How to Play the Blues on the Guitar

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Learn the basic blues rhythm. Get to know the blues pattern. Practice the basic strumming. Get a feel for the blues!

Things You'll Need

  • Guitar Amplifiers
  • Guitar Cables
  • Guitar Straps
  • Acoustic Guitars
  • Guitar Cases
  • Sheet Music For Guitar
  • Electric Guitars
  • Electronic Tuner For Guitars
  • Guitar Strings
  • Blues: Eric Clapton CD
  • Blues On The Bayou: B. B. King CD
  • King Of The Blues Guitar: Albert King CD
  • Capo
  • Guitar Stands

Strumming the Blues

  • Practice the upstroke and downstroke in the blues shuffle rhythm on the E chord, where | = down, ^ = up: | ^ | ^ | ^ | ^ , beginning with "1and" on the downstroke and "the" on the upstroke: 1and the 2and the 3and the 4and the.

  • Play four bars of this on the E-major chord, followed by two bars on A major, one bar on the B7 chord, one bar on A major, and back to E. It looks like this (where / = bar symbol): (E)|^|^|^|^/|^|^|^|^/|^|^|^|^/|^|^|^|^ (A)|^|^|^|^/|^|^|^|^/ (E)|^|^|^|^/|^|^|^|^/ (B7)|^|^|^|^/ (A)|^|^|^|^/ (E)|^|^|^|^. This is the basic 12-bar blues pattern. Most blues songs are molded in this pattern.

  • Play this pattern over the following song: (E)Woke up this morning, got a hole in my shoes (E) (E); (A)Woke up this morning, got a hole in my shoes (E) (E); (B7)Plus my baby just left me, (A)it's the same old (E)blues.

  • Make up your own words if you can't feel it. Once you feel it, you may call yourself a blues player.

The Blues Rhythm

  • Finger the E-major chord on your guitar.

  • Strum your guitar using downstrokes, counting 1-2-3-4 slowly (4/4 rhythm, playing quarter notes).

  • Change your rhythm to: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 (playing eighth notes).

  • Change to counting: 1 andthe 2 andthe 3 andthe 4 (playing triplets). This creates the basic blues rhythm.

  • Count: (1 and) the (2 and) the (3 and) the (four and) the. Now you've got the blues shuffle rhythm.

  • Practice this rhythmic pattern until you feel you've mastered it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Listen to as many recordings of blues guitarists like B.B. King, Albert King, Eric Clapton and Jonny Lang as you can. Learn from the masters - it's the best way to become an accomplished blues guitar player.

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