Help Keep Guitar4Free Free for Everyone
Make A Donation
by Simon James
Learning how to improvise Blues solos and licks and the ability to play easy Blues on guitar requires you to be able to navigate the fretboard efficiently. One of the ways to achieve this essential Blues knowledge is to have a thorough understanding of scales and arpeggios so that you know exactly where to play as we move through a 12 Bar Blues Progression. This is of course an extremely important part of your overall development as a guitarist and must not be overlooked.
That said however, a key skill in being a Blues guitarist is to be able to play in a manner that expresses your emotions, which involves often going purely by ear and not necessarily thinking about what particular scale position sounds right over a certain chord.
In this lesson we will look at 5 positions or boxes on the fretboard that come up regularly in Blues lick and solo improvisations. Within these boxes other notes can be added but what is interesting is how all of the notes in each box can, at one time, overlap with a Major scale, a Minor scale, a Pentatonic Scales, a Mixolydian Scale and probably a whole lot more.
By learning the 5 boxes you will find an effective way to phrase your licks and solos that can free your mind and ears up from thinking about soloing harmonically in the more conventional sense. Furthermore, the 5 box concept can add contrasts to your solos by encouraging you to phrase licks by moving to different areas of the fretboard as opposed to staying fixed in only one or two positions.
Blues Box 1 is our first must know position and consists of the first fundamental scale for all Blues guitar solos, namely the Minor Pentatonic scale. Here it is below in A:
There are any number of licks that can be constructed around this box using the notes that I have marked and by borrowing a few more from other scales. Here is a typical Blues lick in Box 1 Position that uses the Minor Pentatonic scale as well as adding the Major 3rd from the Major Scale:
Blues Box 2 centres around six notes a position along from our first Blues Box. I have named this one the Albert King Box as it is a position where King played a great number of his Blues licks and improvisations.
Here is a lick in Box 2 that utilizes some of these notes that would work well over a Quick Change in the first four bars of a Blues Progression. Like the example before this one takes a Major 3rd from the Major Scale by way of the C to C# in Bar 4:
Our next Box is a position that has become synonymous with the playing of B.B. King. Notice how this one has a Major feel to it:
By adding the chromatic notes on the first string (from the E to the D) and by bending the second string (from the C to the D) this lick can be effective over each of the I-IV-V chords in the progression:
I have termed Blues Box 4 the Eric Clapton position solely because I have seen Clapton play a number of licks in this position. It could also be called an Albert King position because it is another way of playing licks like the ones found in Blues Box 2.
This lick cries out for some full tone bends on the second string as I have seen Clapton do, and feel free to practice some Albert King style phrasing here too:
The final box is not one I use so often in Standard 12 bar blues as it has a distinctly country blues flavour. Nevertheless it is well worth learning and can yield some interesting Major Blues country licks.
Angus Young is one guitarist who uses this position a great deal. Here is one such lick similar to one of his phrases in the solo to Back In Black that could be incorporated into a more typical Blues solo.
In the 30 Days to Better Blues Guitar eBook you will find a month long practice routine with a lesson a day on a topic covering some of the basics and most fundamental principles of Blues Guitar playing. Each short lesson will improve your knowledge of soloing, licks, scales, arpeggios, chords, harmony, vibrato, accents, phrasing, ear training and sight reading.