The blues is an often forgotten genre of music in today’s modern-day, but almost all of our music today wouldn’t exist without it. The guitar owes a special debt to the blues. It’s what brought the guitar into the front of the stage as a solo instrument, and the techniques developed with this genre formed the basis for almost every guitar technique used by every other type of music.
If you can’t tell, I’m really passionate about making sure we know whom we owe our current music to. Every good guitar learning program will cover parts of the blues because of this historical piece, AND because mastering the basic blues technique provides a solid foundation for all playing.
This being said, there are a lot of mistakes you may make. I want to share with you 5 must-have tips to learning blues guitar you should keep in mind no matter how you’re learning.
#1 Listen To The Pros
Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to these emails or my eBook at all, you’ll know how important listening is. Music is an aural art (ear, not mouth), and we need to have a huge background of good listening to play well ourselves.
If you’re not familiar with the blues (or even if you are), start listening and watching videos of the greats as they play. Use this list to give you a good place to start:
- B. B. King
- Stevie Ray Vaughn
- Muddy Waters
- Freddie King
- John Lee Hooker
- Chuck Berry
- Blind Lemon Jefferson
#2 Feel The Swing, Don’t Rush
Many guitarists want to get right into playing fast and hard. Don’t. If you can’t play it slow, you can’t play it fast. The blues can be fast, and it can be slow. But one thing it never is: out of tempo.
Blues musicians and guitarists are locked into the tempo and groove. They often swing their eighth notes and change the tempo at different sections, but they stick to the beat.
You need to feel that glue as well. Playing along with blues tracks and practicing these songs, fit in the groove and make your guitar sing with the rhythm and melody.
#3 Build On Melodies
Whether you’re Hendrix shredding up a solo (also a huge fan of the blues) or playing a fingerstyle ballad, you owe the expressiveness and improvisation of melodic ideas to the blues. The blues take melodies and build on them with improvisation, pitch bending, and other techniques.
You could simply study and memorize the works of other masters, but then you’d never truly understand what the pros are doing. You need to step back and master the basics of soloing, melody, and ornamenting the music. Where do you do this?
#4 Master The 12-Bar Blues
All music is built on structure, usually harmonic progression and form. How did it get this way? It evolved from the music of our past, and the best and easiest place to start is with the classic 12-bar blues form. It uses three chords at least and forms the basis for more complicated progressions.
#5 Connect To The Heart Of Music
Never forget that music is an art. It’s meant to express something in us that words struggle to say alone. No genre shows this as much as the blues.
As the name suggests, the blues was born from the raw, emotional expression of often oppressed people. It strips away the fancy lyrics and playstyle to simple and powerful ideas. Go watch blues performers, and you’ll see and hear what I mean.
The best guitarists put their heart and soul into the music, just like these blues musicians.
Caught your interest yet? I hope so. If you want to learn more about the blues, you’ll also need some good learning tools. Of all the learning programs out there, Jam Play does one of the best jobs. Go check out their blues courses for help.