The Player and Instrument
You can learn blues guitar on even a modest instrument. B B King played a Gibson 345 and Robert Johnson used an old beaten-up acoustic that you could probably buy for next to nothing!
It’s true to say that it’s not the instrument you play, it’s how you play it that matters. I guess we would all prefer the Gibson than the old acoustic but it really won’t make us into better guitarists, it will just make our tone better and our pockets a lot lighter!
Many Styles Of Blues Guitar
There are a lot of different styles of blues guitar playing including Texas Blues, Delta Blues and Chicago Blues – from acoustic to rock and also slide blues guitar.
On the basis that what goes in comes out, if you listen to the riffs that you want to play then you’ll have something inside to draw on when it’s your turn to improvise.
Blues playing is usually improvisational and personal – it says something about your experience by way of music, and is therefore truly meaningful. If it doesn’t mean anything to you when you play it, it won’t mean anything to anyone else either!
Blues Guitar Scales
As an introduction to blues guitar, the most popular scale is of course the blues scale … I guess that’s obvious! However, there is also the pentatonic minor, which is very similar to the blues scale, and also the mixolydian mode.
The last of these is a major scale with a minor 7th and when you combine the blues scale, pentatonic and mixolydian mode there isn’t much you can’t play in the blues guitar style.
Blues guitar playing also overlaps into jazz – see also: learn to play jazz guitar.
The Human Voice
In many ways, the blues is borne out of human sorrow and based on vocal phrasing – the most important blues instrument being the human voice.
The guitar has many similarities to the human voice with its ability to bend notes, its expressive dynamic range and phrasing.
B. B. King
One of the great modern day masters of the blues was of course B. B. King. He could say a lot with just a few notes and with phrasing that told the story. To be a good blues player, you need to “tell the story”.
If you want to learn to play blues guitar, start with a few chords and the rock ‘n’ roll rythm in a blues feel – slow triplet time.
Improvizing On The Blues Scale
Most guitarists learn the blues scale – it is usually the one they learn first because it is great for blues, rock and the heavier styles of music.
Being able to sing through the notes is a useful ability to have because if you know what each note of the scale sounds like, it is easier to construct good blues phrases on the guitar.
The Form In Blues
Because blues music is usually in 12 bar form, each phrase is usually four bars in length, giving three phrases for every 12 bar chorus.
An introduction called a “turnaround” is often used for the intro and outro, it is also played between verses or choruses.
See Also: Learn To Play Acoustic Guitar