Best Beat

Setting the Rhythm for Your Music

Learn Blues Guitar – The Three Basic Steps

Learn Blues Guitar – The Three Basic Steps

Blues guitar is an extremely popular guitar style, and if you decide to learn blues guitar you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of the greatest guitarists of all time. This article takes a look at the basic steps that are involved if you want to learn to play the blues.

1. Learn The Basics

Anyone wanting to learn to play blues guitar music will first of all need to gain mastery of the basic guitar fundamentals that are common to all styles. Once you got a grip on these, then you’ll be ready to learn the more specialist blues guitar techniques.

So first of all, you need to know:

  • How to string and tune your guitar using standard tuning (EADGBE)
  • The correct posture and hand positions for left hand and right hand
  • How to form simple chords
  • How to hold a guitar pick and play simple strumming patterns
  • How to play individual notes and easy tunes
  • How to read guitar tab (and preferably simple musical notation too, although this isn’t essential)

Once you can do all of these, you can start learning to play blues guitar.

2. Blues Rhythm Playing

As with other types of guitar music, when learning blues guitar it’s best to start off by learning rhythm guitar techniques first, and then graduating to lead playing.

Blues rhythm playing involves learning those chords and rhythmic patterns which are most characteristic of blues music. The 12 bar blues pattern is the most common, and this is the pattern that you should learn first. The 12 bar blues simply consists of three lines, each with four bars. The chords I, IV and V (and their variations such as sevenths) are used – so for example, an easy 12 bar blues pattern in the key of E might look like:

E / E / E / E /
A / A7 / E / E /
B7 / A7 / E / E /

The 12 bar blues can be played in any key, although the keys of A and E are especially popular.

Other blues patterns include the eight bar, 16 bar and 24 bar blues.

It’s easiest to start by practising these chords sequences using one strum per beat, and then incorporating the rhythms which are characteristic of blues songs, such as the shuffle patterns and slow blues rhythms.

3. Lead Playing

Once you’ve got the hang of playing blues rhythm guitar, it’s time to learn some blues scales and graduate to solo playing.

Blues guitar solos are based on the five note pentatonic scale – both major and minor scales can be used, although the minor scale is most characteristic of the blues sound.

Blues guitar music also makes use of the so-called ‘blue note’, which is usually a diminished (flattened) fifth, although diminished thirds and diminished sevenths can also be used. These blue notes help to give greater expressiveness to the music.

Work through each of these stages, and you’ll be on your way to playing fantastic sounding blues guitar music in no time!