Blues music is a relatively easy genre to absorb and the guitar is an excellent instrument in this style.
Here starts a blues course for guitar that include several lessons. It begins on an easy level that explains the basics and when goes into more advanced concepts.
- The short and concentrated guide
- Blues on guitar – the basics
- Blues chord progressions
- Give your chords more blues feeling
- Expand your blues repertoire
- 12 Bar blues chords
- Minor blues chords
The must-have chords in blues
The first chords to learn if you want to get a bluesy guitar sound are the ones below. These give another color to the sound than the major and minor chords and are known as dominant 7th chords.
Common blues progression
The standard type blues progression is extremely common and chances are, when you play it, that it sounds familiar to you ...
E7 – A7 – E7 – B7 – A7 – E7
Go to Blues chord progressions – lesson 1 and play the progression with backing track.
The progression above is short and instead for ending at the last E7 you could add B7 as a 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)
Strumming in a steady rhythm will not bring that blues feeling. A fundamental thing is to put extra emphasize on some of the beats. Then playing blues, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 ... and start with one downstroke on every count. When 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 ...
The rhythm is not always the same. Slow blues, for example, are often played in 12/8 time. Listen to the sound example below for a simple 12-bar blues including the chords E7, A7 and B7 with triplet feel.
Besides the chords
Chords aren't everything, you probably want to put in some licks here and there between your chords and also doing some embellishment. If some other is playing the rhythm guitar, you could jam over it by using some blues pentatonic scales (this site doesn’t focus on scales, but you won't have any problem finding information about it on the web, a recommended resource is GuitarScale.org).
Even if you are unsure 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 of when a guitar instrument is near.
A basic blues shuffle could look like this in a tablature:
Try it and you will hopefully recognize a familiar sound. A shuffle is technically played in 12/8 time but is often notated in 4/4 time with triplet feel. Listen to the sound example below for a simple 12-bar blues shuffle in the key of E.
Improvise with the blues shuffle
When you have the fundamental shuffle under your fingers, you can improvise further by include other notes by which you can accomplish licks and stuff that makes the execution fuller.
Proceeding from the E5 - E6 shuffle, you can add additional notes as in the fretboard diagram including open strings. Some things you can to is hammer-on the 1st fret, 3rd string and bend the G note on the 5th fret, 4th string. The video below exemplify some of these ideas.
Learn from video
Listen to blues music will be a great benefit for you in the quest for the real blues feeling. Among the classic blues guitarists are names as the following:
- Robert Johnson
- Lead Belly
- Muddy Waters
- Son House
- Lightnin Hopkins
- Howlin' Wolf
- John Lee Hooker
- T-Bone Walker
- Elmore James
- BB King
The "next generations" of blues guitarists incorporated such names as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Tips for more in-depth readings:
The Guitar Blues beginner to intermediate ebook
Here are some jam tracks to practice with. The following jam tracks are for blues and involves only drums.