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Robben's previous books and videos cover a lot of ground but never before has he prepared such a comprehensive curriculum as the one he presents in this Blues Revolution interactive learning experience. At last, ALL of the dots are seamlessly connected.
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Robben Ford is one of the premier electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing, as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield, Susan Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Larry Carlton, Mavis Staples, Brad Paisley, and many others.
Explore the Course
Embraced by listeners and players alike, Robben's innovative and soulful musicality triggered a revolution in electric blues guitar styling. In this 6-hour, interactive video Blues Revolution course, Robben steps you through his Chicago blues influences, chord and scale vocabulary, rhythm guitar techniques, improvisational approaches and harmonic insight for crafting the fresh, contemporary lines that comprise his signature sound -- it's all here!
Robben organized Blues Revolution into a series of six sections, each covering essential disciplines and techniques: This course offers 56 lessons covering 6+ hours of material in step-by-step, digestible presentation.
Welcome to BLUES REVOLUTION, my first interactive learning project! Not only does the interactive format equip you with more tools to accelerate the learning process, it gives me more opportunity to really drill deep on many of the subjects that I get asked about all of the time. All in all, there’s over 6 hours of video lessons and tons of associated tabs, notation, charts and tracks -- my most comprehensive course offering ever!
Robben discusses some of his early influences and explains his attraction to the very melodic, almost vocal styling that has evolved into his signature approach for soloing and improvisation.
There's a lot of music that can be made with the pentatonic scale. Robben demonstrates just that with this soloing example in the key of G. Deliberately sticking to just the five notes of the G pentatonic scale ("maybe a flatted fifth here and there"), Robben illustrates how a melodic, vocal styling can be far more impactful for the listener than a more complex, busier approach.
Robben plays another solo, this time over a one chord vamp, and again he sticks strictly to the five notes of the E pentatonic scale. The melodic, vocal styling approach is very evident in this and the previous playing example as both demonstrate just how much good music can be played with just a few notes. Less is indeed more.
Most guitarists lock themselves into set fretboard patterns, especially when using the pentatonic scale, which significantly restricts creativity and sucks the life out of the music you make.Robben shows you how to break out of this pattern-based mindset with a fretboard workout designed to free up your playing and expand your musical ideas.
Robben shares some great advice on how to speed up your personal development as a musician through playing as much as possible with other musicians and by emulating those artists that you admire to train your ear and start building a vocabulary that you can craft into your own sound and style. Listen. Play. Emulate.
Robben points out how the pentatonic scale and playing the blues, is an excellent foundation to develop your musicality. The five notes of the scale are easily recognizable in a blues form and this helps train your ears. Robben stresses the importance of developing your ear so that you can hear a phrase and play it back without relying on notation or tablature.
Solid practice habits and smart multi-tasking workouts really speed up your progress. Robben demonstrates a workout that combines alternate picking with scale mastery to develop both speed and fretboard mastery simultaneously. Robben also suggests some interesting ways to change up fingerings for scales. How do you keep strings from ringing at the wrong time? "Any way you can!"
A short but very sweet video excerpt from the live workshop on the subject of listening; “If someone plays high, you play low."
Another revealing excerpt from the live workshop; "My weakness becomes a strength."
In this video excerpt from the live workshop, Robben shares a key insight passed on to him by Joni Mitchell.
Chicago Blues: Insight
Robben performs a country-blues-inspired Chicago blues and then breaks it down, demonstrating some of the techniques that he employs to achieve an authentic Chicago sound. He finishes the video lesson with a few of his own moves that helped forge his personal style and signature sound.
Working now with a bass and drum rhythm track, Robben demonstrates a rhythm guitar approach for a Chicago blues shuffle in E spiced with a few tasty fills.
Double-stops and triple-stops are important tools in any blues genre, and this is especially so in the Chicago blues tradition. Robben demonstrates how to work these techniques into your solos, rhythm parts and fills. Note how several of the double- and triple-stops are derived from underlying chord changes; B7 and E7 in particular. Don't miss the great Lightnin' Hopkins lick that Robben tosses in here!
Chicago blues players not only electrified the blues, they added more sophisticated chords to the blues such as the 9th chord, which is used in place of the standard 7th. Robben demonstrates various applications of the 9th chords, both as full chords and as a very versatile triple-stop on the top three strings and continues his demonstration of what was then "new harmonic terrain for the blues" with an introduction to the 13th chord.
Robben shares key insights for becoming a solid rhythm section player - a strong rhythm player is always in demand. Robben discusses the importance of using repetition and creating consistency for the soloist or singer to perform over comfortably.
While playing the same chord and rhythm pattern is a recipe for boredom, playing too much is just as bad. In this playing example, Robben demonstrates how to balance variation with consistency by varying the rhythm guitar figure for each 12-bar section. Once the new figure is established he stays consistent within the section.
Robben breaks down his previous rhythm guitar performance. He demonstrates voicings as well as how to craft fills to keep the rhythm part interesting without becoming intrusive.
Robben walks you through the chord voicings and harmonies for Misdirected Blues. Some of the highlights include Robben demonstrating the C7#9#5 voiced as E(3rd)-Bb(7th)-D#(#9)-G#(#5)-C(root) and showing how the raised 5th G# can also be thought of as the lowered 13th Ab as they are enharmonically the same note (different names but the same sound). Then he moves the chord down one fret to serve as the V7 chord as G9b13 made up of Eb(b13)-A(9th)-D(5th)-G(root) sometimes adding in C as the 11th. From there he moves to Eb13 with a flat 5th voiced Db(7th)-G(3rd)-C(13th)-F(9th)-A(b5). Then it's back to the blues progression, rounded off with an extended V ending on G13. Note that even with all of the extensions and form modifications, the underlying form is still the blues.
Comping over a one-chord vamp, and keeping it interesting for both the listener and soloist is extremely challenging. Robben demonstrates how to leverage various chord voicings, double- and triple-stops, fills and a variety of other devices to make a whole lot of music over a simple G chord vamp.
Robben breaks down the previous one-chord vamp explaining that even though the chord is a G7, he is thinking and playing in the key of C. The notes G to G in the key of C, is the mixolydian mode. Robben expands on several concepts ranging from slash chords to sus chords to voicing chords in 4ths across the pentatonic scale. There’s enough insight packed into this one lesson to ensure that your own one-chord jams will never sound the same again.
Digging deeper into the importance of consistency when playing rhythm guitar, Robben shares his passion for chords and offers up a few trade secrets for how he approaches creating interest when supporting the rhythm section.
Putting many of the concepts discussed previously to work in a musical context, Robben performs a rhythm guitar part for a blues in D. Notice how Robben tweaks the voicings in each 12-bar section.
Robben shares a few of his early experiences and key learnings from Joni Mitchell and some of the great musicians working with her during that time. He also reflects on and demonstrates some of the influences of the 60’s R&B scene with artists like Junior Walker and the All Stars.
Robben demonstrates how to develop a rhythm part, starting with the basics and then building upon that rhythmic and harmonic foundation as the song progresses. Robben points out that building on a rhythm part does not always mean making it more complex -- often times, simplifying a part to give it more breathing space, gives a more interesting shape to the arrangement.
Respectfully borrowed from Albert Collins, Robben passes on a very distinctive and useful rhythm part; play through an entire progression using just tritones, the 3rd and 7th of each chord.
More bonus footage from the live workshop, Robben demonstrates three very tasty rhythm parts, locked and loaded for your very next blues jam.
Chords are everything to Robben and he stresses how important it is to possess a large and versatile vocabulary of voicings. In this section of the course, Robben covers the chords and voicings that he uses in a blues setting, most of which are generally referred to as jazz chords. Robben also dives deep into chord applications including themes and movements.
9th chords bring a richness and sophistication to the harmony of the blues. The 9th is an essential chord and Robben demonstrates various characteristic voicings and how they were used by some of his seminal influences like Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop.
Robben presents the concept of chordal movements and themes. His first example shows a theme of A-Bb-B (on the high E string), with A as the root of the A13 (I), Bb is added as the b9 of A13, and then B is added to the D9 chord (IV) to form D13. The next example focuses on a A13b9 chord. With the b9 added it now contains a cycle of minor 3rds; the diminished chord C#-E-G-Bb. Robben demonstrates how to apply the diminished scale (C#-D#-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C) over the chord, and like any diminished chord, the chord and/or scale can be moved up or down the neck by minor 3rds as the combination of notes remain the same, as they are simply reorganized on the fretboard. He ends this lesson by presenting a I-VI-II-V-I turnaround that ends one 12-bar section and moves right into the next. Rather than use the standard A - F#m - Bm - E7 chords for the turnaround, Robben utilizes the concepts he has shown so far to create one using A13 add9 - F# #9b13 - Bm9 - E7 #9b13 - A13.
Working over a 12-bar form in the Texas blues tradition, Robben demonstrates applications and rhythmic ideas for many of the chords discussed thus far.
Robben demonstrates how to use a diminished chord to move from the IV chord back to the I chord. In the key of A for example, he shows how to take the top 4 notes of the D9 chord, and lower the 9th (E) to Eb to arrive at the D# dim7 chord (F#-C-D#-A), which leads very smoothly back to the A chord. Moving voicings of the diminished chord up or down by minor 3rds can lead to many other voicings of the I chord across the neck.
This bonus excerpt from the live workshop is an ear-opening overview and demonstration of the three ways that Robben suggests approaching chordal movement; with chromatics, pentatonics and/or scales.
Another bonus excerpt from the live workshop; this one covering a few tasty chord voicings and themes for the blues ala Robben!
In this section of the course, Robben devotes a lot of time discussing and presenting scales and their applications. Thus far, Robben has presented many altered chords, which are the chords where the 5th, 9th or 13th has been raised or lowered -- now he drills down on the scales to play over those altered chords, and this helps to unravel the signature Robben Ford sound. For diminished chords or chords that contain the notes of the diminished 7th chord (such as the dominant 7 b5), the diminished scale works perfectly. The diminished scale is simply a series of whole step - half step pairs. For example, over the G13b9 chord it is Ab - Bb - B - C# - D - E - F - G - Ab. Any altered chord wants to go somewhere. They need to be resolved. For instance, G13b9 wants to resolve to an unaltered C chord such as C9 or C13. A G b13 resolves to a C7 or C9, and it takes the other common altered scale. This scale has two names, the more descriptive being "half-diminished, half-whole tone" meaning that the first half comes from the diminished scale (half step - whole step - half step) while the second half is all whole tones. So over G b13b9 the scale is G - Ab - Bb - B - C# - D# - F - G. Another name for this scale is the ascending melodic minor scale starting a half-step up (that is, over Ab for a G chord). So, the ascending melodic minor scale of Ab is Ab - Bb - Cb (or B) - Db (C#) - Eb (D#) - F - G - Ab. Either way you think of it, it's best to start playing it on G to keep G as the tonal center. Notice too that G b13b9 has the same top notes as C#9. Since a common blues move is to move a C9 up a fret (to C#9) and back, we can play the same altered scale over that C#9 as we would over G b13b9. And again, just changing the bass gives us a whole new chord that we already know how to play. Robben ends with a beautiful arpeggio that fits nicely over this altered chord.
This lesson illustrates how to derive the triads from a major scale. Triads are numbered by the number of the note in the scale. So in the key of C, C is 1, Dm is 2, Em is 3, F is 4, G is 5, Am is 6 and B dim is 7. Starting the C major scale on any note other than C gives us the other modes of the key of C. For example, playing the C scale from D to D (D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D) is called the Dorian mode. The three major chords in a major scale (I, IV and V) can be very versatile played over different bass notes. For example, in the key of C, the triads C, F, and G work well over a constant G bass, or D bass but you can experiment with all the notes of the key. Robben stresses how important it is to learn the triads, over the entire neck of the guitar, to be able to play in any position and to vary what you play to make it more musical and interesting. You can also just take pieces from each of the triads and mix them together. Endless possibilities.
In this video, Robben explains the concept of a tritone substitution. This means that for a dominant 7 chord we can substitute the 7 chord a tritone away. A tritone is just three whole tones, the exact mid-way point of the chromatic scale. So for a G7 chord, we count up three whole steps to C# (G-A-B-C#) so that C#7 is the tritone substitution for G7, and just like G7 it resolves to C. Notice that in the G7 chord the B is the 3rd and F is the 7th, while in C#7 the B is the 7th and the F (or E#) is the 3rd - they reverse roles. We have to alter our scale to play over the tritone substitution. For example, we can play our C major scale over G7 (or you can call it the mixolydian mode, same thing) but for the tritone substitution we need to play C# instead of C, so the scale becomes G - A - B - C# - D - E - F - G just for the C#7 chord.
Building on the previous tritone lesson, Robben demonstrates how to view a C#7 as the tritone substitution for a G13 chord (like a G13 with C# in the bass: C#-F(E#)-B-E-G). We can use the diminished scale over this chord: G-Ab-Bb-B-C#-D-E-F-G. In the blues, the tritone substitution usually shows up on the two beats before moving to the IV chord (for example, to C in a G blues). Robben likes to use chromatic tones (notes a semi-tone below the target note) and these are the same types of motion as the C#-C root movement that we previously observed. As an added bonus, Robben demonstrates a great diminished pattern made famous by sax great John Coltrane, where you play a note, then go down a whole step and up a perfect fourth in sequence. For example, G-F-Bb-Ab-Db-B-E-D-G.
Moving on from C#7, Robben considers the tritone substitution of C#9, which has the same notes as G7 b9b13 with C# in the bass. The scale for this chord is the "half-diminished, half-whole step" scale that Robben showed earlier: G-Ab-Bb-B-C#-D#-F-G. He varies the riff he played over the C#7 to fit over the C#9 here like this: G-Ab-Bb-B-D#-G-F-Bb-Ab-G-F and so on. (Notice that the pattern "down a whole step, up a perfect 4th" does not work over this scale.) Robben's discussion of scales and triads as musical devices is another added bonus in this lesson.
This 10-minute bonus live workshop excerpt is good for about a hundred hours worth of study in the shed; more on chords and scales you should know!
In this last section of the course, Robben pulls it all together and presents valuable insight, guidance and revealing performances related to soloing and improvisation. In this first lesson of the section, Robben discusses playing over changes.
Now that you have a handle on Robben’s underlying theoretical and harmonic concepts, observe how Robben applies them in an extended improvisation. Take note of his use of altered scales, arpeggios and the way he builds the solo to make it more exciting as it progresses.
For Robben the essence of improvisation is "taking a leap" and feeling confident enough in your mastery of the fretboard to try something new without getting lost or hitting a wrong note. In fact, Robben suggests avoiding playing what you already know in favor of experimenting with new positions and fingerings. Different picking styles also give your playing different textures; playing with a pick, with your fingers, or a combination of both. Bends, vibrato and other expressions are also creative factors you should employ.
Robben discusses how to approach crafting a guitar solo and finding your own voice on the instrument. The recommendations and examples are particularly insightful for players who tend to build solos primarily by stringing licks together.
In the rhythm section of the course, Robben walked you through the changes. In this lesson, Robben solos over the track using many of the principles presented in previous lessons.
Robben presents many of the physical techniques that support his style and sound. Alternate and down-picking, bends, hammers and pull-offs are covered and demonstrated along with guidance for developing your own technique to help define your own personal style.
and so this entire lesson is dedicated to how Robben developed his own technique, and the various ways he works his vibrato when playing.
This blues in A soloing performance is the first of three solos demonstrating all of the techniques, concepts and principles covered in the course. As with all of the previous playing examples, it’s all tabbed and notated out to get you through the sticky parts, but before you jump to the notation - listen, play and emulate.
Robben now solos over a mid-tempo blues in D. As an exercise, study and dissect the entire solo and see if you can identify all of the technical, theoretical, harmonic and creative principles that Robben covered in other sections of the course.
In this final performance of the course, Robben treats us to a solo blues improvisation. While there's no accompaniment, and plenty of single line figures, the listener never loses sense of time, tempo or chordal structure. Yes, it too is also all tabbed out BUT this lesson is about taking everything you’ve hopefully learned from the course and putting it to work in your own solo improvisations, in your own voice, in your own style.
Some tasty open-string lickage from Robben, generously presented in his live workshop and included here as bonus footage.
More diminished wisdom from the live workshop, to give you a little more perspective on the diminished insight provided previously.
Couldn’t get enough of that solo blues performance in the soloing section? No worries, here’s more bonus footage from the live workshop of Robben playing a solo blues in E.
Thanks to you for picking up BLUES REVOLUTION! I hope you’ve found all you were hoping for across the various sections of the course. I’ve had a blast prepping the material and look forward to producing more interactive educational material for you to work with. If you haven’t signed up at my website or on the Robben Ford Dojo, please do so that I can stay in touch and keep you informed of all my educational projects. Play like there's no tomorrow! Robben
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