Blues Chord Progression Pentatonic And Diminished Chords

Blues Chord Progression – Pentatonic And Diminished Chords

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Blues Chord Progression

The blues chord progression can vary from a simple three-chord progression to a much more complex harmonic structure. The blues is a great canvas on which you can play pretty much anything you know over it.

A basic blues chord progression in the key of A major could be played as follows:

|| A7    | A7    | A7    | A7    |
| D7    | D7    | A7    | A7    |
| E7    | D7    | A7    | E7    ||

A jazz guitarist might choose to play a more harmonically complex version such as this:

|| A13    | D9    | A13    | A7(alt)    |
| D9    | D#dim7    | A13    | F#7(alt)    |
| Bm7    | E7(alt)    | A7  F#7(alt)   | Bm7  E7(alt)   ||

As you can see, there are many more options of things you can play over the second chord progression. The more harmonically advanced chord types give many more melodic opportunities. You can, however, play a simple A blues scale over either of these examples.

Pentatonic Chords

As pentatonic scales work well to play single-note solos over the blues chord progression, pentatonic scales can also be used to construct chords.

A pentatonic scale I like to use is a dominant pentatonic scale that is built from the following intervals:

  • Root
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 5th
  • ♭7th

This five-note scale works really well over dominant 7th chords and many of the chords in these examples use chords built from these intervals.

Diminished 7th Chords In A Blues

Diminished 7th chords can be used as connecting chords between different chord inversions. Four-way close is a technique that can use dim7 chords when moving horizontally along the guitar fretboard.

There are many theoretical concepts which allow dim7 chords to be played from different points between chords. It is often a good idea to let your ear guide you and if it sounds good, go with it!

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Blues Pentatonic Chords - Bars 1 and 2

This lick works over an A7 chord. Many dominant pentatonic scale chord shapes are used here, along with diminished 7th chords to join them together.

These types of chord licks are quite difficult to play cleanly. If you have not played these types of chord movements before, you will probably struggle to move between the shapes.

Take your time and play the lick slowly, always with attention to timing.

Bars 3 and 4

Bars 3 and 4 are once again an idea for an A7 chord. The chords use notes taken from the dominant pentatonic scale and diminished 7th chords are used to create a smooth transition between the various chord voicings.

All the chord shapes are played on the middle four strings. Sliding and fast finger movements are required to make this lick sound smooth.

Bars 5 and 6

This lick is played over a D7 chord. You will often see a D#dim7 chord in bar six of a blues on the key of A major. A dim7 chord sandwiched between the iv chord and the i chord is another classic use of dim7. This does not happen here as the dim7 chords are used to connect various chord voicings of the same chord type.

Yet again, the chords are built from notes of the D dominant pentatonic scale.

Bars 7 and 8

This is the most difficult lick out of all the licks presented so far. The speed at which you need to change from one chord to another combined with the fingering changes gives a difficult challenge. The chord voicings also move onto different string sets to cover all strings.

Even though many chord shapes are played, the entire lick is being played over a single A7 chord.

Bars 9 and 10

This lick covers the E7 and D7 chords played in bars nine and 10.

The E dominant pentatonic scale is used for the E7 chord and D dominant pentatonic scale is used for the D7 chord. Diminished 7th chords are used to connect the various chord voicings, including the transition from E7 to D7.

Bars 11 and 12

So far, the entire chord progression used has been the simple, three-chord version of the blues. This lick however moves to a more advanced turnaround idea.

Most of the chords continue to use notes taken from the dominant pentatonic scale corresponding with each chord, although the final chord breaks this pattern. The final chord is part of an E7#5#9, which could also be thought of as a Bb13. This tension sound leads nicely back to the A7, which is the tonic chord.

Blues 13th And 9th Chords

Here is another lick idea, although this time using dominant 13th and 9th chords. Various chord substitution principles have also been used to achieve the desired result.

Dominant 13th chords and dominant 9th chords create a rich, musically interesting sound when playing blues and jazz. These chord shapes will give you stock licks from which you can make variations of your own.

Blues 13th And 9th Chords - Bars 7 To 10

Bars 7 to 10 in a jazz blues can feature a i vi ii v progression that offers so many harmonic and melodic possibilities.

The great thing about this four-bar phrase is that it can be looped for practice purposes. Try playing continually whilst making small changes each play through.

This i vi ii v chord lick can also be used in many other musical situations other than just in a blues chord progression.

Joe Pass Style Blues Ending

My first solo jazz guitar gigs required repertoire. To help create a convincing jazz sound, I transcribed many Joe Pass solo guitar tracks. I even played some of his pieces live note-for-note and this really helped me build a repertoire of an authentic jazz vocabulary.

This lick is not a straight transcription of a Joe Pass ending lick, although the ideas incorporated into this lick are very similar to the type of things Joe would play.

Joe Pass was a master at solo jazz guitar and the blues was a huge part of his style. If you haven't listened to much of Joe's music, I would highly recommend checking out his playing.

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