Blues Guitar Lessons For Beginners – 4 Ways To Sound Awesome Quickly

blues guitar lessons

As I mentioned earlier, there are only 3 chords in a 12 bar blues pattern.

If we’re using the key of A, those 3 chords are A Major, D Major and E Major.

It’s Blues Ninja Time, so let’s turn these into ‘dominant seventh’ chords. That sounds scary and complicated but it’s not. This is just a slightly different version of the standard chords.

These are called substitutions and one the best blues guitar lessons you can learn is how to use them. Think of a chord substitution like a substitution in a football match.

easy blues guitar lessons

In a game the manager often changes a player half way through the match to bring on a fresh pair of legs or to add a new dimension or change the shape.

So how does this apply to these blues guitar lessons?

The original ‘player’ is your standard major chord and the substitute is your new dominant seventh chord. When we ‘substitute’ a chord we completely replace the original chord.

Dominant chords

Dominant chords often feature a number after them and you’ve probably already seen these chords. For these blues guitar lessons we are staying in the key of A so we’re going to use A7, D7 and E7.

Using dominant sevenths (A7, B7, C7, D7 etc) is a great way of making your standard major chords sound MUCH bluesier.

Let’s quickly compare the two versions to understand how to go full-on blues:

The standard A Major chord

blues guitar lesson chords

The bluesier A7 chord

easy blues guitar lessons

To play an A7 Chord you:

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the D String.
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the B String.
  • Strum from the A string!

It should sound like this:

Can you hear how much more bluesy it sounds?

Here’s our standard D major chord

learn blues guitar

Now the D7

blues guitar lessons D7

To play a D7 you:

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

It should sound like this (I hope you can hear how these blues guitar lessons are getting bluesier by the minute!)

The standard E Major chord…

blues guitar lessons E7

…and our E7 chord

blues chords

To play an E7 Chord you:

  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the A string.
  • Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the G string.
  • Strum all the strings.

It should sound like this:

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So just to re-cap and make sure we’re clear on the chords we’re using for these blues guitar lessons, if you’re playing in the key of A then you swap A, D and E (take them out completely) and replace them with A7, D7 and E7.

Here’s what this final bluesier progression sounds like:

Standard Major chords are great, but using 7th Chords is a great way of making your blues progressions sound more sophisticated and authentically bluesy.

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Blues Guitar Lessons #3 – Learning the ‘blues note’ & spicing up the pentatonic scale

In this lesson we’re going to be taking at a look at a ‘secret’ note that helps us sound like a blues god.

The blues guitar lessons we covered earlier were foundational. They gave us a base. Now we’re going to build on that base and add a sprinkling of awesomeness!

We’re about to move from chord-based stuff (rhythm guitar) into note-based stuff (lead guitar).

If you need a primer on lead guitar you should check out these two articles which will turbo charge your lead guitar skills:

For this part of the lesson you’re going to need to know the Minor Pentatonic Scale. We’re going to stay in A, so it looks like this:

blues guitar lessons

If you’d prefer to see it as a chordbox it looks like this. (We’re choosing to play this in A, so the ‘barred’ line, with the two root note on it, is on the 5th fret.)

Minor Pentatonic Scale

It should sound like this:

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Within this scale there are a few notes which work really great over a blues progression.

What we can do here is TARGET these notes in our solos and riffs to sound extra bluesy. This is one of the most fun blues guitar lessons so follow this closely! 🙂

The Blues Note/Tritone

There’s an important blues note which we need to know and it’s found in the blues scale.

This is what is known as the tritone.

The blues scale is the same as the Minor Pentatonic Scale except we add one note in.

Here’s what the blues scale looks like and this is another of those blues guitar lessons that you simply must master:

Blues Scale

Can you spot where the note has been added in?

In our scale we now have notes on the:

  • 6th Fret of the A String.
  • 8th Fret of the G String.

I love this scale which is why blues guitar lessons are my favourites! 🙂

We can add these notes into a lick to sound like a blues god.

Here’s an example lick which I’ve created which uses this note.

blues guitar lessons

It should sound something like this.

 

Ok, now let’s look some next-level blues tricks…

blues guitar lessons

Learn Blues Guitar – The Minor 3rd

Ok, now we’re going to look at a specific note within the blues scale.

We need to target the Minor 3rd here. Don’t worry too much about this term just know that it sounds great over blues!

We’re going to need to find out where this note is in our scale. It’s in 3 places.

  • The 8th fret on the low E String.
  • The 5thh fret on the G String.
  • The 8th fret on the high E String.

When we play lead phrases we can direct our attention to this note. This is one of the most fundamental blues guitar lessons of all, so make sure you take this one in!

Here’s an example lick which I’ve created that focuses around this note.

Minor 3rd Blues Lick

This lick sounds like this:

Notice how I’ve started with the Minor 3rd and used it as the second to last note in the phrase. This gives a great bluesy feel.

Learn Blues Guitar – The Major 3rd

In this next one of our blues guitar lessons we’re looking at another super-cool note that sounds awesome in a blues setting: The Major 3rd.

This isn’t in our Minor Pentatonic Scale however it is VERY close by.

This note is on the 6th Fret of the G String.

So just like our Minor 3rd we can create a lick which surrounds this cool blues note.

Have a go at learning this one (we’re stepping up the difficulty here!):

Major 3rd Lick blues guitar

It should sound like this.

Don’t worry if you can’t get this riff down. It’s quite intricate. The important thing is you can see the NOTES we’re using here. You can play around with these notes and improvise to your heart’s content because you KNOW they’ll work in a blues setting.

ACTION POINT: Try and improvise with these notes over a backing track. Type “blues backing track in A” into YouTube and you’ll find dozens of cool backing tracks you can improvise over.

Combining What We’ve Learned Into One Awesome Blues-fest!

As well as using all these notes on their own we can combine all of what covered to sound like we’re totally bluesy.

Here’s an example where I play over a backing track using all three licks (and the chords we covered earlier).

Hopefully you can hear how bluesy it sounds and understand how we built this up through chords, the 12 bar progression and then using some bluesy notes to add spice.

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Have a go at mixing these licks up, they sound great together. The best way to learn these licks is to use them and mix them up. Play around with them. Make mistakes and notice new patterns, that’s all part of the fun!

National Guitar Academy

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Blues Guitar Lessons #4 – Learning from the greats

I often get students saying to me:

“I’ve learnt the right scales that work over blues, but I don’t sound good! What am I doing wrong?”

The most important lesson I learned when playing the blues was to borrow and learn phrases from my favourite guitar players.

Sometimes when I tell people this they say: “But isn’t that stealing? You’re not being creative and original if you’re stealing from other guitarists…”

The reality is that ALL musicians borrow ideas from other musicians and use them in their own music. It’s how music works. And it’s also a great way to sound awesome quickly.

Some Classic Blues Riffs and Licks

For the last of these blues guitar lessons I’ve transcribed a few licks from some blues icons, which you can learn and use in your own guitar playing.

Luckily for us, they’re all in the key of A so we can drop these licks straight into our A Blues progression that we’ve been working on throughout this lesson. (You might not be one of the blues greats just yet, but you’re on the road amigo!)

Lick 1

This a lick in the style of Eric Clapton.

And looks a little something like this..

blues guitar lessons eric clapton

And sounds like this..

Watch out for that small bend on the 7th fret of the G string at the start! That’s a classic Clapton trick.

Lick 2

This is a lick in the style of B.B King and looks something like this.

bb king blues guitar lessons

And it sounds like this:

Lick 3

This is a lick from guitar god Jimi Hendrix, it looks like this:

blues guitar lessons Jimi Hendrix

And sounds like this:

Watch out for that full bend on the 7th fret of the G string!

By learning these licks, you can use these ideas in your own playing and become inspired to be a blues god.

Keep ‘layering’ up your knowledge

Blues guitar lessons like those we’ve covered today just add one layer. Keep learning and you add layer after layer. That’s how you make progress. Don’t worry about learning everything. Just add the next ‘layer’.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to listen and learn from your musical heroes. Not only is it inspiring, but the amount you learn from actually playing what they played is incredible.

Click here to download this lesson’s worksheet to save or print for future reference

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learn blues guitar

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