West Coast Blues

This song was recorded in 1959, released under Takoma, in Takoma Park, Maryland

Listen to recording


Exploring this Fahey song

Section A / Part 1 of 5

Transitioning from Cmaj to E7

The opening chord is the Cmaj/I, which is the root of the song.

After that, there's chord change from the Cmaj into the E7/III7. This is the I-III chord progression, which is seen in songs such as I Wish I Knew, this Workopolis commercial, and Make Me a Pallet On the Floor.  

For the style of fingerpicking, Fahey's riff is a fine example of 'mode 3' fingerpicking (referring to the picking styles below)

Cmaj / mode 1

These are 'pinches', where the treble-side & bass-side notes line up.

Cmaj / mode 2

These are 'in-between' notes, where the treble-side notes are played between the bass notes.

Cmaj / mode 3

Finally, this is an often-seen combination of Mode 1 & Mode 2... named here as 'pickups', and Fahey uses this a lot in West Coast Blues.

These are the same fingerpicking exercises, but for the subsequent E7-chord instead.

E7 / mode 1

E7 / mode 2

E7 / mode 3

Section A / Part 2 of 5

The A7 chord

After the Cmaj & E7 (I-III), Fahey leads into the A7/VI7 chord. As a dominant-7th chord, the E7 (which is the V7 relative to the upcoming A7), leads into the A7.

It's played in a 'traditional' barre chord style, with the top-string presenting a few options for notes to play.

To workout the fingers, these exercises might help make the riff easier.

A7: Mode 1

A7: Mode 2

A7: Mode 3

Section A / Part 3 of 5

Moving to the D7

Now, it's onto the D7/II7 chord. So far, the chord progression is Cmaj-E7-A7-D7... that is, Imaj-III7-VI7-II7... it's a jazzy chord progression, with II-V's; the E7 is the 5th rel. to the A7... the A7 is the 5th rel. to the D7

For the riff, Fahey uses his thumb to fret the 2nd-fret of the low-E string. An open-position D7 is played on the treble-strings.

These are the mode exercises for D7 to build more muscle memory.

D7: mode 1

D7: mode 2

D7: mode 3

Section A / Part 4 of 5

The turnaround G7 chord

To finish A-sections of the song, Fahey plays these turnarounds.

This is a more literal example of how Fahey plays these sections.

Now, these are step-by-step exercises to steadily layer-in this part of the song.

Section A / Part 5 of 5

The shift to the Ab

One key aspect of the turnaround is a momentary/temporary key-change into Ab (from what's normally C).

This chord progression is from C to Ab to C, so it's like a I-bVI-1 chord progression.

In fact, looking at the Ab major scale, it's like double-checking that, yes, this is an Ab chord; the 3 notes Fahey plays directly play a 3-note Ab major triad.

(Ab major scale, with Fahey's chord circled)

For reference, here is the color scheme for the diagram:

  • Black: root tones
  • Red: chord tones
  • Blue: scale tones
  • White/transparent: chromatic tones

The higher-up on the list, the more 'right' the notes sound.

Section B / Part 1 of 2

Switching to the Amin

Now, this covers the 'Bridge' section of the song; the key-centre shifts from Cmaj to Amin. The Amin is the 'relative minor' to Cmaj.

Within this temporary 'bubble' of a key-change, the chord progression is roughly Amin-E7-Amin-E7-Amin-E7-Amin... that's, Imin-V7-Imin-V7-Imin-V7-Imin. Like the II-Vs, it's another 'harmony' example of 'secondary dominants'.

As for the A-section's turnaround, here are those parts, layered-in step-by-step.

Section B / Part 2 of 2

Finishing off Section B

After that temporary change of key-center (from Cmaj to Amin), the key-center returns to Cmaj.

Fahey plays the D7 & the G7.. that's a II7-V7 chord progression (relative to the C-root), and another example of Fahey using II-Vs for his chord progressions.

Variations / Part 1 of 1

Nod to Blind Blake

The only cherry-on-top left to add is this variation which Fahey plays (over the start of the A-section).

It's like a nod to Mr. Blind Blake, who plays a similar type of riff on his original recording.

After this, you've got all the pieces of the puzzle within your fingertips to play the song!


Wrapping things up

That's a breakdown for John Fahey's catchy cover of West Coast Blues!

Thanks for following a long and hope it's fun picking this classic up.

Posted by blah148

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