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Exclusive 7 String Lesson From Steve Herberman, Down Low Blues

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Jazz guitarist and JGT contributor Steve Herberman provides a 7 string lesson with a two-line counterpoint.

One of my favorite textures to employ while playing fingerstyle guitar is two-line counterpoint. The 7 string guitar is particularly well-suited for this type of approach. I use the low A tuning for the 7th string to get a couple of extra notes that the low B tuning can’t achieve. I debated whether to write the 7 string bass notes in bass clef or using an 8vb indication, but decided on writing the notes in the treble clef on the proper octave. The guitar does sound an octave below where it’s written which makes bass clef very tempting! If all of the ledger lines are an issue than I suggest looking at the chord symbols and TAB which should more easily identify those low bass notes. The Down Low Blues seemed like an appropriate title. 

For this two-line concept, I usually think of the bass line first and then add a melody on top. I improvise for while with the bass and melody until certain melodies catch my ear and then I may write them down. That’s how this piece came to be. Some of the lines remind me of New Orleans-style jazz and I went with that and tried to develop those ideas. With the bass line I took advantage of inversions as often as possible to get good leading tones into chord roots. 

The pickup measure utilizes one of my very favorite concepts, contrary motion. In bar 2 over the D#dim7 I couldn’t resist filling out the chord a bit and you’ll see that approach in bars 5,9, 10 and 12 as well. Harmonically speaking everything is pretty standard for a blues progression until bar 7 with the C#/E#. This chord is acting like the V7 of F#7, the next chord in the progression. That F#7 is the V7 of B9 which is the V7 of E7. This is a series of Dom. 7th chords with cycle 4 root motion, extended and secondary dominants. The contrary motion is quite evident in bar 11. On the last beat of bar 11, the bass line suggests a D#dim7. Syncopation between the bass line and melody is used the most in the initial pickup measure and in bar 11. 

In the second ending (final bar) a nice overlapping occurs when the initial 3 notes of the A9 are sounded followed with a 3rd and a high root added after the fact. In the video I decided to take that 3rd and root up an octave. 

I hope you enjoyed playing through this etude and that it may point you in a nice direction for future things to play and study. I have many lessons available on Mikesmasterclasses.com, quite a few of them in this contrapuntal style.   


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