Learn Blues Guitar: 4 Ways To Sound Awesome

Looking for blues guitar lessons? You’re in the right place! Let’s dive straight in and look at 4 techniques that will make your guitar playing sound drenched in blues.

In this article you will learn:

(We’ll start with easy stuff and progress to intermediate-level topics.)

  • 3 chord voicings which will make you sound like a blues pro. (Beginner-level.)
  • The 12 bar blues progression. (Beginner-level.)
  • The blues scales and blues tri-tone. (Beginner-Intermediate.)
  • An awesome blues note to target: The minor 3rd. (Intermediate-level.)
  • Adding spice to your riffs and solos with the major 3rd. (Intermediate-level.)
  • 4 Blues riffs and backing tracks. (All levels.)
  • 5 classic licks from some of the blues greats. (Intermediate level.)

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Blues guitar lessons are probably my favourite lessons to teach. This stuff sound awesome, is fun to play and if you learn blues guitar you can use lots of the same techniques for rock guitar too.

Basically, blues guitar sounds great and it’s very versatile. We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this lesson so you may want to bookmark this page to refer back to in the future.

Let’s jump into the first lesson!

Blues Guitar Lessons #1  Learning The Blues Progression

One of the best starting points for all blues guitar lessons is the blues progression, also known as 12 bar blues.

This is a chord pattern that is heard in thousands of songs by artists like B.B King, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Canned Heat, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles….

Basically every popular blues and rock artist or band has used this progression at some point!

blues guitar lessons

Why is it called 12 bar blues?

A ‘bar’ is a segment of musical time and in this blues progression we 12 bars. Hence: ’12 bar blues’.

This trick is used so often and it’s essential for us to get this down if we want to get comfortable in blues-based guitar playing.

A 12 bar blues progression looks like this:

Ok, let’s look at the pattern. This is one of the best blues guitar lessons you can get under your belt:

The 12 bar blues progression

learn blues guitar


Can you see the bar lines? (The vertical lines between each chord.) If we count the spaces in-between the bar lines you can see that there’s 12 of these.

It sounds like this (can you hear that there are 4 beats in each bar?):


Listen to that audio a few times if you need to. It might take a little while to sink in but this is one of the most fundamental blues guitar lessons of all so you need to stick with it until you understand it! 🙂

blues guitar lessons

Note: This is a moveable pattern

In the above example we happen to be playing in the key of A. But we could be in any key – the PATTERN stays the same.

For example, if we were playing 12 bar blues in the key of B then everything above would simply be moved up two frets.

Our chords A, D, E turn into B, E, F#

The 12 bar blues progression is a PATTERN that can be used in any key. (The chords may change, but the pattern stays the same.)

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Learning the progression

Throughout all these blues guitar lessons we’re going to be referring back to this pattern. It’s important you get comfy with these chords so you can follow along.

90% of the time, a 12 bar blues pattern will use just 3 chords.

For these 4 blues guitar lessons we’re going to be kicking around in the key of A, so we’ll be using these three chords: A Major, D Major and E Major.

Don’t worry too much about understanding ‘keys’ for now, just worry about getting these chords down!

Let’s quickly learn these essential blues chords:

A Major

blues guitar lessons

To follow along with these blues guitar lessons you need to master this chord:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the D string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the G string.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the A string!

Here’s what your A chord should sound like:


If this chord is too hard for you to play, check out this article: 3 Easy Ways To Play The A Chord On Guitar

D Major

blues guitar lessons

The next essential chord for these blues guitar lessons is D. To play this chord:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the G string.
  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the B string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the D string.

Here’s what your D chord should sound like:


Too hard? Read this: 3 Easy Ways to Play the D Chord on Guitar

E Major

blues guitar lessons

The final chord you must know to play through these blues guitar lessons is E. To play this chord:

  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the A String.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the D String.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the G String.
  • Strum all the strings.

Here’s what your E Chord should sound like:


For some easy E chords, read this: 4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar

Learning the 12 bar blues progression

Now we know the chords, let’s put them together in a blues progression. Here is our 12 bar blues progression in the key of A.

blues guitar lessons for beginners

Try and play this. It should sound something like this:


Notice how we can loop the chords around and just go right back to the beginning? That’s the beauty of blues music, it can just keep on going. The progression is very satisfying and doesn’t need a ‘chorus’ or ‘bridge’.

This is a brilliant chord pattern to jam with and is a ‘universal’ chord progression used by musicians all over the world. If you want to jam with a total stranger, this is what you use.

Can you see now why this is one of the most valuable blues guitar lessons of all? I hope so! 🙂

One of the ‘problems’ with the chords we’ve used here is that when you first learn these chords they don’t sound totally bluesy.

This is where we can use substitute chords to make them sound bluesier! (And in the next of these blues guitar lessons that’s what we’re going to look at.)

blues guitar lessons

Blues Guitar Lessons #2 – Using jazzier chord voicings in our blues progression to make it sound awesome!

I’m going to show you a really cool and simple way in which we can spice up our chords and make our standard major chords sound more sophisticated.

This will enhance these blues guitar lessons and also any other blues guitar that you play in the future.

We’re going to use a very simple piece of musical theory to help our chords stand out from the rest.

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