Blues music has a certain feeling and the guitar is an excellent instrument for playing in this style. In this guide you will learn the “must-have” chords and typical blues progressions.
The must-have chords in blues
The first chords you should learn if you want to get a bluesy guitar sound are those that give another color to the sound than the usual major chords and are known as Dominant 7th chords.
Common blues progression
The standard type blues progressions are extremely common and are, with some slight variations, present in other styles as well. When you play it the change is big what it sounds familiar to you...
E – A7 – E – B7 – A7 – E
Hopefully you get some bluesy sound from it. In blues things repeat themself a lot. The progression above a short and instead for ending at the last E you could use B7 as an turnaround and when begin with the same progression all over again.
As mentioned, we are using so-called dominant chords here, which are common in blues. Try the same chord sequence without any seventh notes and you will lose the blues sound.
Blues rhythm (how create a blues feeling with the strumming)
By just strumming in a steady rhythm there will be none of that blues feeling. The most fundamental thing you should know of is on which beats you should put some extra emphasize. Then playing blues, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on and start with one down stroke on every count. Together with that try to emphasize (i.e. play a little harder) the first and third in every four strokes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.
You normally stay at least four beats on one chord before you go on to the next in blues. Blues is seldom about fast shifting between chords.
Blues progression with minor chords
You could also play blues chord progression in minor - if you really want to sound "blue":
The following sequence is almost similar to the one above, but with the key chord in minor instead for in major:
Em – A7 – Em – B7 – A7 – Em
Besides the chords
Chords aren't everything. If you playing solo you probably want to put in some licks here and there between your chords and also doing some embellishment. And if some other is playing the rhythm guitar, you could jam over these by using some blues pentatonic scales (this site doesn’t focus on scales, but you want have any problem finding information about it on the web).
Even if you are not completely sure about what a blues shuffle is, you have almost certainly heard it. A blues shuffle is something you probably want to be able to play, it's one of the most distinguish things that could be heard off whan a guitar is near.
A basic blues shuffle looks like this in tablature:
Try it and you will hopefully recognize.
Listen to blues music would be a great benefit for you in the quest for the real blues feeling. Among the classic blues guitarists are names like:
- Robert Johnson
- Lead Belly
- Muddy Waters
- Howlin' Wolf
- John Lee Hooker
- T-Bone Walker
- Elmore James
- BB King
- Earl Hooker
The "next generation" of blues guitarists incorporated such names as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Tips for more in-depth readings:
Read also Give your chords more blues feeling.