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Play the Blues like Mike Bloomfield

Updated on August 1, 2017

My recent recording track “Waterfall” (Cd Baby) has been influenced by Mike Bloomfield’s way of playing the blues. Mike Bloomfield is one of the most expressive guitar players in America during 1970’s. He was a part of the Super Sessions concert back in those days with the famous Al Cooper. He doesn’t do much of the speed shred that most modern rock guitarists do, but the bended notes tell the story of the song. The guitar involved more melodic lead solos rather than power chord strumming that are famous in punk bands which are a lot simpler to learn. This was a delight for the fans who are always high. I have been listening to the Super Session album which I had borrowed from the Portland Public Library quite a bit.

To be able to play like the artist that you like best it’s always good to know their musical background. I always read artists autobiography and their discography. As to what made the Super Session a relatively interesting blues and R&B album for me is that most of it was recorded live and did not really do a lot of retakes so the musicians actually rehearsed their parts well before the recording session. Some of the tracks had basic layered track but done with live instruments instead of sequencers.

The music is mostly improvisational which is also known as jam sessions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the artists didn’t have any idea on what material to play at the moment. But musicians who are enthused by blues take influences from earlier artists like Eddie Lang, Lonnie Johnson, T Bone Walker, Freddie King, Albert Kingand BB King and more. Mike’s playing is somewhat similar to these artists but he does have his own signature phrasing. Most blues and folk music especially the traditional ones comprise of three chords just going around repetitiously on some kind of 4/4 time signature. But if you listen to some of Muddy Waters songs this tempo is not really regular.

Most of the chords played on guitar or piano are major chords. Blues music that uses minors, minor sevenths and augmented structure I believe belong to the more modern blues style utilizing some jazz tones to it. Most of this type can be heard from the music of the Allman Brothers Band asone example. Mike Bloomfield was probably more influenced by the traditional blues style combined with a rock guitar which is distinguished by its high volume.

Unlike most heavy metal guitar shredders, blues playing is more of emphasizing the single note with string bends or repeatedly playing the same note in a measure or phrase. Techniques like finger sweep legato and tapping are now being used by modern blues guitar players. I never heard Michael playing in this manner. He does have quick chops on scales and has wide use of the pentatonic like most rock players.

Below diagram is a typical blues pentatonic scale in G on the guitar fret board (Fig. 1)


Some artistic blues players use what is known as the blue note which lies half step after the root note.

This “blue note” in my opinion gives the tone a little swing but is really not in the traditional blues style like the ones performed by the Rev. Gary Davis.

In my recording of “Waterfall” I stuck pretty much to the traditional pentatonic scale. The guitar was not overdriven much, high in volume and also plenty of reverb. My studio Peavey Amp kind of captured that tone. I have also used twin reverb Fender amps in the club that I gig at and I still get the same nice sweet tone. I do like the reverb on the Peavey though.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Bloomfield;https://youtu.be/bh1ZYceiddE

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