The blues is many things—a collection of styles, an approach to the guitar, a certain musical feeling, a common 12-bar structure, and more. The work of blues guitarists, from pioneers like Robert Johnson and Etta Baker to contemporary performers like Jontavious Willis, inspires music fans and acoustic guitarists alike. Here you’ll learn key concepts, songs, and techniques for playing the blues.
One of James' most popular tunes, “Talco Girl” is supported by a guitar accompaniment that would make a smart instrumental composition on its own.
“Most of the time I have no idea how the music comes from my fingertips while writing. It’s not like I’m going for some genre or sound. It just happens!”
Although John Hurt’s style and repertoire are often imitated, his guitar sound is hard to duplicate. In this lesson, Steve James teaches you how to play like Mississippi John Hurt.
There are several things you can do to get a good slide sound: Set up your guitar with heavier strings, use an open tuning, try different kinds of slides, dampen the strings, and learn to properly intonate. Getting a good sound is often as much a function of proper setup as it is technique.
Learn how to use the form of the 12-bar blues as a roadmap for your improvising and give your blues solo a sense of logic and musical development.
Guitarist and W.C. Handy scholar Jon Shain shares strategies for adapting ragtime pieces for fingerstyle guitar using the 1917 Handy song "Beale Street Blues" as an example.
Learn to create a solo that has a certain kind of connectedness and unity, because it’s based around some related ideas instead of just whatever lick you happen to come up with at the moment.
In this guitar lesson you will learn to play a 12-bar walking-bass blues in the key of E major, adding some swing to your blues playing.
Space can be good, but if you want to create a bigger sense of dimension, adding in chords as responses to single-note licks can give you a new depth and texture, while creating an additional level of call-and-response.
Here are three ways to play a 12-bar blues in C major on guitar, seen through the lens of the old blues masters.
This trio of lessons explores some of the open tunings most frequently heard in the blues: Vastopol, Spanish, open-C and open-G
Learn the basics of acoustic slide guitar and start to find the notes between the notes where the range of human emotion runs.
Look at how to play into the downbeat to create momentum in your fingerstyle blues soloing and explore different kinds of resolutions—short, long, and delayed.
Explore how you can add motion and color to your blues playing by using compact chord voicings inspired by the great jazz guitarist Freddie Green.
The two principal open tunings used in blues guitar playing have old, vernacular American names: Vastopol and Spanish.
12 Ways to Play Better Blues Guitar — Lesson 7: Building Call-and-Response Patterns with Western Swing Chords
Create call-and-response statements using Western swing chords. You’ll learn to play single-note licks on the I chord in the key of A major, answered by different combinations of sixth and ninth chords.
This guitar transcription of Lead Belly's blues murder ballad "John Hardy" uses the tuning of low-B from the 1940 Library of Congress recording.
Learn how to create interesting harmonies derived from a scale—specifically, the ascending form of A melodic minor (A B C D E F# G#).
If you look to the masters for inspiration—without copying them note for note—you can produce blues verses and solos that sound fresh and exciting on guitar.
In this guitar lesson, learn to play a monotonic bass line, then apply it separately to three chords in the basic 12-bar blues progression.
Explore a bunch of different ways of playing E7 and A7 chords up the neck and ways of combining these ideas with single-note licks for a cohesive statement.
Learn how to improve your blues playing by accenting the offbeats and keeping rock-steady bass notes, all on a one-chord groove.
Work on some country-blues patterns and see how emphasizing the backbeat—or beats 2 and 4—improves your blues playing.
Learn how to use rhythmic contrast in playing blues—mixing up quarter notes, eighth notes, and eighth-note triplets.
Here we highlight female blues guitarists who helped shaped the blues; masterly musicians who don’t always receive the recognition they deserve.