Blues Guitar – 6 Awesome Tips

Looking to learn about blues guitar? This article will tell you all you need to know about blues guitar!

blues guitar

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 2 awesome blues riffs!
  • 6 amazing sounding blues chords!
  • 3 awesome blues scales!
  • The important difference between rhythm and lead in blues guitar

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Before we get into the nitty gritty of blues guitar, let’s take a look at an awesome blues guitar riff.

One of my favourites is the 12 bar blues riff, it sounds good, feels good and is a quick fire way to make you sound like a blues master.

Let’s learn this awesome riff!

Here’s the tab:

12-bar-blues-riff

Not sure how to read tab? Check out this article: How To Read Guitar Tabs

Blues guitar chords

Another vital element of blues guitar is the chords. In blues guitar the most common chords are ‘7’ chords.

Don’t worry too much about the ins and outs of 7 chords for now.

These chords have a great bluesy sound and feel!

The first blues chord we’re going to learn is an E7.

Blues guitar chords – The ‘E7’ Chord

blues guitar lessons

To play this 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!

If you’d like to know about other types of E chord, go here: 4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar

Another cool blues chord we can learn, is the A7 chord.

Let’s get stuck in!

Blues guitar chords – The ‘A7’ Chord

blues guitar

To play this chord you:

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

There are other ways to play the A chord, go here to find out more: 3 Easy Ways To Play The A Chord On Guitar

The third and final blues guitar chord we’re going to learn is the B7.

Blues guitar chord – The ‘B7’ Chord

blues guitar chords

To play this guitar chord:

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

This chord is a little trickier as we have to use 3 fingers this time, within a tight space!

If you need a little help with playing chords, go here: How To Play Guitar Chords: A Beginner’s Guide

Blues guitar keys

The two most common keys in blues music are E and A. There are others, but these two keys are the most common.

What is a musical key?

A musical key refers to a group of chords, and scales which work nicely together.

For now, that’s all you need to know. We don’t need to go into reasons why these chords and scales work together.

Blues in the key of E

For each of our blues keys, we have specific chords that work in a blues progression.

For the key of E, those chords are:

  • E7

  • A7

  • B7

blues guitar

These are the ONLY chords you need to know to play an E blues.

The 12 bar blues progression

In blues music, one of the most common chord progressions is a 12 bar blues.

What’s a 12 bar blues?

So, you may have this heard term thrown around quite a lot if you’ve already looked into blues guitar.

A 12 bar blues is a chord progression which is used ALL the time in blues music.

Here’s what a 12 bar blues looks like:

E Blues

The reason it’s called a 12 bar blues is because the progression features 12 bars.

The bars are those vertical lines which sit on the outside of each chord.

If you count the spaces in between, you’ll find that there are 12 of these spaces.

Usually, within a bar we have four beats, though sometimes we have three or six, depending on the time signature.

The above sequence is in 4/4 (written at the beginning) which means there are four beats in each bar.

Learning a 12 bar blues in the key of E

As we found out before, the chords that we use in the key of E for a 12 bar blues are:

  • E7

  • A7

  • B7

All we need to do is work out, where we can place these chords.

Here’s what a 12 bar blues in the key of E would look like:

E BluesFor each bar, we allow four beats.

It would sound something like this:

Learning a 12 bar blues in the key of A

Now if we want to a play a 12 bar blues in the key of A, we have to change the chords.

The 12 bar blues chords in the key of A are:

  • A7

  • D7

  • E7

blues guitar

These are the only chords you need to know to play a blues in the key of A.
So our 12 bar blues chord progression would look like this:

Blues - Simple-3

Can you see how the chords have changed, but the progression still has the same layout?

The chord changes are in exactly the same place, and we still have 12 bars!

Here’s how it would sound:

Blues guitar scales

Another awesome element about playing blues guitar is learning scales. This is important stuff if you want to get into lead guitar playing. Blues guitar scales help us to improvise!

We’re going to learn our blues scale in the key of E and A, these two keys are the most common keys in blues music.

The E Blues Guitar Scale

This scale has a great bluesy sound. Learning this scale is a quick and easy way to sound bluesy!

It uses open string so is ideal for beginners.

 

blues guitar scales

Here’s what it sounds like:

Make sure that when you play this scale, each note is nice and clear.

You want to squeeze every bit of juice out of those tasty blues notes!

The A Blues Guitar Scale

Seeing as we learnt the chords for a blues in A, let’s learn the scale to go with them.

Here’s the tab:

a blues guitar scale

Here’s how it sounds:

You might have noticed, that this scale is EXACTLY the same as our E blues guitar scale, however instead of starting on the E string. For this scale, we’re going to start on the A string.

Where would I use these scales?

The two main things you’d use blues scales for would be to:

  • Improvise
  • Create blues riffs!

Improvising with blues scales

The great thing about learning blues scales is that they are simple and easy to use!

Both of these scales work over particular blues keys. For example you could use:

  • E blues scale over a E blues.
  • A blues scale over a A blues.

Try this:

  • This backing track is in the key of E  Try using the E blues scale over it.
  • This backing track is in the key of A – Try using the A blues scale over it.

When you’re improvising, it’s best to just be simple and not play too many notes. Take your time and play what feels right to you!

Using other scales when improvising over a blues

This is an advanced tip!

When improvising the blues you can use a major scale which is two frets below the root note.

So for example, if you were playing an E blues, the E root note is at the 12th fret on the low E string.

If you go down two frets, you get to the 10th fret of the E string.

The note on the 10th fret of the E string is the note D.

Therefore you would play a D major scale.

This works because the D major scale, shares a lot of the same notes from a E blues scale.

Here’s how to play a D major scale:

blues guitar scale Try this:

  • Put on your E blues backing track.
  • Try improvising with the D major scale.

You could also try this idea over a A blues.

The 5th fret on the E string is the note A.

So if you go down two frets from here, you get to the note G.

So this time, over a A blues, you would play a G major scale over a A blues.

Here is what a G major scale looks like:

blues guitar scale Once you’re comfortable with this scale pattern, try improvising with it over an A blues.

blues guitar

Blues guitar riffs

Blues scale are useful for a number of things, guitarists will often uses scales to write guitar riffs.

A excellent example of this is the main riff of ‘Sunshine of your love’ by Cream.

This riff is a great example of how you can use the blues guitar scale to create a bluesy riff!

Let’s check out the original tune:

Here’s the tab:

Sunshine of your love

In this video, Jack shows you how to play to this awesome blues guitar riff.

Advanced Blues Scales

Both of the blues guitar scales you’ve just learnt use open strings. However, if you fancy an added challenge, you can also play this scale further up the neck.

Here’s what a A blues scale would look like if it was played in a ‘closed’ position.

blues guitar

Can you hear how it’s the same scale? All we’re doing here is playing the scale in a different position.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Another common scale which blues guitarists use, is the minor pentatonic scale.

If you’re looking to learn more about blues guitar, this scale is vital for your progress as a blues guitar player!

Here’s the scale in the key of A:

blues guitar

If you’d like to know more about how to play guitar scales, this article will be a huge help: Learn Guitar Scales In 8 Easy Steps

Moveable Scale Patterns

The great thing about advanced blues guitar scales, is that you can move these shapes all over the fret board.

All you have to do is change the scale’s starting note.

blues guitar

For this exercise, we’re just concerned about moving our starting note to a different fret.

So for example, if we wanted to play a C blues scale, we would move our scale to the 8th fret of the low E string.

Or let’s say we wanted to play a G blues scale, we would start our scale on the 3rd fret of the low E string.

This is advanced stuff, so don’t worry if you don’t understand it right now. It’s just useful to be aware of these kind of things!

However, if this does interest you, you can find more of this content here: How To Play Lead Guitar

blues guitar

 

What is the blues?

If you’re new to blues guitar, you might actually be unaware of what the blues genre is.

A lot of blues music, tends to be centered around issues such as love, loss and life’s hardship.

That’s why when you listen to the genre, it has deep soulful sound, with strong rhythms and melodies.

The genre tends to stick to a similar chord progression, this is what’s known as the 12 bar blues! As well as this, the blues is fantastic for learning improvisation!

blues guitar

What is blues guitar?

Blues music these days is very guitar focused, there have been 100s of artists over the last decade who have played blues guitar.

It’s quite hard to put into words what blues guitar is, though it could be simply described as music that uses major chords but with minor melodies over the top.

B.B King can say a thousand words by just playing a few notes.

Here’s a clip of his playing, there’s a reason why he’s known as the king of the blues!

As you can see this from this clip, blues guitar has a deep soulful sound, from my own experience I found that playing blues guitar was a great way to express myself musically.

It acts as a fantastic platform for improvisation.

There are loads of fantastic blues guitarists out there, here a list of the 30 greatest blues guitarist of all time by MusicRadar!

The 30 greatest blues guitars of all time

Rhythm vs Lead – What’s the difference?

In blues guitar, we often get two types of guitarists.

Rhythm and lead

A rhythm guitarist will often play chords and provide the back bone of the rhythm section in a band.

blues guitar

Where as the lead guitarist will often play solos and lead lines.

Without rhythm, a blues band would be nothing!

There are a few fundamental blues rhythms you can play to make you instantly sound like a blues rhythm machine. Let’s learn a few.

Blues strumming pattern – The ‘Straight’ One

This strumming pattern is fairly straight. It doesn’t feel lazy or too fast, it’s a nice solid straight strumming pattern.

For this exercise, I’ve just used the E7 chord.

Here’s the strumming pattern:

e-strumming-pattern

Here’s what it sounds like:

Make sure that when you strum this pattern, you do it with all down strokes. Your rhythms need to be driving along!

You can think of this strumming as:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

You can learn more about how to strum here: How To Strum A Guitar

Blues guitar strumming pattern – The ‘Lazy’ One

This next strumming pattern sounds a little bit lazy. It’s very similar to the first pattern, however the ‘and’ is a little later.

This gives the chords a cool, lazy feel. This is perfect, if you’re playing a slow blues.

Here’s the tab:

blues guitar

Here’s what it sounds like:

Make sure you’re nice and loose when you play this pattern! You want to be super relaxed.

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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