Blues Guitar Rhythm Lesson 4: Ninths and The Flat Tire Rhythm

Blues Guitar Rhythm Lesson 4: Ninths and The Flat Tire Rhythm

While the dominant 7th chord is the heart of blues harmony, we can spice up our chords by adding tensions.  A tension is a scale tone added to a chord voicing that is not included in the original 7th chord.  Any scale tone can be used as a tension as long as it its not a half-step above a chord tone, which creates an awful clash.  The first one we will cover is the ninth, a very cool, laid-back sounding chord frequently used by James Brown.

When we play the dom7(9) chord shown at the top left, imagine we are playing sixth string-rooted dom7 chord, but omitting the bottom two strings.  The root of the chord is still where it would be on the Low E-string, but we are leaving it out.  Visualizing the root on the Low E will help us determine what chord we are playing.  For instance, if we are playing the chord in third position, we are playing a G7(9).

The Flat Tire Rhythm

The “Flat Tire” rhythm is the name for a rhythm pattern attacking the upbeats rather than the downbeats.  This is done with an upstroke rather than a downstroke and can be embellished by adding a muted downstroke on the downbeat.  Let’s apply these 7(9) shapes and the Flat Tire rhythm to a blues in G.  Be sure to use a drum track to keep time.

Blues Rhythm Guitar Lesson

As always, practice this pattern in at least five other keys to fully master it.

Alternate Ninths Voicings

It is also common to use the voicing on the above left in place of the first Dom7(9) chord we discussed, as well as using the variation on the above right (which simply omits the high E string) in place of the second chord we discussed.  The voicing on the above left is fingered so that the third and fourth fingers are vertically over the root.  Thus the blues in G would look like this: 

As always, practice this pattern in at least five other keys to fully master it.

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