Guitar Tricks Blog

3 Blues Riffs You NEED to Know

3 Blues Riffs You NEED to Know

Gary Heimbauer

Many people starting out with blues improvisation have the false assumption that ideas come out of thin air, and that as long as they know their scales up and down, they’ll be able to come up with compelling things to play. Although it’s great to practice scales, music is a language, and in the case of the blues, there is a rich vocabulary that has been developed over the decades - and it is by learning some of that vocabulary, and workshopping that vocabulary, that we will have meaningful things to say on our instrument. 

Does this mean that we should just copy other players and those that came before us? Absolutely not. The idea is to learn the stylistic elements of the players you love, and then to workshop those ideas to come up with something that is inspired by that vocabulary, but played in your own unique way. If you listen to a blues player like Albert King, he had a very limited vocabulary, but he was a master of it, and he could endlessly come up with slightly new and different ways of saying more or less the same thing! 

In our recent lesson video, I share with you three classic blues riffs, or bits of vocabulary that are inspired by classic sounds we’ve all heard before. If you listen to the blues greats, you will hear ideas very similar to these. What you want to do is see if you can play them exactly as I present them with my guidance, and THEN, take the most important step, which is to reinterpret them, develop them, change the rhythm, start them the same, and end them differently, change when they start within a measure (we go over this in depth), change their direction. The possibilities are truly endless.

The other important thing is to play a phrase in more than one place and in more than one octave on the guitar. In the lesson I share at least two places on the neck and two octaves for each riff.

Check out the lesson below:

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