This is a question I hear all the time…

“If I’m playing in A, using A minor blues, and the chord goes to D7, shouldn’t I change to D minor blues?”

The answer, as always, is to do what you like. If you like that sound, then use it.

BUT – know that you’ll be one of the first to like it 😉

However, there is one situation where that idea works really well, so I’ll show you both.

Hope you dig the video!


    20 replies to "Why You Don’t Change Keys Over A Blues"

    • John Malcolm

      If you play your first solo over E major blues in E major, and the second time around change to E minor (staying higher than the rest of the band who are still in major) it sounds great. Guitar and sax “soloing” together and both doing this is killer.
      I hope I don’t get accused of one-upmanship here. It’s not my intention. I want us ALL to keep the blues interesting.
      Thanks for reading my rants.

    • John Malcolm

      Changing keys in blues is very effective. Try for example in a song in E major, going (the whole band) to E minor for the solo and coming back to major (perhaps after a turnaround over B7) to either finish or return to the next verse.
      In E major you might also similarly try diverting to G major. There are lots of other effective key-changing scenarios that add a lot of interest to blues. Two or three hours of modal 12-bar songs is a lot to ask from an audience in my humble opinion.
      Even just finishing on, say an E major chord where the ntir rest of the song has been in E minor, I like very much.
      Another one I like is at the end of a blues in say E major, playing a rumble of A minor before dramatically coming down on a held E major.
      When you E7 in the 4th bar of E major 12-bar blues and then move to the A major, this is a temporary key-change, shifting the tonal centre to A

    • John Malcolm

      A Dm played high up the neck over a lower D7 adds up to a D raised9th Just don’t play it lower, where it clashes. The raised 9th (usually E9# is sometimes called the Jimmy Hendrix chord because it features) in quite a few of his well-known songs. A raised 9th chord can be seen as major in the lower octave and minor in the top octave, which might help some to solo through it. If you play the E9# up where Jimmy and just about everyone plays it (07678x) and play only the second and 5th string together, it sounds pretty bad; it needs the other notes to make it work.
      This idea of playing what seems to be a different chord high up the neck, is used a lot in blues. Sticking to the standard Mixolydian mode (like a major scale but with the flattened 7th) gets tediously predictable after a couple of songs. Bending notes is usually the escape from that.

    • Norman Blackmore

      Griff, Great lesson. I agree with you, however I actually liked the “follow the chord” riffs that you played.
      Didn’t you do a “follow the chord” lesson a few months ago?

    • Eric Levine

      Griff – But can’t you change keys with the changing chords if you stay in pentatonic MAJOR with the applicable chord (i.e., A major pentatonic, D major pentatonic & E major pentatonic?)

    • Casey Brose

      I actually liked the sound over the 7th chords.

    • Dave Delisio

      Griff, I have seen videos of other guitar players and they talk about and demonstrate following the chords when they are improvising. I understand what you are saying and demostrating in this video, but now I am confused. Can you give me some clairification?

      Really enjoy your emails and have several of your courses where I have learned so much!

    • JohnnyB

      OMG, would I love to have the tab for the lick at 1:01 in the video!

    • Ken M

      Good lesson , makes sense to my ear . My mind is working on why .

    • tony

      I believe that this is one good reason that i have deciding where to go when in a major and why it sucks . Minor example is a very good way to go. As always thank you.

    • Michael Chappell

      Hey Griff, Yep it does not sound right…Not something I would try..

      Good lesson though.

      Stay safe and well.

      Michael-Sydney-Australia July 24,2020

    • Dennard

      Great lesson. Yiu are so right when the chord changes and you change with it, it sounds ok but doesn’t feel right. Going to try that in a minor blues. Major or should I say minor ah ha moment

    • Mike H.

      I’ve been trying to teach myself “I Put A Spell On You”. In CCR’s version, I think Fogerty stays, pretty much, in Em pentatonic boxes the whole time but this approach may be just what the doctor ordered for that tune when it goes to Am. However the 5 is B7 (not minor) so… I reckon I could chase the B7 using the B7 major pentatonic or go back to the Em pentatonic then to the Am scale and back to the Em. Kind of a mix n’ match. Is that kosher? I know, I know… ask my ears.
      There are other major chords in that song too but, I think they are just used in the fast strumming parts.
      BTW – It’s impossible to sing it like Fogerty but, it’s fun to try.

    • AlanH

      Hey Griff here’s a suggestion. It would be handy, at least for me because I suck at looper, if you included your loop at the end of the lesson so we could download it (I use 4K Video downloader) as an mp3 to continue the practice on our own.

    • Jim Rogers

      Thanks, Griff. So, why do so few great players not “chase the chord changes” when all the chords are minor? I understand the “what” but not the “why”…?

      • Eel1948

        I think you misunderstood. You can chase the chords when they are minor, am dm em. Playing blues in A for example, if you played a dm pentatonic over the D7, it wouldn’t sound right. Doing that would effectively be changing keys, and that’s why it’s weak. You’ve left your tonal center of A.

        • John Malcolm

          Dm played high while D7 is played low adds up to D raised 9th as I recently explained elsewhere in the thread. I am interested in any informed comments on this.
          No disrespect intended here. It’s open to criticism.
          When you are in E (usually Mixolydian in blues, to get the D note in) and play an A7 you have already left the mode and are playing G natural, the minor third of E
          Personally I think that to really sound like the blues masters, it is best to forget about keeping to a modal approach throughout, and instead observe where all the extensions to each chord are., including the bent extensions like the raised 9th and raised 11th

    • Interstate slim

      Thanks Griff, more insight as to getting the most out of our playing. Highly appreciated and enjoy your day.

    • Martin

      Thank you sir. Once again you take the mystery out of it. So, what I am gathering is that in minor would could chase the chords, but not absolutely necessary.

    • Jerry Persall

      Good explanation and very much appreciated. This is why I read these things every morning. Excellent learning nuggets with practical applications!

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