For our final track, we are bringing it all together! We take a classic Bonamassa style blues-rock ballad and write a solo to die for! It includes all of Bonamassa’s phrasing, technique, speed and incredible pentatonic skills. We also play around with the full Aeolian scale ( natural minor scale) a lot more, and even work with more triads to bring out even more of that Bonamassa magic! Click here to check out the Materials Section below to access the full solo tabbed out in our interactive tab player.
First up, lets take a look at the chord progression. The better we know the chords, the better we can solo over the track. Not only does it put us in the correct key of D minor, it also shows us which chords we might like to highlight with chord tones, or even which chords we might want to change up the scale choice over. Here are the chords:
| Dm | F C | Dm | F C |
| Dm | F C | Bb | Gm | C |
These chords are then arpeggiated through the whole track, giving it an epic ballad feel. You can play these chords anywhere you like, but these are the shapes Dion is using in the backing track.
Our first lick is all about the flavour! Taking a single note and getting the most out of its sustain and vibrato, then using a simple pentatonic pattern but adding some extra spice with some cool grace note slides and epic bends. It’s all in this first line, and it marks the start of a perfectly structured solo, the calm before the storm, if you like! The pentatonic shapes being used are as shown here:
For the second lick we bring in the full D natural minor scale (known as Aeolian scale in modal talk) and layer that on top of the D minor pentatonic scale. This is what gives this sound an extra dark edge, as it keep highlighting the 9th (or 2nd) of the minor scale. We love this sound, and it adds another dimension to Joe Bonamassa’s playing style. It’s all about the melody here. Here is that shape combined with the pentatonic box 1.
This lick is where we really start to ramp up the speed of the solo. It’s all based around the same scale positions as in the previous lick, but now we put together a sequence of notes that needs to be driven through fast! Remember:
“Speed is a by-product of good technique, so keep it slow, and work up gradually.”
For this lick we run through another classic Bonamassa signature phrase that is incredibly fast. As always, with the speed, focus on technique and accuracy, rather than speed. That will come by itself. In this case we have an interesting theoretical concept to work with. About halfway through the lick, which is rooted in that D minor pentatonic box 1, we quickly jump up to box 1 of E minor pentatonic! Why? Well, the first answer is that it’s a cool trick which adds some awesome tension and release to the track. The second answer is that, upon dissecting the notes, we are using the notes from a D Dorian scale, which happens to fall in with the E minor pentatonic shape 1.
“In summary, this flashy move works because it’s based around a D Dorian scale, and is easy to apply as a trick using just shape 1”
Here are the shapes you can consider when playing this part of the lick.
In this tasty little lick we explore a few more ideas based around that D minor scale shape, as well as bring back a few more arpeggio ideas. You may well recognise the 10ths shape we use at the end of the lick, as we used it in unit 2. It’s perfectly applied here as it’s a C major shape which is played over the C major. It’s a great idea to throw these shapes and ideas in as you solo, as it really seperates the sound from all the pentatonic playing either side of it.
“Notice, also, how we can get a lot of mileage from one position. Experiment with your own ideas in these shapes.”
For our last lesson, and final lick of this series, we throw in a few triad shapes to continue to define the chord changes. This is really great fun, and very easy to do when you have the shapes. For the most part, in these two licks, we are playing over the D minor and Bb major chord using the D minor scale. More awesome bends and flowing lines to dig into there. However, as we hit the G minor and then C major in the backing track, we highlight them with the relevant 3 string arpeggio. These arpeggio shapes are shown below, and are blended into the D minor scales.
“The subtleties are key”
The main takeaway from this, or any blues solo, should be that the gold is in the subtleties. The micro bends, the relaxed feel of the lick, the dynamic way of playing. These are all 10x more important than the actual notes you play. We’re confident in saying that Bonamassa could just take one of these licks, play it over the whole 12 bar, and it would still sound amazing. This is because he absolutely nails the subtle techniques and phrasing that makes it comes alive.
You've now completed and taken a huge step forwards in your guitar playing journey.
Feel free to bask in glory for a while, or go ahead and try another course if you're hungry for more.