David Hamburger playing his guitar with the series name "12 Ways to Play Better Blues Guitar"

Play Better Blues with David Hamburger

Pete Madsen demonstrates how to play "John Hardy"
Learn Lead Belly’s Version of “John Hardy”
Black and white photo of Algia Mae Hinton
Undersung Women of Blues Guitar

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.

Pietro Frosini, whose performance of the Operatic Rag on accordion inspired this guitar version.

Learn to Play ‘An Operatic Rag’ — An Accordion Gem for Guitar

Accordion music of the early 20th century might seem an odd source of inspiration for a fingerstyle guitarist, but not for the San Francisco Bay Area musician Craig Ventresco, with his vast musical knowledge of that bygone era. I have long admired Ventresco’s arrangement of “An Operatic Rag,” a 1910…

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A musical group pictured in black and white.

Learn to Play the Blues Classic ‘Careless Love’

Excerpted from Arranging Folk and Blues Songs “Careless Love” is a classic blues tune from the early-20th-century New Orleans jazz songbook. New Orleans’ trumpeter Buddy Bolden’s band, one of the pioneering groups in Dixieland style jazz, was known for its version of the song. The song has since been recorded…

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musical examples from the lesson

Playing Country Blues

With its simple chord shapes and steady rhythm, blues can provide the perfect way to improve your right-hand coordination and your ability to improvise in a fingerstyle context.
Fred McDowell with his guitar

Acoustic Guitar Gospel Blues: The Devil’s in the Details

This groove-heavy gospel-blues song is a lil’ bit of heaven and a lil’ bit of hell. “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” is one of many songs that collide at the intersection of gospel and blues history. As musician/pastor Reverend Elijah Ott describes it, “To me there’s two kinds of music.…

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