Brad Carlton’s JazzedBluesAssemblyLines
Spicing up a 12-Bar Solo
In this month’s lesson, we’re going to look at a hard-hitting, funky
12-bar blues solo. While we won’t go into individual pieces of the
solo puzzle, such as why we’re playing the notes that we do, we
will be discussing how to add variations, such as keyboard double-stops, syncopated phrasing and a touch of jazz language.
haps as quarter notes before heading into that repetitious 5, b7
and 1 motif. You can also experiment with taking licks from measure 4 and using those to kick the solo off.
Consider the transcribed solo as your template – you’ll be taking
the same ideas and phrases contained within and editing them to
create a new solo. This is important to remember, because you
don’t want to have to keep coming up with new ideas. You want
to be able to take what you’ve done before and simply put a different twist on it.
Our solo opens with a classic Grant Green repetition, blended
with double-stops borrowed from blues and jazz organists. Then
it’s C minor blues and double-stops over the next pair of bars
leading back to the C7 chord. The solo finishes off with a solid C
minor pentatonic sequence, ala George Benson.
When we arrive at the F7 in measures 5 and 6, you’ll notice we
use a fairly strong, vertical lick to start. As we mentioned earlier,
you could flip those two measures for a completely different feel.
Start with measure 5 and you have fast 16th notes giving you a
sort of slingshot momentum as you approach the turn back to
C7; if you begin with measure 6, you can use those funky double-stops to give the solo more of a rhythmic grounding. As long as
you don’t wander away from the chord tones in those two measures, you can really experiment with time to change the entire
feel of the solo.
So how could you vary some of these ideas to create a new solo
without a lot of effort? Let’s start at the beginning. The opening
phrase creates a repetitious motif between the 5, the b7 and the
1 before a nice double-stop. If we look to traditional blues forms,
especially those influenced by organ players, these double-stop
licks can really be used and recycled to add some great rhythm
emphasis. Thus, one solution to freshening up the first line of this
solo is as simple as flipping the first two bars – with the second
bar first, we can start off by playing some tasty double-stops, per-
In measures 9 and 10 we revisit the repetitious theme we developed at the very beginning of the solo – this would be another
great place to fill in some funky double-stops if you want a more
rhythmic feel to the solo. Otherwise, you could dispense with the
slides and just blaze full-speed ahead to the final C blues run. The
last two bars are an opportunity to let that inner improv artist out.
Hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you to shift around
those solo ideas you’ve been playing for years. Begin by editing
one or two bars at a time; see how little changes inspire you to
change more. With a little rearranging and a little exploration, you
can come up with fresh-sounding solos that don’t require reinventing the wheel.