Learn To Play Blues Guitar

Learn to Play Blues Guitar: Three Things You Should Know

If you’re wanting to learn to play blues guitar, here are a few fundamental things to keep in mind to help you create the sound and style that we’ve come to know as blues.

1. Learn the 12 bar blues chord progression

The first thing you should know if you want to learn to play blues guitar is to be familiar with the 12 bar blues progression. Musicians can jam on this progression over and over each taking turns to solo, building and dropping the dynamics as they improvise along.

Using the key of E for this example, a 12 bar blues progression in E would be made up of playing an E chord for the first four bars followed by two bars of an A chord and then another two bars of an E chord again.

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So far our chord progression is made up of eight bars so the final four bars would be played as follows: one bar of a B chord, one bar of an A chord, one bar of an E chord and back to a B chord for the final (twelfth) bar.

So all up it looks like this:
E – E – E – E
A – A – E – E
B – A – E – B

2. Shuffle feel for blues rhythm playing

Understanding how to play rhythm with a shuffle feel is another key element to know when you learn to play blues guitar. It’s easier to understand when you hear it rather than trying to explain so you’d be best to listen to some classic blues music by someone like B.B. King or ZZ Top.

Rather than having a straight and constant rhythm like rock music, a shuffle feel has more of a swaying type feel to it. Listen to a slow blues song and you’ll definitely feel the swaying in the music, that’s the shuffle feel very typical of blues music.

3. Know the blues scale

The third key thing to know when you learn to play blues guitar is the blues scale for soloing, you absolutely can’t play convincing blues solos without knowing this scale! Basically it’s the minor pentatonic scale with an extra note thrown in known as the ‘blues’ note or flattened fifth.

Learn the blues scale in all the different position over your guitar neck, this will allow you to solo with greater flexibility ranging from the very low notes right through to the very highest of notes.

Piecing it altogether and learn to play blues

So there you have it, the top three things you should know when you learn to play blues guitar. When jamming with other guitarists, have one person play the 12 bar blues progression with a shuffle feel and the other improvise a solo over the top with the blues scale. I think you’ll be surprised at how good this will all sound!

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