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.

Tip #51 – Framing with an 8-Bar Blues

Continuing with the topic of blues, there is an other option – an abridged version – of the 12-bar blues structure. In the progressive development of rock music in the 50’s and 60’s, many artists began writing songs using the commonly available blues chords and harmonic movement… but in a short 8 measure cycle.

Below are some various harmonic progressions that are commonly found in sounds that are built off of the 8-bar blues structure:

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.

Tip #50 – Framing with a 12-Bar Blues

Maybe you have already heard the term “12-bar blues” before. On the other hand, maybe not. Anyways, as a little tip: you can use the 12-bar blues form as a beginning step to form the structure and harmonic progression of you musical composition.

The reason why it is called 12-bar blues is because… it takes place over 12 bars of measures and is commonly found in the blues style. Shocking, I know.

Below is the most common use form and harmonic progression of the 12-bar blues. Notice how each of the chords in the measure spaces are dominant chords, regardless as to if they are the I, IV, or V of the key.

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.

Tip #49 – Bending Through a Melody With Blue Notes

Let’s start by answering a question that you probably had: “What is a blue note?”

And the answer is actually not set in stone… because there are two alternating definitions of “blue notes.”

The first definition comes from the idea of what scale degrees are changed from a major scale to a regular minor blues scale. Those would be the:

| b3 – b5 – b7 |

So, by this first definition, anything out of the ordinary from the major scale of the key that acts as a flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degree qualifies as a “blue note.”

The other definition goes smaller, into quarter-tones. This states that blue notes are even further out of tune with the standard major scale, being quarter-tones apart (either higher or lower in pitch) from the said flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees.

If the instrument you are writing for has the capability of hitting quarter-tones (with bends, slides, tunings, etc.), play around with incorporating those notes from around the flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees. If not, just use the simpler definition of blue notes to achieve a bluesy sound.


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.