Intro to Learning Blues Guitar
Before you get started you’ll need a few things:
– A guitar (Electric or Acoustic)
– Your guitar tuned to E Standard (Use our Guitar Tuner if you need to!)
– 1-2 Hours to complete the full lesson
How Blues Guitar Works
The Origins of Blues
Too often people forget how Blues began. It’s important to remember that Blues actually started as a vocal genre. The first Blues songs were “performed” hundreds of years ago by working slaves.
Since slaves were certainly not allowed instruments, they used their poetic songs & hymns to express their day-to-day struggles. These songs were also the first true Blues songs.
Blues Guitar Song Structure
It’s important to remember that the most common structure for a blues song is what is known as a “12 Bar format”. Each line of music you see on sheet music is known as a “bar”.
As you can see each bar is broken up into 4 sections, called “measures”. Since there are 4 measures per bar and 12 bars per songs, a typical 12 bar blues song will have around 48 measures.
Blues also follows a common chord progression as well. This requires a little bit of music theory knowledge to understand. However, I’ll do my best to put it simply.
Blues follows the I (Tonic), IV (Subdominant) and V (Dominant) chord progression. Typically, a song will start and end on the I Chord, or “Tonic”.
Follow this simple exercise to find your subdominant and dominant chords. Let’s take the C chord for example as a tonic.
1. Hold your fist out in front of you
2. Stick out your thumb – This is your I Chord, or tonic: C
3. Stick out your index finger as well – Your II Chord: D
4. Continue counting until you reach your ring finger – Your IV (Subdominant) Chord: F
5. Raise your pinky – Your V (Dominant) Chord: G
A C Blues Chord Progression would then be: C , F and G.
Learn to Play Blues Guitar
Learn Blues Guitar Chords
While any chord will work, you’ll find when learning blues guitar that 7th chords are very common.
One of the benefits of many of 7th chords is that they are movable. You can play them anywhere on the neck with the same shape and be just fine.
Just remember, the key of the chord will change to whatever the tonic is.
For example, if you move a D7 chord up 2 frets it becomes an E7 Chord.
Common Blues Guitar Chords
Blues Guitar Scales
You will find that much like rock music, the Minor Pentatonic scale is very common in Blues music. It has a mellow feel to it and is very easy to manipulate.
Below is a diagram outlining the 5 overlapping positions of the minor pentatonic scale.
The minor pentatonic scale was the first scale I ever learned. It’s a great starting point as it’s very easy to memorize and every pattern requires minimal hand movement.
I suggest working on memorizing each of these positions. Once mastered, you will be able to improvise a Blues guitar lead anywhere on the neck.
I hope you found this lesson helpful. There is a lot more to learn in the world of Blues guitar, so be sure to check out the additional links throughout.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment box below. I’ll get back to you within 24 hours, usually much sooner. Thanks for reading!