Blues Master Chris Duarte


An Interview w/ Blues Master Chris Duarte …


Ø        Riffmaster– Hey Chris, What's up my man?


  Doin’ good out here. Just trying to keep healthy and work in new ideas.


Ø        Riffmaster– Give all our loyal readers and peeps an update with what’s been going on with you these dayz…


This year has been extremely busy for me and not just on one musical front. I went to   Switzerland for a two week tour with a drummer I used to play with back in the day in Austin, Chris Massey. We were in a band called Justus and we won the Austin Chronicle Award for best Jazz band back in 88’. Massey had been living in Swizterland for the past 12 years and has established himself there so he hooked us together with an organ player and we did a trio thing. It was really a lot of fun. We hope to do some more gigs maybe in the fall or summer festival season.


I still have my group, CDG that’s staying busy and we’ll be heading to Japan for a one week tour in 4 cities; Osaka, Hamamatsu, Tokyo and Yokohama.


Currently as we speak I’m on the road with Bluestone Co. They’re from  Japan and we tour 2 months out of the year; one month in the states and one month in  Japan. We’re just finishing up the  US leg, a six-week tour, and  Japan starts on the 10th of April.  Also I’ve put together a special tour to celebrate the 16th year since the release of "Texas Sugar Strat Majik”, my first jump into the world and  the recording that has essentially brought me most of my fan base and attention to the world as a guitar player. I’ve got the original members from the session on this tour, I wouldn’t have it any other way, that’s John Jordan on bass and  Brannen  Templeon drums. So far the tour is only a 10 day affair. We’ll be in  Florida and  Texas but if we get a positive response we might try another leg in a different region. Then if that’s not enough, I’m going into the studio this June with the ever-talented Mike Varney and we’re going to do another CDG album. I’m sure it’ll be out by September or October. That’s just the first half of this year,*whew*, what am I going to do for an encore!?



Ø        Riffmaster- I was checkin' out your MySpace page and I like what I see & hear…I also hear some kool musical influences too. Give our readers an idea of what you were listening to growing up thru high school and beyond…


Growing up inthe time I did of course the Beatles were really large in my sphere. I remember "My Cherie Amour” and singing along with it as it was a hit on AMradio. All of my musical attenuations started to change in high school. I started playing guitar and as I was from  San Antonio where heavy metal was large on the scene, I gravitated towards bands like BlackSabbath and AC/DC plus a host of others, but as life throws you a curve once in a while, I dropped out of high school and moved to  Austin at the age of 16. As I looked for work to keep a roof above my head I started to meet other musicians and to learn what was going on in the Austin scene; which at this time in 1980 blues was the current king when just before it had been the reign of the "Outlaws” or Cosmic Cowboys; Willie & Waylon and all their followers.


 I got in a jazzband at first, I still can’t play jazz to save my life, but it started meon the road to meeting other musicians and to help shape my musical ideas forthe future. My first road band was Bobby Mack and Night Train and after that there was no looking back. All Aboa—ard!



Ø        Riffmaster- Out of all the rock stars you have met, who personally has lived up to your expectations and has touched your life in one way or the other?


This is really hard. I’ve met a lot of musicians who I looked up to that were on the international scene and known world wide. I guess I’d have to start withthe people who gave me real one-on-one inspiration in my nascent stage of learning.      David Murray was one of the first that helped me along and showed me how important tone is when finding your identity. I would sit there at his gigs, he was currently playing with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton at the time, and just study his phrasing. He would take me around to other shows and we’d hang together. He was also rooming with Denny Freeman so I wouldtalk with Denny too. These guys were just "it” at the time. Another player who I looked up to is Derek O’ Brien. I would sit at his feet and watch him at the Austex Lounge, which is now the Magnolia Café on  Congress Ave., and just be amazed at his concepts, tone and consistency.


Later when I joined up with a group called the Bad Boys, we had a keyboard player join usand his name was Sandy Allen. He was the senior member of the group, in his 50’s were I was still in my very early 20’s and he started to show me how notto conflict with the keyboard voicings and how to phrase with other musicians. Bobby Mack made me learn Freddy King solos note-for-note when I was still a teenager and the drummer Jimmy Pate taught me how to shuffle properly.


I now have Steve Bailey who has been a dear friend of mine for close to 14 years now and having him there is a great resource and emotional touch stone for me.


Of course this answer can go on for quite a while but it was those few people in the beginning that continue to stay with me. I’ve had many great and meaningful  encounters and sit-downs with extraordinary persons of musical prowess and I try to learn from everybody. One of my mantas; Every body has a lesson for you, you have to be open to receive and learn.



Ø        Riffmaster- What musical gear and endorsements to you have and why?


Oh boy, another long one. Let’s get concise here. I am currently playing an Xotic guitar.They stepped in after my beloved 63’ strat was played right into retirement. I’d still be playing my strat to this day if there was enough rosewood left on the neck. I would go through frets about every other year, the results of my busy schedule, long and physical application and my tendency to stay on one guitar during the course of my multi-marathon nightly sets. I approached Fender about cloning my 63’ because I wanted to stay in my comfort zone and retain the same neck size for my hand. (As it turned out my right hand needed the same requirements too, I’ll get to that later) I met with some people at Fender and I offered to pay for this, I know how this biz is and 

Fender deals with the big boys out there and although Fender does truly like me and admires what I’ve done extolling the attributes of the Stratocaster, the bottomline is not ambivalent when it comes to compensated endorsements. That’s just the way it is and you have to bring your Tuff-Skin suit in the line ofwork.



In steps Xotic wanting to do a guitar deal with me and I laid out my desires to have my neck replicated. The deal was struck and the work was done and after 6 months of me sending the guitar back and forth for tweaking and fine tuning, it’s now my axe of choice. I’m comfortable on it and my confidence is highest when I play my Ice Blue Xotic. I have a Sherwood Green as a back-up but it’s in that "tweak” stage.


Xotic also make pedals and has given me a plethora from which to choose. Xotic provides greatsupport too.


Moollon pedals are also great. Their delay pedal is the best sounding digital echo-plex pedal for me. I’ve got some that come close but for me it’s the Moollon. Plus they look great. (LOL)


Also from Brown Electronics there’s the Hootchee Mama and Macho Man booster and distortion pedals that I use.


My array of pedals changes of course with the musical environments I’m traveling through at the time. I’ll have a different assortment with CDG than I do with Bluestone Co. The only constant is the guitar. I used to use my EpiphoneLes Paul for a couple of songs and for a time I had me Gibson ES-175TD on the road but now it’s just my Xotic.


I try to be a man of my word and if a company is willing to take a chance with me I am going to put in an honest effort to give their product a chance. When I’m just sitting in my house blaring away, that’s not going to be the way I approach a gig. I have to test the pedals and products out in "real”conditions; on gigs. If I don’t use it I just send it back.  Lot’s of times it might not make it into the live line-up but I’ll keep if for further use down the road. I’ve never been that guy that’s turned around and sold them on E-Bay. As a result I’ve got lots of stuff but I draw from the pool when I’m doing studio work or trying new things out.


Getting back tomy right hand, when I got my first Xotic and noticed the transition of me switching tones with the pick-up selector wasn’t as fluid as I rememberand I kept hitting the middle tone knob too much. I made mention of this to the Xotic people and they said it’s because they’re specifications and measurements weren’t the same spacing around the knobs and toggle switchas a Fender has. They traded out my original pickguard with a standard Stratmodel pickguard. You really couldn’t tell by looking at it straight on.You could if you laid a Strat side-by-side to it but not by looking at it byitself. The hand knew though.



Ø        Riffmaster– Give our readers a breakdown of how your   current live show has  c o me about. I'm sure there is a neat story there…




The sound of the CDG is always in constant change due to personnel movements on the drums and or bass. When John Jordan was in the band it had its own style and identity and when Frosty, Barry Smith, was on the drum chair, it took on its own life. I try to let the musicians interpret the music in their own voice and style for acouple of reasons; one being for the new guy to get comfortable in this new setting. Everyone plays better when they’re comfortable. If there’s something I don’t like I’ll mention it and tell them what I need, but for the most part I want them to put their individual stamp on the music. I want change and progression and evolution in my music and life. Of course results can be debated amongst my fans as to which combinations of rhythm sections have actually been a positive progression or detrimental regression but I’ll leave that to the fans. It’s all a musical journey and like in life you’re going to have some tough times and you have to learn to work through them.


The setting on stage is also like conversing. I’m listening to how the drummer is phrasing and grooving and I’m hearing where the bass player is going harmonically. In return they’re listening to me as I steer the ship upon the aural ocean that we’re navigating on. So sometimes it’s fast and furious, other times its smooth sailing and once in a while its choppy seas.


Every day is different. 



Ø        Riffmaster– Tell us a little bit about your live show’s transition over the years… Where you came from, where you are now, and where you are going with the live show in the future…


Well, as in the previous answer, the music takes on a bit of an evolution with each new member,and I’ve had lots of new players, especially drummers. *chuckle* What has really changed is the approach of the songs and the technical applications I apply now due to what I hope is better execution through the many hours I’ve spent practicing trying to achieve the melodic ideas I hear in my head and of my idols. You also have to contribute the hundreds upon hundreds of gigs that I’ve done working on ideas and trying new things. You remember the things that work and especially remember the things that don’t. Every gig I go out and try to do my utmost best and push it further to new frontiers, or to a mirror like polish. I’ve seen so many musicians go out and "mow the lawn” at gigs and nothing gets me more in music. Just wasting their time and mine. I’m not perfect and I admit out of all my gigs there have been the few times where I’ve hit the wall but it’s rare because I still really enjoy what I do. I put up with all those hours driving, the crappy food, the occasional drunk, poor pay and time away from my family because this is what I am. I loved oing this.


All for those few hours I get to climb up that proverbial mountain and challenge myself to greater heights.


Ø        Riffmaster– How many hours a week does it take to put this (your band, writing yourmusic,)  all together for the listening masses?


When  I’m on tour my work day starts the second I pass through the threshold of the front door of my house and doesn’t end till I park the van and turn off the engine in the driveway when I return.


While at home I try to stay up on my dexterity by practicing scales and chops and spend time thinking of new songs. My routine takes up several hours every day. Of couse I have a house and there’s always something that has to be done with that so it’s a bit of a juggling act. I need 30 hour days sometimes.


Ø         Riffmaster– Tell us   --   do you give guitar lessons when off the road? How many students and at what levels do you teach?


I only gave lessons for a short while back in 99’ and it was largely due to financial stresses. I had a few students that put up with my woeful style of curriculum but it’s not gratifying for me. I just felt I was wasting their time and I don’t explain stuff very well and I expect them to learn as fast as meon the simple stuff. I really don’t think I’ll do that again if Ican help it. I’m not against showing something to somebody in the course of 5 or 10 minutes but no more "teacher/student” settings.



Ø        Riffmaster– I'm sure you've had some uncomfortable & weird moments while on the road meeting other great artists, guitar players and bands. Can you give us anexample…?   Or even a Spinal Tap moment…?


To just whip up a story now will be hard…I’m whizzing through a million memories that run the gamut of good times and bad. I remember trying to console Timbuk 3 after they were yanked off the stage because the promoter thought it was a joke and not a very good one too. We, Bobby Mack and Night Train, were playing on this sort of musical review sort of show, you know where they line up about 6 to 7 bands in an evening and they each play about 30 minutes. The club was Texas Money down on  6th street in  Austin and this has got to be around 82’ or so. So Timbuk 3 gets on the stage and they plop their ghetto box on a high stool between them, it’s only Pat and Barbara at this point, and start to play Muddy Water’s "Ijust wanna make love to you”. During the song I’m sitting out against the bar and I’m seeing Louis Black and Mark, I’ve forgotten his last name but they owned Liberty Lunch and did the booking and this review thing was their idea, and they’re both going "What is this?” "What is this!?”, and then something to the effect of they’re done and went up and gave them the dreaded side of the hand across the front of the neck gesture. Timbuk 3 ended their second song and Pat said,” Well, we’re Timbuk 3 and we were supposed to play more but I guess not.”, and got off the stage obviously a bit upset by the ordeal of being silently "gonged”on stage.


I then went inthe dressing room and told them to hell what those guys think, I thought what they were doing was cool and original. "Don’t let this get ya’down, Y’all are great, that was cool”.


The rest ishistory.


Ø         Riffmaster– Chris, have you ever had a rude artist on the same stage as you? I hearsome of these cats are really stuck on themselves while others are pretty cool,or funny, etc.


I was playing a gig with Julie Burrell atthe time and we were opening for the Go Ahead Band, Grateful Dead members Brett Midland, keyboards, and Bill Kreutzmann and the bassist for Carlos Santana and a local San Fran guitar hero. Brett was a really nice guy but Bill was being kind of a jerk to us. We’d done nothing to them other than being the pesky opening band, but we’d done nothing to warrant that type of treatment. Bill was doing things like pulling his hand away after he extends it to you meeting you and then being slightly snarky and condescending afterwards. Kind of juvenile behavior but whatever. I further incurred Bill’s wrath by confusing his name with Phil. I don’t know why I had the confusion butI just thought he was Phil not Bill. By the third time I called him Phil he snapped," It’s Bill godammit it’s Bill! Geeze!” …Sorry dude.


Another time; playing with Bobby Mack andwe’re opening up for the Doors tribute band the Back Doors. Who went tofar in copying them they had acquired the Doors Lighting rig. The gig was at Liberty Lunch and all I could think about half way through the show was how damn hot those lights were on my back.


After being sufficiently burned around myshoulders, I commented to the Back Doors crew standing in the wings as I exitedthe stage, "Wow, those lights were hot.” "Welcome to themusic biz kid!” as it was spat out at me in a gruff grouchy manner.  Maybe everything was hard edged to me back in my early years. I don’t know.



Ø        Riffmaster– Please tell our readers what your high school years were like, and what the soundtrack would be to sum up your senior year in High school.


Oh God, high school. I didn’t even finish high school. Gone in my junior year and soon after I was living on my own in  Austin. I’d have to say Schumann’s "Unfinished Symphony”


Ø        Riffmaster– So Chris, what are you listening to al lot of these days?


The van we travel in is a little Spartan on comforts so we don’t have a cd player or mp3 thing, just a radio. At least it’s 2 band frequency. Summertime is the only time it’s on the AM band, listening to baseball of course. Love it, and it’s a great way to pass the long drives we so occasionally do between gigs. For the most part though the dial is on the FM and it  rarely goes beyond 91.9. I’m a NPR/Community radio person and I don’t want to hear those annoying commercials. So it’s a lot of classical, which I do love, and the once in a while jazz and  Americana. Oh, and I get a need to hear Tejano or Nortena music. Hey I’m from  San Antonio and I mostly grew up on the southside of town, it’s in my blood.


Ø        Riffmaster– Dream Car?   Or Recreational Vehicle?


My current "fun”car is my 1968 Camaro 396 SS. Vinyl roof and Tripoli Turquoise exterior and interior.She’s a looker.


Ø        Riffmaster– Why?


I’ve always liked old cars. My first dream was to have a 59’ or 60’ Chevy Impala with the "cat eye” lenses in the back, but the opportunity arose to get my current car for a good price and I was lucky enough to get it. It’s even more of a blast to have a true muscle car. There’s nothing like the feel of driving one with the sound of that big block engine.


Ø        Riffmaster– Name some folks you would love to get on the same album or share the stage with… Inquiring minds want to know…


Unfortunately alot of my major hero’s have passed on; Joe Zawinul, Jaco, Coltrane and Miles, Albert King, Freddie King, Wolf, Hendrix.


Although we still have John McGlaughlin and Mike Stern, Wayne Shorter, Jeff Beck and Clapton, Billy Cobham and tons of others. This is another answer that can go on forever.


Ø        Riffmaster– I also don’t want to forget this… Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart …?


As I mentioned before, I have that Swiss Organ trio project we’re going to continue to persue, and Steve Bailey and I have been trying for years now to get a project out. Then there’s also Bluestone Co. We also want to do another album and of course there’s CDG and it’s ever evolving style and sound.


Ø        Riffmaster– Lastly, please give our readers one last parting shot across the bow… What is Chris Duarte going to be doing in 5 years?


Total and undeniable World Domination of course.


Ø        Riffmaster– I would like to thank you for your time and candor with my loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some quality guitar oriented music.


It’s been my pleasure Riffmaster and as always I want to thank the many people that support me with their efforts and time in keeping this train on the tracks and to all my fans and listeners in the world.


I honestly believe I have the greatest fans in the world and I will never to that for granted.


Thank You,







Free Video Guitar Lesson

Free Video Guitar Lesson

Blues - Advanced Improvisation Concepts
by Hanspeter Kruesi of

Instructor: Hanspeter Kruesi
Speciality: Blues, Jazz and Touch Technique

This is a lesson about advanced improvisation concepts on blues. It shows how you can play 3 different scales on any 12 bar or other blues.

The blues pattern I use here has the following chord progression:

D / D / D / D
G / G / D / D
A / G / D / D

The scales which can be used are:

D minor pentatonic
D blues scale
D, G and A mixolydian scale.

You can play the following scales on the following chords :

D : D minor pentatonic, D blues scale, D mixolydian scale
G : D minor pentatonic, D blues scale, G mixolydian scale
A : D minor pentatonic, D blues scale, A mixolydian scale

On the Guitar Tricks site I have a whole bundle of licks which might give you some additional inspiration. Each lick is marked as pentatonic or mixolydian lick in the description. When you transpose a pentatonic lick you have to transpose it to the key of the blues you are playing. When you transpose a mixolydian lick you have to transpose it to the chord you want to improvise.

For over 3000 lessons on every guitar style and technique visit Guitar Tricks.


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