Transposing licks in blues

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by sidk47, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. sidk47

    sidk47 Member

    Mar 4, 2012

    I've learnt a few licks that can be applied over the I chord of a blues progression.

    My question is, how many frets higher should I play the same lick to transpose it over the IV chord and also the V chord.

    Is there a way I can do that? For example is there an answer like, if I go up 5 frets I can play over the IV chord? Or is this not possible at all?

    I hope you catch my drift.

    Thanking you all in advance,
  2. RLD

    RLD Member

    Aug 16, 2010
    What is your I chord?
    What is your IV chord?
    How many frets higher is your IV chord?
    Repeat for V chord.
  3. sidk47

    sidk47 Member

    Mar 4, 2012
    Well to answer RLD, Usually I am in the key of A minor. My I IV V in this case would be A, D and E. So considering that the roots are in the 6th string, If I transpose my lick up 5 frets, would I be able to play it over the D chord? Also if I transpose my lick up 7 frets, would I be able to play it over the V chord?
  4. jonnytexas

    jonnytexas Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    Your # of frets is correct, but I don't think you will be pleased with the sounds. Try staying in the A position through all the changes until you are proficient at getting that to sound right.
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer

    Really depends on the tune and the line. If the first chord is Amin, is the next Dmin or is it D7? Are you sure the first chord isn't A7? In an A blues the A minor pentatonic or A blues scale sounds good over A7, and also sounds good over D7. But D minor pent or blues scale doesn't always sound so hot over D7 in that same tune (although it is sometimes used). As always, try it and see what you think. I think you'd best be served learn the notes in the chord and how the notes in your scale patterns relate...
  6. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Some licks will sound fine moved up and some won't. The faster you can move beyond just moving identical patterns around the better you'll be. There is some interesting ground to be gained by taking patterns that you'd normally "move up", and re-fingering them lower in ways that move the notes that are normally higher than your center or root note to lower pitched ones.
  7. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    You're right that IV is 5 frets up (and V is 7 frets up from I, or 5 down), but - as mentioned above - not all licks need to be transposed up. In fact most blues licks sound best staying right where they are.
    If your lick is totally in blues scale or minor pent, it should stay exactly where it is.
    The blues scale is actually a scale designed to work on all 3 chords, without transposition.

    But if your lick is more jazzy one, maybe using mixolydian mode of I, then it probably does need to be transposed to IV (and V). That's because that kind of lick is much more dependent on chord tones. But still, it may not sound best to shift the whole thing up a 4th. Just change the notes you need to to fit the chord.

    A common thing with blues licks (using minor pent or blues scale) is that on the I chord you might bend the b3 up towards the M3 of the chord. Then the only change you make on the IV chord is to not bend that note. That's because the b3 of blues scale is the b7 of the IV chord - you could bend it a whole step up to the root of IV (4th of blues scale), but it doesn't sound too good to only apply a half-step bend (or less).

    If you listen to a lot of classic R&B, you'll hear repeated riffs (on horns or guitar) that change only one note when moving to IV - the M3 on the I chord will drop a half-step to the b7 of the IV (Eg, C# to C in key of A).
    Here's a classic demonstrating the principle as simply as possible:

    Listen to his solo too. He stays in the same position throughout.

    The idea is that the scale (and riffs) run the show, and the chords are secondary - as the chords change they just add slightly different colours to the licks.
    The bass lines will always transpose up a 4th of course (or down a 5th), but it may be the only instrument that does so. Even the chords should usually stay in the same position, with only the minimum essential changes:
    A7 . D9

    Here's another classic, where the lick doesn't change at all on the IV, just adds something different on the V.

    The guitar chords also change minimally:
    C7#9 . F9

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