Piano and Keyboard lessons from Glenn Sutton in Poway and San Diego

Beginning Blues Guitar

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Interested in learning the electric, bass or acoustic guitar? Need lessons in the Scripps Ranch or Sabre Springs area? Would you like to learn to play your favorite songs?

Contact Glenn Sutton at 619-306-3664.

Getting Started with the Blues

Perhaps no genre has been as closely linked to guitar as the blues. From its acoustic origins in the South and Midwest, to the modern electric blues of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the late BB King, and through the present day, blues and guitar have been intertwined. blues has also, of course, had a huge influence on jazz, country, and rock. In this article, aimed towards the beginning player, we will go over blues basics for the guitar.

Blues Basics

The origins of the blues go back to the former African slaves in the southern United States, especially the Mississippi Delta, singing and playing spirituals, plantation songs, praise songs, or field hollers. The primary instrument used with these songs was guitar. This music has a formal repetitive call-and-response structure (otherwise singing in groups on the cotton fields would have been impossible) and uses so called “blue notes” to express a very special mood, often described as something like “Blues is a good man feelin’ bad.”

12-Bar Blues

This is by far the most common form of the blues.

12-bar blues means that the song is divided into 12 “bars” (or “measures”) with a given chord sequence. When playing, you repeat this form over and over for every verse until the song ends. This is a very common form, but not the only one. Sometimes there’s no strict form at all. A simple 12-bar blues form in the key of E looks like:

E7 – E7 – E7 – E7

A7 – A7 – E7 – E7

B7 – A7 – E7 – B7

It is divided in three sections of four bars each:

1st statement (4 bars)

repeat statement (4 bars)

conclusion (4 bars)

or simply A-A-B.

Instead of the E7 chord you can also use a simple E or E5 chord, only the B7 should be a 7th chord.

You can play a simple blues song with E, A and B7 chords to start.

How to Play

  1. Simple rhythm. When analyzing a blues song, observe the bass notes. Try to find the bars and chord changes. Tap your feet and start a rhythm. Play each root note on your guitar’s bass strings (E and A, if necessary). Try to get a rhythm going along with a song and stick to playing the note at the beginning of each bar to the best of your ability. This will help you get the feel of the song.

  2. Rhythm with chords. If you know already how to play the chords, you can strum the chords instead of just picking the bass notes. You can either use a pick and use slow downstrokes or play fingerstyle and pick each string with one finger, bass string with the thumb. If you can’t play chords, now is a good time to learn them. Get a chord book with recommended fingerings and start slowly.

Have the Blues Got a Hold on You?

This is just the beginning of your journey into blues guitar. With a bit of practice and mastery, you can then move on to more advanced blues playing.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664 or email: guitarman.glenn@gmail.com

Bass Guitar

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