How Do You Build A Solid Improvisation Toolkit?

We’ve finally made it to “Blues Solo no 6” and I can’t tell you how much this set of 6 blues solos helped me to develop my own improvisation skills.

We’re in the key of G again.

So with this set of solos we’ve covered 3 keys. Obviously there are more than 3 keys but it’s a great sample of commonly used “blues” keys on the guitar.

The idea is that after learning these solos you can start improvising your own blues solos and then build confidence so that you can improvise in other styles and genres eg Rock, Jazz, Country or Pop.

Blues is the great door opener for improvising!

I made listening recommendations as we learnt Blues Solos 3,4 & 5 because listening to great players is essential for us to gain an understanding of what improvising is about & give us a benchmark and standard to aim at.

I really think that the 3 albums by John Mayall that I recommended are very helpful because the playing isn’t overly complicated but the solos are short, sharp and interesting.

I’m really enthusiastic about my listening recommendations for Blues Solo 6.

Why is Clapton and Taylor So Important for Solid Blues Improv?

I would like to follow up on the John Mayall theme and then focus on later recordings of Eric Clapton & Mick Taylor.

I actually own all of Eric Clapton’s recordings… but the album I feel that showcases Clapton at his best is “Derek & The Dominoes In Concert”.

It was released in the early 70’s and later rereleased in the 90’s as “Derek & The Dominoes Live At the Fillmore” with a few alternate and extra tracks.

The Dominoes did 4 nights at the Fillmore East in NY and it’s interesting to hear the band doing a song like “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” differently.

I did a series of lessons for Australian Guitar Magazine that I called “The Early Evolution Of Eric Clapton” where I transcribed some of his solos with the Bluesbreakers and then compared them by transcribing some of his significant solos he did with “Cream” & “Blind Faith”.

There was clearly a growth and evolution over those several albums but by the time of “Derek & The Dominoes In Concert” I don’t think Clapton’s playing was ever better – I believe he was at his peak.

I’m reminded of Ahmet Ertegun, the owner of Atlantic Records, when he said “I got the same feeling hearing Eric Clapton for the first time that I got when I heard John Coltrane for the first time”.

Apart from “Dominoes In Concert” we can hear another side of Clapton on the George Harrison song “I’d Have You Anytime”, you must hear it.

Tracking the Brilliance Of Duane Allman and Tom Dowd

After Blind Faith fell apart Eric played on a “Delaney, Bonnie & Friends” album called “On The Road With Eric Clapton”. It was a live album and it led to the formation of Derek & The Dominoes.

The rhythm section of Carl Raddle on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Bobby Whitlock on keys all left Delaney to join forces with Clapton and became “The Dominoes”.

George Harrison then used them as the backing band for his classic album “All Things Must Pass”. When that finished up Clapton’s record label booked him into Criteria Studio in Miami with the super star record producer “Tom Dowd” to record what would become “Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs”.

Tom Dowd was working with the Allman Bros Band recording their “Idlewild South” album when he mentioned to Duane Allman that he was about to start recording Eric Clapton’s next album.

Duane asked “that’s the guy from Cream? Do you think he’d mind I if come & watch?”

Dowd introduced them and they instantly became great friends, in fact Eric asked Duane to play on the album, which he did, and Clapton later said that Duane Allman made what would have been a good album into a great album.

Duane was a firebrand.

He exuded electricity and by all accounts his enthusiasm and drive were infectious.

The Allmans were one of my favourite bands and I wanted to play slide guitar when I heard Duane play slide on “Statesboro Blues”.

After playing every day for 3 weeks with Duane, Eric Clapton did those Fillmore East shows and that’s the setting for “Derek & The Dominoes In Concert”.

Let Mick Taylor Show You The Way

Now to my “Mick Taylor” listening recommendations.

There are 3 solos of Mick’s that I love. From the Rollings Stones album “Sticky Fingers”, the solo that Mick Taylor did on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” is outstanding as is his soloing on “Time Waits For No One” from the album “It’s Only Rock & Roll”.

The 3rd solo that’s a must is on “Sympathy For The Devil” from the live album “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out” and it must be that particular recording.

The first half of the solo is a classic work out from Keith, then Mick takes over around 5:00 and delivers a masterclass in soloing over a basic Rock chord progression.

Mick Taylor had a great sense of phrasing and melody.

He’d use space between phrases to create anticipation and would repeat a short lick over several times to whip up a kind of frenzy, then build to a high point and climax.

He’s well worth listening to. He doesn’t have a big pallet as in modes or exotic and altered scales but he makes the most of a limited vocabulary, simple Major & Minor scales and pentatonics.

Stay tuned because I have plenty tips ahead for improvising that I want to share!