And welcome back to the most popular songwriting compendium in the known universe. If you are just joining us, this is actually the sequel to a very recent article about how to create original music by improperly interpreting tablature.
Stoney Pony Blues
Today’s blues standard in E major has been misinterpreted from another Charley Patton tune, Stoney Pony Blues. The terrible tablature once again came from Stefan Grossman’s Early Masters of American Blues Guitar. And as of yet, I still haven’t ever heard the Charley Patton version.
The standard formula has been applied: I read the tablature, I refuse to listen to the song, I learn the positions and shapes, and then I write my own version based on what sounds good to me.
The Main Motif
First and foremost, let me just say this tablature blew my mind. I have been playing guitar for 20 years, and although I don’t claim to be some sort expert on American roots blues guitar, there is definitely something unique about the playing in this song. The main motif centres around this weird C#-G-E drone 6th position shape for the I. I don’t know where this comes from, as C# is pretty uncommon for a chord tone over an Emajor chord in the blues tradition, outside the standard shuffle. But it’s not a shuffle, and it’s in a hemiola pattern.
I chose to keep this strange shape, and took a queue from the tab by putting a bit of a bend on the notes. The original tab had the bend just on the G, to create the standard E G G# blues identity, but I took that energy and made it into a spongy bend release pattern, flowing down to highlight the third and root at 6th position. Of course, if you’ve ever played an old acoustic guitar with high action, try to play this spongy line would cut your fingers to shreds. So if you’re looking for authenticity, maybe look somewhere else; the only thing we’re cooking here is originality.
For the IV, the tab goes between the C#-G-E at 6th position and a 2nd position A7 barre melody line, so I fumbled my way back and forth between the two. Here the C#-G-E makes more sense, creating an obvious A7, but bending the G up is a bit weird flavour over the A.
For the V, we’re taking it home with a pretty standard B7 to set the stage for this weird melody line featuring fairly standard E7 and D7 shapes. Why they are played over the V-IV is anybody’s guess.
For the grand finale I-V, I went back to my spongy 6th position line, but I added an extra note so that my fingers would be in line for a lovely V inversion, leaving the B and E strings to drone. This is so far from anything you would hear in a roots blues tune, but whatever. It’s my song, not yours.