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David's Tip of the Day: Value of Repetition, Part 9 (Target Notes, Juke and Scratch My Back)

David Barrett Admin's picture

Take a listen to the first lick of Little Walter's "Juke." Though there's some technique going on, essentially he's playing 2 3 4 5+ 6+ 6+. The 2 (or 3+, we don't know for sure) 3 4 5+ happens before the downbeat of the first bar... this is called a pickup. What is it picking up to?... 6+ in this case... the first note of Bar 1 and the Root Note of the I7 Chord. The second 6+ is a reiteration of the 6+, so it's not new information and not structurally important. This means that the lick is essentially just 6+, with the 2 3 4 5+ as a pickup to lead into it and the last 6+ there for rhythmic effect. This is standard melodic analysis, nothing surprising here. To play this lick in time is also fairly easy, due to the fact that the pickup is a beat and a half in length (starting on the "and" of beat 3). This is the most common rhythm for a pickup in the blues world, so it's fairly intuitive for most players.

Steve, a fellow member of and private student of mine at School of the Blues, played "Baby Scratch My Back" by Slim Harpo yesterday at the jam session. Rhythm was a challenge for him with this song, as it is with most new players to this song. He commonly started late, by many beats in some cases. The performance went fine though, he was able to get back in time to start his vocals and for the ending of the song... well done Steve.

Listen to this famous song and ask yourself how the phrasing works and why a player may find it challenging to keep aligned within the 12 Bar Blues progression... this will be important for tomorrow's discussion.