someone a piece of sheet music written this way. Simply indicate this feel to a performer, or learn it yourself. You might be surprised as to hose loose and flowing it really is for your composition.


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Tip #67 – Dead Thumb Influences in Part Writing

In the past I have been very vocal about many things; in particular, advising that people should not write music to their own performance ability.  I caution against this because it places creativity in a limited space, it doesn’t challenge the composer/performer to grow, and it boarders the high probability of regurgitation of common predictable themes.

That being said (in all irony), I will be talking about taking influence from different blues fingerstyles of guitar playing to inspire part writing for compositional purposes.  While this will limit the compositional ability as to what can be done using the physical limitations of the described guitar style, I do encourage people who are reading this to “think outside the box” and experiment to how these style can transverse over into new creative applications.

Today, I will be talking about the “dead thumb” playing of blues music that is predominantly found in the Texas and deep Southern areas of the United States.

Dead thumb may seem boring, but it provides the important drone of the tonic found in blues music.  Basically, it is hitting the root (and only the root) every beat, or in the swing rhythm.  Occasionally, there might be a pattern of alternating between the power chord and M6 voicing of the root.

In this tip, imagine yourself playing in that style and understand what is physically possible as well as typically normal.  Mentally practice this, and then write/play/annotate/record it.

Remember, always be creative above everything else.  While keeping to rules and limitation can help focus on certain aspects on your composition, never go for less than what you are capable of.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #66 – Utility Thumb Influences in Part Writing

In the past I have been very vocal about many things; in particular, advising that people should not write music to their own performance ability.  I caution against this because it places creativity in a limited space, it doesn’t challenge the composer/performer to grow, and it boarders the high probability of regurgitation of common predictable themes.

That being said (in all irony), I will be talking about taking influence from different blues fingerstyles of guitar playing to inspire part writing for compositional purposes.  While this will limit the compositional ability as to what can be done using the physical limitations of the described guitar style, I do encourage people who are reading this to “think outside the box” and experiment to how these style can transverse over into new creative applications.

Today, I will be talking about the “utility thumb” playing of blues music that is predominantly found in the Delta area of the United States.

Utility thumb means that the bass note, provided by the thumb hitting the lowest note of the harmony on the guitar, is done on occasion.  It is approximately needed at least once a measure, and usually hits on an offbeat.  So, it is very reserved and only played when needed.

In this tip, imagine yourself playing in that style and understand what is physically possible as well as typically normal.  Mentally practice this, and then write/play/annotate/record it.

Remember, always be creative above everything else.  While keeping to rules and limitation can help focus on certain aspects on your composition, never go for less than what you are capable of.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #65 – Alternating Thumb Influences in Part Writing

In the past I have been very vocal about many things; in particular, advising that people should not write music to their own performance ability.  I caution against this because it places creativity in a limited space, it doesn’t challenge the composer/performer to grow, and it boarders the high probability of regurgitation of common predictable themes.

That being said (in all irony), I will be talking about taking influence from different blues fingerstyles of guitar playing to inspire part writing for compositional purposes.  While this will limit the compositional ability as to what can be done using the physical limitations of the described guitar style, I do encourage people who are reading this to “think outside the box” and experiment to how these style can transverse over into new creative applications.

Today, I will be talking about the “alternating thumb” playing of blues music that is predominantly found in the “Piedmont” area of the United States (east of Appalachian Mountains).

Alternating thumb is pretty much as the name goes.  The thumb alternates playing different bass notes on the guitar (usually in a pattern from low to high) while the index and middle finger play syncopated lines in the treble area.  This occurs on every primary beat, or in a “slower” equivalent of every other beat.  Counterpoint can be made with the division between what the bass is playing and what the other fingers are.  Plus, the thumb can alternate with the fingers to form a conjunct melodic line in moving motion to another harmony.

In this tip, imagine yourself playing in that style and understand what is physically possible as well as typically normal.  Mentally practice this, and then write/play/annotate/record it.

Remember, always be creative above everything else.  While keeping to rules and limitation can help focus on certain aspects on your composition, never go for less than what you are capable of.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #52 – Framing with a 16-Bar Blues

Opposite to shortening the standard blues structure, there is also the option of lengthening it. By adding another 4 measures, you get a full 16-bar blues that has a sense of completion and symmetry more commonly found in classical-based music.

Below are some variations of the harmonic progression in a 16-bar framework that you can play around with:

Once again, this is just a beginning frame. You can most certainly experiment with substituting chords and changing other factors. Like how an artists needs a canvas to first structure their genius, so does a composer.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.