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Why Is Blues Guitar So Boring?

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Robert Johnson elta Blues Man

I first heard the blues when I was about 20 years of age and I was incredibly impressed at how boring it seemed. About that time I was playing folk music finger picking guitar but I just didn't realize that what I was hearing was a very poor form of the basic blues.
 
I'm not knocking anyone, it's just that the blues was very new and many young guitarists were trying to copy their heroes and not doing a very good job of it. I think that this is the main reason why I moved away from the blues when I advanced in my guitar playing and started to play ragtime guitar.
 
No one really wants to listen to a five minute low quality rendition of a Muddy Waters song, for example - you can't do it as well, or even as good as, the master himself and so the result is a bored audience. Reminds me of several ordeals I sat through in the past.

More recently I happened to visit a 'Blues' Club in King's Norton, Birmingham, UK and asked to play, and maybe give some lessons the next day. he politely told me that there was no room for me to play that night and anyway, 'people around here wouldn't listen to you unless you were famous'!

Seriously, if you are in the area, don't go there. I cradled a beer and listened to a young man play every damn verse of Dylan's 'Knocking On Heavens Door'. This is like the old blues songs. Absolutely nobody should play or sing that song but the writer. No other performer has EVER made it work!

Partly, it’s because some songs are so much a part of the creator, that they don’t have any meaning when performed by others. Of course, there are many songs that are great and stand alone – you just have to know which to choose.


Reverend Gary Davis shows how it's done - not boring!


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Pinetop Perkins - Blues PianoCreating Your Own Blues!

One way of getting around this is to completely revamp a song and make it your own (or partly your own). It’s incredibly hard to write your own material, so adapting someone else’s make sense.

The trick is not to make it boring. In almost every form of entertainment, this is a golden rule – never bore your audience. So how to make the blues less boring? Well, when playing in the basic keys of E and A, this can be quite tough as a lot of them sound very similar.

It’s also true that there’s nothing new in the blues, so we need tricks. Always fit in one or two breaks for example, where you can extend the basic structure and have some fun, which should rub off onto the audience.

Try to develop your own variations for turnarounds and end tags,
perhaps using a different variation in each verse. Use tricks such as doubling up on the timing now and again (sometimes it even works!) Be authentic – don’t try and be bluesy and don’t try to be like the old blues legends, because you are not. Our lives are totally different.


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