When you think of blues, you probably think of either some big black woman scatting and belting out some gospel inspired comfort lyrics or Eric Clapton, but I’m here to talk about chaotic blues. Contrary to popular belief, blues does not always sound slow and depressing. Music from artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, and Jimi Hendrix (might get some argument on whether Hendrix played blues or not, but I definitely think that he did) is upbeat, and I love to roll down my windows and drive to some dirty blues. Every one of these musicians primarily used three tools: The blues scale, slurs, and flurrying.
It is interesting because that one blue note (called the blues note, also known as a flat 3rd) in the diagram above changes a solo from having just a classic rock feel, to a muddy, dirty blues feel. That one note is the one that clashes with the rest of the solo, yet still works for some odd reason. Pretty much any blues musician, even singers will use these blues notes to spice up their vocal routine and keep the listener interested because that note just stands out to your ear.
Slurs make blues “cool.” Guitar players usually call slurs hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides. This technique just adds a feel to the music that livens it up. A classic SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughan) technique is sliding up to start a riff. If one listens closely to his solos, you can hear it in probably 1 out of 10 riffs he plays. Personally, I love starting riffs off like this it’s such a classic sound that is now a staple in blues music.
Everything I have described so far makes a blue solo, but flurrying is what makes it chaotic. Flurrying is basically just playing riffs really fast. This is a signature of Joe Bonamassa. He plays his entire solos with flurrying. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix would mix flurrying in with slowhand blues, which is why they are so renown, but Joe Bonamassa is probably the most chaotic blues player that I know. The strange thing is that he is also more knowledgable about music than either SRV or Hendrix. For some reason, even though he knows a lot of theory, he decides to play more chaotically than SRV or Hendrix (don’t get me wrong, they definitely are chaotic blues). This sort of reminds me of when English teachers say, authors can break the rules because they already know all of them.
I’d like to end with a classic blues video of Stevie Ray Vaughan absolutely shredding. Hopefully you can hear a little bit of the techniques I talked about above!