Tag Archives: Guitar

Music Gear Part 2

Hey all – Hope your Thanksgiving was good and now we’re moving to the time of presents.

Last entry was about guitars and all the different options. In this entry we will discuss amplifiers.

I’m going to reduce the list to 5 types of amps. Keep in mind that used gear from Craig’s List or Ebay can be a real cost savings here.

  1. Tube amps. This is an old technology going back to the early 20th century. The idea of using vacuum tubes (also called “valves”) was the standard way of amplifying guitars. These amps are preferred by “purists” who want to chase the tones of say Hendrix, Clapton, Slash or Page. They have a thicker, “warmer” tone. Characteristics about tube amps are: a) They are more expensive than most other types of amps, b) they are heavier and c) you need less wattage. While 400 watt tube amps exist, you won’t need that much. And there is a belief that the harder you push a tube amp, the better it sounds. Stick with 25 or 50 watts. I have such an amp (50 watts) and it’s plenty loud.
  2. Solid State amps – they came on the scene more aggressively in the 80’s as a cheaper, lighter alternative to tube amps. I’ve used this type quite a bit as well. You may need to play with the signal processing to get a warm tone (think EQ). You also need more watts in a solid state amp to compete with tube amps in volume. Whereas 25 or 50 watts would be fine for tube, solid state amps will probably be around the 100 mark (unless mic’ed to the PA)
  3. Hybrid amps – these are a combination of tube and solid state amps. The tubes are typically in the “pre-amp” section.
  4. Modeling amps – this has really come on strong in the last 15 years or so. Line 6 is a leading supplier of tube amps but now everybody from Fender to Marshall has gotten into the game. Modeling amps use the circuit design of their amp to “program”, as closely as possible, known amplifier sounds, like a Marshall Plexi or a Fender Twin Reverb. Sometimes they work great, other times not – you’ll need to play with it some to determine if that’s the sound for you. The pro is you can use a lot of different sounds out of a modeling amp if you’re a top 40 or classic rock kind of guitarist or a musician who wants to play a lot of different styles. The con would be if say you were in a Van Halen tribute band and you need Eddie’s sound in particular, a modeling amp may not cut it.
  5. Profiler amps – so far only Kemper out of Germany is the only game in town for Profiling. This idea has caught on because where with modeling, sound engineers need to program the models (and thus we wait for patches with new models), profilers make digital copies of amps using the Kemper head. For example, if you have a Marshal JVC and a Fender Deluxe, you can profile each of your amps and put them in an 11 pound Kemper head, and run direct out to the PA. In fact the idea has caught on so well, many people are selling profiles of their amps. Michael Brit is a well known profiler and most profiles come at $20 a profile, which means you can build up a collection over time.

So those are the types of amps – other considerations are combo amp or use of amp and head.

Combo amps are a combination of amplifier and speaker in one cabinet. They typically do not come with wheels, but a single handle on top (think heavy suitcase kind of lifting) and one to two speakers (typically 10″ or 12″ speakers for guitars). Combo amps can be tube, solid state, modeling or hybrid.

An amp head and cabinet off more flexibility of tone. They come in two flavors: half stack (amp head + 4 speaker cabinet) and full stack (amp head + lower cab with 4 speakers and upper cab with 4 speakers). The full stack is overkill unless you are playing outdoors or some extremely loud style of metal or rock. It’s just not needed.

Something else to consider here for performance : mic’ing the amp to the PA. Consider this for combo amps at least. The guitar is a higher frequency instrument and is thus fairly uni-directional. In other words, people can hear me when they are in direct line with my amp, but if they cross the room they cannot. Putting a mic on the amp, even for a half stack, is a good idea for better spread.

If you’re looking to cut corners or just looking for a practice amp, there is a lot of competition in that area – they will mostly be solid state combos.

The best thing to do is find a music store that doesn’t mind if you play an amp or several amps over some time. Some even offer rooms where you can crank it. The hard part is playing in a store, or your bedroom, or your garage is not going to sound like when you play a club or a High School. The acoustics will be very different and be prepared to make adjustments.

One last consideration – hauling it! If you’re going to get a Marshall full stack, you need to have a truck, SUV or van to haul it, plus your guitars, plus the rest of the gear.

Merry Christmas! Now go get some gear!

Music Gear part 1

Hey all – welcome back to Fast Fingers Guitar Lessons. The holidays are approaching like an invading army and you might be tempted to ask for new music gear or get new music gear for that shredder in your family.

Before rushing into your local Guitar Center (or not-so-local amazon online) let’s cover some basics in order not to break the bank. This post will be centered on guitars. Next post will be on amplifiers.

As we look at the whole “signal chain” – guitar -> effects -> amp nothing is more intimate to a guitar player than the guitar itself. That would be the building block I would start with if I was going to try for a new sound.

Acoustic guitars – these actually get pretty pricey pretty quick. The wood here is very important, as well as the craftsmanship. From my observation, $250 doesn’t take you as far in the acoustic world as it does in the electric world.

Well known names like Martin are like the Les Paul in electrics. Unless you want to pay starting around $500, I would look for the Japanese brands – such as Yamaha and Ibanez. You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to go with the Classical style (nylon strings) or Standard (Steel strings). I would recommend Classical only if you plan to play classical music. The nylon strings are not as loud and it’s difficult to bend them if you plan to play rock or pop.

I will say you typically should not order a guitar like this online unless you picked it out in a local store and there’s a better price break on line. Even then, give your friendly salesman a heads up and they might just cut a deal with you there. I’ve seen it. And this way you don’t have to wait for UPS.

Electric guitars – there are several econo-entries in the guitar world. Fender Squires and Ibanez value packs that come with a gig bag and practice amp are really quite affordable (typically around $250) for the beginning shredder. If you’re beginning, this should give you a guitar to grow into.

Some things to avoid on an entry – level guitar: stay away from fancy electronics. Stay away from vibrato bars (aka Whammy bars or tremolo bars). Why? This hardware needs to be of decent quality to stay in tune. I would look in a more expensive model of guitar for something like that.

If you’re getting out of the entry level position, I would greatly encourage you to try out guitars. There is no one perfect guitar except for what YOU say it is. If you need an amp at the same time, start with a guitar that is “playable” that feels good to your hands. For the heck of it, try some guitars out of your price range too – nothing wrong with that. It will help give you perspective.

And remember, the fancier the paint job on the guitar, the higher the price is. If you don’t care about color, go for something solid.

Things to look for:

Neck – rosewood or maplewood? Most guitars are rosewood. There is a bit of a difference in feel. If you’re a Fender man (think Stratocaster or Telecaster) most likely it’s going to have a Maple fretboard and be brighter sounding. Rosewood is a darker sound. Neither is right or wrong. Close your eyes and see if you can hear the difference. If you’re a Stevie Ray Vaughn fan you’ll probably love the sound. If you’re a Slash fan, you’ll want something thicker sounding.

Frets – If you love strats, you get 21 frets. Most other guitars have 22. If you want to shred with the best of them, you might want 24 (2 octaves from the open string). You may want “Jumbo” frets but don’t get caught up in the hype. I play plenty of guitars with standard height frets.

Tuners – In my opinion, I haven’t had a problem with tuners. Grover is the gold Cadillac of tuners and I’ve never owned a set. Maybe I don’t now what I’m missing? If you go with a lock nut system, it doesn’t matter too much.

Nut / Bridge – now you’ll need to decide if you want a whammy bar or not. Standard guitars come with a standard nut and fixed bridge of various types. Strats come with a Tremolo bridge but with no locking nut (unless you pay to have one put on). I have a strat and I do not use the trem bar.

For Trem Bridges, Floyd Rose is gold standard, although I’ve had my issues with them in the past. Ibanez makes their own kind of trem which I believe is superior (less wobble in the neutral position). Kahler makes trem bridges but on the one guitar I have with a Kahler it doesn’t stay in tune. I’d stick with Floyd or Ibanez. But if you just have to try it, try it.

Pickups – This, like everything else, is a very personal topic. There are single coil (think Strat), humbucker (think Les Paul), active (EMG – requires a battery) or passive (any pickup that doesn’t require a battery).

Single coil are great for that thin, snappy sound. They can be noisy – thus the “hum” that is “bucked” by the humbucker. That can be addressed to some degree with a compressor, but that’s in effects.

Humbucker, or double coil pickups, are a bit hotter than single coil. This is a huge market. Most guitar manufacturers make their own, celebrities market their own, and some just have a great reputation. This is very individual again. I got to play my Ibanez Steve Vai 7 string model live once and it has DImarzios – and they sang. They were beautiful. It’s difficult to know what a pickup is going to sound like until you give it some volume.

EMG’s (and there are others) are considered active pickups and have a 9volt battery in them – they boost the output. These are common in guitars suited for metal playing.

If you are the do-it-yourself type, you might like to experiment – buy a couple of pickups, drop them into your guitar, and play them loud – band practice or at a gig. Check the return policy first though.

Honorable mention: Modeling guitars. As things get more and more digital, we have modeling guitars that can simulate (or try to simulate) strats, les pauls, Jazz guitars, acoustic 12 strings, and a knob for changing the tuning (need Drop D tuning? Hold that dial!). I have one – a Line 6 Variax and have gigged with it for years because it is a playable guitar.

I left out one more type, but these are among the most expensive. So for the guitarist that has everything, there are Signature guitars. Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Randy Rhodes, Dime Bag Darrell, Synister, Rusty Cooley, Steve Vai, Joe Satrianni, etc., etc., etc. all have sig guitars. You don’t even have to be alive to have one.

I own 2 signature guitars, both are 7 string. One is the Steve Vai JEM 7v7 and the other is the Rusty Cooley Dean RC7. The reason why I bought them is after trying all the 7 strings I could lay my hands on, I didn’t like any of them. I figure if someone is going to hang their rep on a guitar it should be decent. But I paid for it. The Vai guitar was over $2k. The Dean – more like $900 and it is less than perfect.

So once you have your sweaty little hands all over your new precious axe, it’s time to go amp shopping.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving on 11!!!

Spencer

“Do I really need all this Music Theory?!”

Written music on the treble clef staff
Written music on the treble clef staff

Oh no, not theory!  With thirds, and triads, and sharps and keys…….I just want to play!!!

Do I need theory to do what I want to do?

I’ve been teaching a long time.  Since I was 17.  I’m now 97 (ok, not quite but still) so that’s a long time.  And in all that time, theory lessons are easily the most complex and the most confusing to students.  Even though we are applying it through the guitar, it’s still dizzying.

So again,

Do I need theory to do what I want to do?

The short answer is no.   I’ve played with many musicians – guitarists, bassist, singers, drummers (typically not keyboard players) who don’t understand what a key is.

Singers – the singer needs a good ear obviously and needs to know if the song is in his or her range and we usually find out the hard way.  And they may sing “la la la….right here….can we do the song here?” as you move the chords up and down and find the right key.

Drummers – although many drummers sing, and many play multiple instruments, the don’t need musical theory but they will be more keyed into intros, outros, breaks, fills, and tempo.

Bassists – I didn’t think it was possible to not know theory but I have worked with bassists that just learned bass runs, bass patterns and chord outlines without being able to say “This song is in the key of [fill in the blank]”.  They just play the song.

Guitarists – most guitarists learn open string chords, then bar chords, and pick up on the main Rock scale – the minor pentatonic or blues scale, or just pieces of it from learning by ear and figuring out solos on record.  Throw in some flashy effects, some stage presence and bingo – you’re a rock star.

I had one student where his band wanted to learn Led Zepplin’s The Wanton Song from the Physical Graffiti album.  He had a lot of the licks down, but was stuck on the bridge.  Good ol’ Jimmy page threw in a Diminished 7th chord as a “connecting” chord and once we hit that chord, my student said “That’s it; this is too hard!” and promptly gave up on that song.

So let me qualify that short answer of “no”.  If you’re going to be doing very simple rock, folk, or blues (and blues can get hairy too), then no.  You don’t need theory.  Dress in black or white or all yellow, spend $3k on a stacked amps, effects and work on your moves in a mirror (which one should probably do anyway to get a sense of performance) and stick to the easy songs.  When it comes time to do a solo, you can figure out what the recording is doing and noodle with that.

I am not being sarcastic or mean.  Many gigging musicians do just that.  There’s nothing wrong with it.

So why would I want to learn theory?

There are many reason but I’ll list them here:

  • To more quickly figure out songs as you’ll be used to the stock chord progressions
  • To more quickly figure out the key to do your own improvisations
  • To more quickly figure out the recorded solo since you know what you would use
  • To play a wider range of songs – ballads, or Steely Dan or “easy listening” music for playing during dinner time or wine tasting
  • To more easily write your own songs
  • To more easily transpose songs if the singer needs it
  • To figure out 2 and 3 part harmony in the vocals

Not all music is straight forward.  If you are into heavy metal the likes of Dream Theater, or Day of Reckoning you will do better if you know your major/minor scales, keys and modes.

Me?  I’m going to brush up on my pentatonics with my 7 string and go pick out yellow clothes for my next gig.

Have a great time y’all!  Hit me up with any questions you have.  I’m not a lawyer so I don’t charge by the question :).

Shreddy

 

4 CHORD PROGRESSIONS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW – PT 4

4 CHORD PROGRESSIONS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW – PT 4

This is the last of a 4 part series on 4 basic chord progressions that will get you far in playing some of your favorite songs, and you’ll begin to recognize the I IV V, the ii V, the I Vi IV V, and this one, the Vi V IV.

 

The Vi VI IV – one very versatile chord progression

This chord progression use the Vi (6th) chord which is minor, down a whole step to the V (5th) chord which is major and then down another whole step to the IV chord, also major.  If you’re learning a song that does that, you have a Vi V IV!

This is really a natural minor progression.  Let’s take a look at aVi V IV in C:

IV  V   VI

C   D   E    F    G    A    B  C

A Minor to G Major to F Major.

Examples of songs using this chord progression:

Stairway to Heaven (the end, “as we wind on down the road…”)

Harden My Heart

Livin’ on a Prayer

Edge of 17

…and many more.

Minor Keys Revisited

The simplest Minor key type is the Natural Minor.  There are no differences between it (the Vi – A here) and the relative Major (the I – C in this case).  The notes and chords are the same.  But the chord progression centers on A minor which gives is a more complex “moody” sound.

Keep in mind this can easily hop to the I major (C).   Majors and Minors frequently go back and forth in a song.  It can start in A Minor but the chorus could be in C Major.

What is fun with this chord progression is that there are cool ways to improvise over it.  The Minor Pentatonic scale off the Vi (that is, A minor Pentatonic) is a natural for this and works very well.

Additionally, I use the Major scales, which in this case is C Major scales (or A Natural Minor scales, as they are the same thing).  The reason why this works so well is while the A Minor pentatonic fits well, it lacks the root note of the IV chord, in this case F.

A Minor Penatonic

A    C    D    E    G

This is the chord progression in the final rockin’ part of Stairway to Heaven where Jimmy Pages comes out blasting with a descending run down A Minor Pentatonic but he “sticks” the final note of his phrase on the note F – which happens to be when the F chord is playing.  His solo is largely based off the A minor pentatonic but was well aware that the F note could be used nicely to his advantage.

That’s the end of this series.  There is much more to explore with chord progressions and the various ways to improvise (or write melodies) for them.

Drop me a line with your questions or new topics you’d like to see explore.

Keep Shreddin’ through the holidays!

 

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know (PART I)

If You don’t know the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know, you might get a bit frustrated.

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Don’t lose you’re cool!

Whoa!  Before your guitar looks like this, GET HELP!!  The Top 10 things every guitar player should know is in this (and the next) blog entry!!  Knowing these 10 things will enable you to grow as a musician and a guitar player at a much faster rate.

It is impossible to just grab the guitar and play like [fill in the gap] but with a little bit of time and effort and the right direction, you can get very good very fast. Following the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know will accelerate your path to get there.  Let’s get started.

  1. Know your open String notes and how to tune

I don’t touch on this for a long time with my students because tuning can be daunting for a student.  It was for me.  It took a long while before I could tune.  Then I could only tune to other guitars, not keyboards.  Yes, I was that bad.  But I learned.

You might think this is unnecessary given the ease of access of tuners today.  By all means use one, I do.  But knowing the strings E, A, D, G, B, E and self tuning are critical things to know.  You need to develop your EAR, which takes time and practice.  The chart below shows how to tune the guitar to it’s other strings.

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Self Tuning

 

2. Know the “typical” open string chords

Not only are these the “beginner” chords, you simply cannot play many songs without them.  Open string chords are not just chords for people learning.  They have their own “ringing” quality.  They are different.  In fact, it’s why some people use capos to, in effect, move the end of the guitar up the neck so they keep playing these chords in the same way but higher pitched to suit their voice or the song.

Chords you should know are:

  • E Major
  • E Minor
  • G Major
  • C Major
  • D Major
  • D Minor
  • A Major
  • A Minor

There are more but that will get you very far.   I’m talking 8 chords to happiness here!

If you’ve played a bit, you’ll see some chords missing that you might think should be in that list, like F Major.  I cover that in Part II of this series.

NOTE:  chords that are Major chords are often referenced by their letter name alone.  D Major can be called just “D”.  Minors must always be noted as minor.

One last thing on this topic.  The student really needs to commit these chord forms to memory.  The first chord I teach is D major to any beginning student.  I once taught this young man (a very nice guy) who  just wouldn’t learn it.  And when we got to learning songs his refusal to memorize the chords slowed his progress because I would say “ok, this song starts on D major” and he’s always ask “What was D again?”

Don’t be *that* guy!

3. Know the Musical Alphabet

We’re not talking a lot here, only 7 notes.  But you need to know how those notes are spaced.

The distance of 2 frets on the guitar – say 6th string 3rd fret to 6th string 5th fret – is a whole step, sometimes called a full step or full tone.  It’s just 2 frets.  1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 5, etc.

The distance of 1 fret on the guitar – like 6th string 3rd fret to 6th string 4th fret is a half step.  Or a semi step or semi tone.

So are musical alphabet is the following:

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   [then back to A]

7 notes!  Now here’s how you find them:

A -> B is a whole step.  6th string 5th fret to 6th String 7th fret

B -> C is a half step. 6th string 7th fret to 6th String 8th fret

C -> D is a whole step.  6th string 8th fret to 6th String 10th fret

D -> E is a whole step.  6th string 10th fret to 6th String 12th fret.  Your guitar may stop at the 12th fret.  So we’ll pick up E now at the 6th string open.

E -> F is a half step.  6th string open (no fingers on it – let it just ring) is E.  F will be on 6th string 1st fret.

Open strings confuse people, but think of it this way.  The nut is that white thing at the end of your fretboard:

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Guitar Nut

You know where the first fret is.  Looking at the picture here it is to the left of the nut.  Think of hitting an open string as if your finger was to the right of the nut.  If you’re going to go up one fret for a half step, you’ll now be on fret number 1, which is where F is.

F -> G is a whole step.  6th string 1st fret to 6th String 3rd fret

G -> A is a whole step.  6th string 3rd fret to 6th String 5th fret

You will have then completed the circle A to A.

4. Know what Sharps and Flats are

If you asked in #3 above “what about the notes in between the frets we played – like 6th string frets 2 and 4 and 6?”  This is the answer to that.

Simple but not “easy”.  A sharp (#) raises a note a half step.  So in our mapping of the natural (not sharped or flatted) notes in #3 above, we have:

6th String FRET

1    F

3   G

5   A

7   B

8   C

10   D

12 (OR OPEN)  E

But now let’s include sharps:

6th String FRET

1    F

2   F#

3   G

4   G#

5   A

6    A#

7   B

8   C

9   C#

10   D

11   D#

12 (OR OPEN)  E

Now for the “weird” part.  if you understand that sharps (#) raise a note a half step or one fret, what about the notes that are already a half step apart?  B to C and E to F are only half steps.  So that must mean there is no such thing as a B# or an E#?

No, there ARE B# and E# notes.  How do you play them?  Right where C and F are (8th fret and 1st fret respectively).

So yes, B# IS C natural.  E# IS F natural.  One note with 2 names is called enharmonic.  Not extremely important to know that word but extremely important to know what it means.

A Flat (b) lowers a note one half step.  So Fret 2 on the guitar (which was F# above) is now Gb.  We lower G on the 3rd fret one half step to be Gb on Fret 2:

6th String FRET

1    F

2   Gb

3   G

4   Ab

5   A

6    Bb

7   B

8   C

9   Db

10   D

11   Eb

And there’s  your musical alphabet.

5. Know the notes on the 5th and 6th Strings

Now a purist is going to say you should know all the notes.  Why are the 5th and 6th string more important?  Easy – it’s chords.

The open string chords mentioned above all look different.  E Major looks nothing like A Major which looks nothing like C Major which looks nothing like D Major.

That all changes with bar (sometimes called “barre”) chords.  Remember the picture of the nut above?  Well your fingers become a new, movable nut.

All bar chords come in “6th String” and “5th String” versions.  You can play the full version of the chord, or just the “bottom” part of it for “Power chords” which metal is extremely fond of.

From knowing that the 6th string open is E and the 5th string open is A, you can figure out where the notes are.  I recommend learning the natural notes first.  If you know A, B, C, D, E, F and G on both strings quickly by sight you are well on  your way to learning a plethora (or TON) of songs!

Knowing these chord forms is the 6th thing that every guitar player should know, but that’s in Part II of this blog.

You are half way there to knowing the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player should know!

Guitar Lessons in Bay Area CA

Hello, and welcome to Fast Fingers Guitar Lessons!  I offer online and in home guitar lessons to the local community.  I currently teach in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon on the weekends, and during the week in Santa Clara and San Jose.

Guitar Lessons
Let’s ROCK!!

Lessons can be 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the age of the student and their goals.

I’m a big believer in understanding music – not just playing songs.  My goal is not to make just a guitar player out of you, but a real musician.

 

Lessons include (but not limited to):

  • Songs – we can learn what you want along with signature solos
  • Alternate Picking
  • Hammer ons and pull offs
  • String Bending
  • Music reading – staff and tab
  • Scales
  • Music Theory
  • Soloing / Improvising
  • 6 String guitar, 7 String guitar, bass
  • Whammy Bar techniques
  • Double Hammer On
  • Legato
  • Arpeggios
  • Styles – Rock, Blues, Metal, Country, Jazz (I’ve played all those in various bands!)
  • Ear Training
  • Music Analysis – what key is this in?  How would you solo here?
  • Composition – sounds scary but it’s not.  We start simple and work our way up
  • Chord analysis
  • Alternative Tunings like Drop D
  • Relative Positioning on the Guitar
  • Fretboard visualization
  • Cycle of 4ths and 5ths
  • Analyzing the styles of great players like Randy Rhodes and Jimi Hendrix

So if you’re ready for a new adventure, email Spencer today!  I have openings on week nights and on Saturdays.

A bit about me:

I’m Spencer Clark and I’ve been in music nearly all my life.  I play guitar (6 and 7 string), bass, and some keyboard.  I have a degree in music from West Valley College in Saratoga, CA. and worked my way through college earning other degrees by playing in bands and teaching.  I taught for 12 years at Guitar Showcase in San Jose.  I was teaching guitar lessons since I was a teenager out of my parent’s house.

Blues vs Country Improvisation

Hey all,

As promised, this blog will be about the different approach I take to Country playing vs Blues.  At first it might seem like they have nothing in common but they oftentimes make use of the same Chord Progression.

Let’s look at the key of E:

1     2      3      4     5      6     7

E    F#    G#    A    B    C#    D#

So a I IV V progression would be:

I            IV        V

EMaj   AMaj  BMaj

Blues Approach

The most straight forward Blues approach is to use the E Blues Scale:

1   b3   4   5  b7

E   G   A   B   D

The blues scale makes use of the flatted third against an E Major chord.  While that sounds like it might clash, the rhythm on blues often times leave the full chord out:

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

2–2–4–4—2–2–4–4——————————————————————————

0—0–0–0–0–0–0–0——————————————————————-

So the chords is E (6th string open) and B (5ths string 2nd fret) and then E and C# (5th string 4th fret).  C# is the 6th of the chord and the rhythm alternates between the two.

This gives the soloist some room to stretch out.  So the E Blues minor feel doesn’t clash with the chords.

Advanced Blues Soloing treats all the chords above as Dominant 7 chords:

E7  A7  B7

E7 is :

E  G#  B  D

So all the notes are there in the Blues scale  for the chord except the G#  – the E Blues scale has a G.  A very common lick is to coming the two – G -> G# -> resolve to E.  This can be done on any of the 3 chords above, but you have to pay attention to which chord is being played.

Playing the dominant chord shapes on the guitar for each chord as it is being played is a nice exercise to get used to where the notes are.  From there you can start to stretch out:

E7: E G# B D

A7: A C# E G

B7 B D# F# A

The B7 is most unlike the notes in the blues scale – when you start to outline them you’ll probably recognize the difference since you can’t get that sound in the blues scale.

Country Approach

So with Blues they accent the “minor” or “dominant” feel of the chords.  Instead of that, Country accents the “major” sound of these chords.  Again, most of that “boogie woogie” rhythm doesn’t include the 3rd of the chord (E and B, E and C# alternating) so the third is up for grabs.

Country really likes the sounds of major pentatonics against a major chord:

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

Country really likes the G# or the major third of the chord, as well as the 6th – the C# – which is being played in that boogie woogie rhythm.

With this approach, similar to the Dominant 7 approach above, your notes will change with each chord.

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

A: A B  C#  D  E

B: B C# D#  F# G#

This can get tricky if the chords are changing a lot, but your playing country is going to require that you know these 3 scales and how they overlap.  At first you’ll hop from scale to scale (nothing wrong with that) but eventually you’ll want to smooth out your transitions the way the pros do and make a melody that fits in the scales as the chords change.

Send any questions or comments my way.  You can also follow me on twitter fastfingers76

Happy Playing