Easy Riffs to Killer Solos

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Here are the 3 steps to go from knowing harmonica riffs to knowing how to solo:
Step 1: Build up your blues muscle by improvising the heck out of the easy riffs you’ve just learned
Step 2: Learn some basics about solo’s
Step 3: Put it all together: Riffs + Basics = Solo

Here are the 6 blues harmonica riffs that we learned in the last lesson:

1.) -4 4 -4 -3 -2
1.1.) -4-4 4 -4 -3 -2
1.2.) -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -2
2.) 4 4 -3 4 -3
3.) -1 2 -2 -1 -4
3.1) -1 2 -2
4.) -5 5 -4 -3 -2
5.) -2 -2 2 3 2 -2 -1 -1
6.) 6 5 -4 4 -3 -4 5 6

1.) Repeat It:
Let’s vary it each time, using the two variations I showed you, and we get this: -4 4 -4 3 -2 -4 -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -2

2.) Reverse It
Riff #1 backwards: -2 -3 -4 4 -4
With variations: -2 -3 -4 4 -4 -2 -2 -3 -4 4 -4 -2 -3 -4 4 -4 -4

3.) Add Dynamics (Louder or Quieter)

4.) Make it longer - add or repeat notes
Using notes from the riff -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -3 -4
Using notes from the “Almost Blues Scale” -4 4 -4 -3 -2 2 -1
Using even more notes from the scale:-4 4 -4 -3 -2 2 -1 2 –2 -3 -2

5.) Make it shorter - don’t play one or more note
Take riff #5 -2 -2 2 3 2 -2 -1 -1 and just play -2 -2 2 3 2, and repeat it:

6.) Play with the phrasing (change the rhythm of it) (MICRO)
Riff #4 for example: -5 5 -4 -3 -2. We played that with every note on the beat except anticipating the last note.
But we could also also play the first 2 notes really fast then the rest on upbeats
Or we could play the first 2 notes really long and then rush the ending

7.) Play with the phrasing (where in the form it occurs) (MACRO)
So we’ve examined phrasing on a micro level: the rhythm and duration of the notes within the riff.

Now, on a more macro level, where do we start and stop a given riff within the form. Which of the three 4-Bar phrases in the 12-bar blues? Which bar within that phrase? Which beat within that bar? These are all fall within the principle of phrasing.

STEP 2: Understand & Get Some Solo Basics Down

1.) Draw more than blow (great 2nd position solos are usually 80-90% draws)
2.) Use S P A C E (silence draws people in)
3.) Use dynamics (quiet draws people in)
4.) Tell a story
Think of playing a Blues harmonica solo like telling a story. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So should your solo. This is why I keep harping on memorizing the 12-Bar Blues form..


STEP 3: Putting it All Together: RIFFS + BASICS = SOLO
In order to get a feel for how these riffs might be used in a solo, I thought it would be cool to play a solo together incorporating all these riffs. We will play 2 Choruses, meaning 2 times through the 12-Bar form.

CHORUS 1:
PHRASE 1: Riff 1: -4 -4 4 -4 -3 -2 Riff 1: -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -2

PHRASE 2: Riff 2: 4 4 3 4 3 Riff 1: -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -2

Riff 3 starts at the end of phrase 2 and ends at the beginning of phrase 3: -1 2 -2 -1 -4

PHRASE 3: Riff 4: -5 5 -4 -3 -2 Riff 5: -2 2 3 2 -2 -1 -1


CHORUS 2:
PHRASE 1: -45 Trill Riff 4: -5 5 -4 -3 2

PHRASE 2: Riff 2: 4 4 3 4 3 Riff 1: -4 4 -4 -3 -2 -2

Riff 3 starts at the end of phrase 2 and ends at the beginning of phrase 3: -1 2 -2 -1 -4

PHRASE 3: Riff 4: -5 5 -4 -3 -2 Riff 6: 6 5 -4 4 -3 -4 5 6

All of these simple blues harmonica riffs exist within the context of the Almost Blues Scale, so if you haven’t learned it yet, now would be a cool time to check out Level 2 of my Easy Blues Scale lesson, because knowing these riffs, you’ll see how they all fit within the “Almost Blues Scale” and that context will help you memorize and embellish these harmonica riffs, as well as make up your own.

Thanks for watching this free lesson on turning harmonica riffs into harmonica solos!

Rock on,
Luke
Category
Harmonica Lessons Music Lessons

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