Riffs in G
Level : beginners
Pre requisite : being able to play low bends
Here is a set of 5 phrases in G, on a C harmonica. They can be played on a blues in G, up to you to find out where it suits the best. You can learn these phrases by heart in order to play them when you’ll be starting to improvise. Up to you, then, to create you own phrases that you will adjust and incorporate into your playing.
Short lexicon for dummies :
Chord : several notes played together at the same time.
Tonic : first note of a given scale (called the root if it is the first note of a chord).
Third : third note of a scale.
Major third : the major third is located 2 steps above the tonic (root)
Minor third : the minor third is located 3 half steps above the tonic.
One of the key features of blues is that the improviser can play a minor third on a major chord (on the well known dominant chords, labelled « X7 », X standing for the keynote). We’re going to play this move between major and minor.
Here, the backing track features a G7 chord loop. This chord is a set of 4 notes : G, B, D and F. B is the third, 2 steps above G. Because this note is located two steps above the root, we call it a major third, and hence a major chord.
If you have a look to the first phrase, it uses a B. So this phrase is in C major. The second phrase is actually exactly the same, in spite of a small difference : we’re going to use a B flat instead of a B. B flat is 3 half steps above G, so this is a minor third.
The first phrase is major, the second one is minor. This minor third creates a tension (since it is played on a major chord), very distinctive in Blues.
The goal here is to get your ear used to the difference between major third and minor third and to be able to switch from one to the other.
Watch out, the opposite doesn’t work : if you play a major third while improvising on a minor chord, it’s likely you will hurt ears in the audience !
Same thing between major and minor on phrases 3 and 4.
The fifth phrase is a bonus, my personal gift, lucky you. And there is a low F in it, that will make your life very difficult, I guess.
Ok, another gift : I’ve written notes, tab, and also the name of the notes ! Isn’t it cute ?
You should take this opportunity to learn where notes are located on the musical staff, if you don’t know it already.
Once you’ve learned a phrase, read the name of the notes while you’re playing, then read the notes on the musical staff while you’re playing.
Thus, you will learn to name notes on the staff and to spot the note on the instrument.
Up to a given level, reading music is not mandatory but it helps a lot and makes you save plenty of time.
Audio : each phrase is played two times. Then, you can play and improvise by yourself on the backing track. Go right ahead, any note of a C harmonica will sound well on this backing track, so no risk of wrong note !