The Origins Of Blues Music
Blues is a genre of music that was created by individuals in the iconic melting pot and unique mixture of cultures found only in America.
The end of the Civil War was the beginning of emancipation for African slaves and their descendants in the American South. By the end of the 19th century individuals from many different cultural backgrounds throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and other Southern states had started to develop a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music. This new fusion was a wide-ranging mixture from many diverse sources. Among those sources were work shanties and field hollers from former slaves and farm field workers combined with shouts and chants, spiritual hymns, traditional folk songs, and narrative ballads relating stories of the strife and joys of daily life.
Former African slaves and their children were free to forge their own lives in the South. Their exposure to the popular music of the day resulted in a cross-cultural and lasting influence that worked in both directions. The white European descendants were exposed to African musical elements that emphasized rhythm, the call-and-response format, and the use of blue notes, which are micro-tonal pitches. The black African descendants were exposed to the European musical elements that emphasized tonal melody, chromatic harmony, church music, and folk songs.
From author Lawrence W. Levine's book, "Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom" (Oxford University Press 1977):
"There was a direct relationship between the national ideological emphasis upon the individual, the popularity of Booker T. Washington's teachings, and the rise of the blues ..."
" ... psychologically, socially, and economically, African-Americans were being acculturated in a way that would have been impossible during slavery, and it is hardly surprising that their secular music reflected this as much as their religious music did."
Music was, as ever, used widely in Christian churches. The descendants of white European church communities had a long established tradition of hymns and spirituals that evolved from earlier classical and baroque music. Black individuals and communities became involved in the same religious activities as white individuals and communities. Although most churches and communities were still segregated, this use of a common religious culture was an important melting pot for the black African and white European musical elements to influence each other.
Music was also, as ever, used widely in entertainment. From dance halls and saloons, to parades and town squares, the brass bands, small ensembles, and piano players of the day were all able to learn from, influence, and inspire each other. The secular world of arts and entertainment was an important one for this sort of cross-cultural influence because it often valued individual effort and skill over race or class. Early blues musicians were also free to experiment with only themselves and their audiences to judge what worked and what didn't as blues music entertainment. Outside of any authority that might impose a strict set of standards on how music was supposed to be written, these early artists forged their own creative paths.
Performers quickly learned what audiences liked and preferred. The result was that the creative evolution of the blues was largely forged in the fire of live performance, improvisation, and immediate audience feedback. While the musical and lyrical content of blues songs continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, it has remained directly informed and influenced by these early artists.
Characteristics of Blues MusicSome early blues artists succeeded in making a name for themselves – either by their own performing styles, creating songs or new styles that had a lasting influence on subsequent generations of blues musicians. These early successes resulted in a set of essential characteristics that would come to be known as how blues music typically sounds.
Blues music is a cyclical musical form meaning that a musical pattern, lyric, or chord progression is first established then repeated throughout the song. This basic form and structure is commonly thought to be a reflection of the call-and-response format of African music introduced by slaves and other field workers.
Early examples of blues forms were not standardized. The patterns, chord progressions, and forms were left to the individual performer to decide. Gradually, however, certain forms emerged as favorites among blues musicians. Certain performers attained enough popularity to be influential within the ranks of blues musicians. As a result, the twelve-bar blues spread across the music industry during the 1920s and 1930s. Other chord progressions are still of course, considered blues including the 8-bar and 16-bar forms. Often, early blues musicians used odd numbered bars such as 9-bar or 11-bar structures, but not necessarily as standardized forms. Rather, these odd measured forms were used in an improvisational manner as the lyrics or music dictated.
A typical 12-bar blues in the key of C used the tonic (I), sub-dominant (IV), and dominant chords (V) of the key in a certain order.
C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / G (V) /C (I) / C (I)
There are, of course, variations on this basic chord progression. Some include the key change on the 2nd bar.
C (I) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / G (V) /C (I) / C (I)
There is a variation including a walkdown including the IV chord on the 10th bar.
C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
There is a variation including a return of the dominant chord at the end of the form.
C (I) / C (I) /C (I) / C (I)
F (IV) / F (IV) /C (I) / C (I)
G (V) / F (IV) /C (I) / G (V)
And all of these variations and more can use a dominant chord on any or all chords used.
C7 (I7) / C7 (I7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)
F7 (IV7) / F7 (IV7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)
G7 (V7) / G7 (V7) /C7 (I7) / C7 (I7)
This extensive use of dominant chords is itself a key characteristic of the blues. Often blues melodies are distinguished by the use of "blues notes," the flattened third, fifth, and seventh of the diatonic major scale of the key. This combination of major chords and harmonic structures, along with minor scale notes as ornamentations and melodic notes, creates the distinctive, iconic sound of the blues.
There are even further alterations of the "blue notes" as they are sung or played in a microtonal manner that places their precise pitch between traditional chromatic, diatonic scale notes.
For example, a blues 3rd might actually sound somewhere between a strict minor 3rd and major 3rd. And the degree of pitch divergence is often a unique or characteristic of each individual blues musician.
Sometimes these blues notes are slid or bent into, vocally or instrumentally, and the specific phrasing or rhythm of this glissando movement is also a distinctive individualistic aspect of blues style.
The purpose of blues notes is artistic expression: to make for interesting variations away from standard scale degrees, and to allow for dramatic flourishes at important points of a song.
Rhythmically, the blues was heavily influenced by African rhythms. The driving, relentless, repetitive characteristic of blues was a direct descendent of African music's emphasis on additive, repetitive rhythms. As a result, the swing rhythms and shuffles recall the trance-like rhythms and call-and-response chants became standard blues groove.
Harmonically, the basic chord progressions and extensive use of dominant seventh chords showed a strong influence of European folk songs and classical tonality brought by European immigrants in their religious and secular music. Melodically, the combination of African influence "blue notes" and European diatonic and chromatic scales was the ultimate expression of two widely divergent cultures mixed together into something brand new and historically unique.
A Brief History of Blues Artists
By the beginning of the 20th century this mixture of cultures had resulted in a unique and distinctive American style of music, and it was called the blues. In 1908, a song by the name of "I Got the Blues" by Anthony Maggio was published. Although the song was actually more of ragtime two-step for piano than a blues, it is still notable for the use of the word "blues" in the title. In 1912, "Dallas Blues" by Hart Wand became the first copyrighted blues composition.
Also in 1912, W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues," a blues composition, was published and made available for sale in Memphis, Tennessee.
"Folks I've just been down, down to Memphis town,
That's where the people smile, smile on you all the while.
Hospitality, they were good to me.
I couldn't spend a dime, and had the grandest time."
- W. C. Handy's "The Memphis Blues"
William Christopher Handy, a black man, brass band leader, and choral director, was already an accomplished musician and singer when he first heard rural folk blues. Legend has it that while traveling in Mississippi in 1903, he heard another black man play a simple repeated pattern on a guitar while singing a repeated lament, "I'm goin' where the chilly wind don't blow." Inspired by this encounter, Handy wrote songs influenced by this style, expanded on it, putting it in a formal written notation for the first time.
From these beginnings the music known as blues spread quickly up the Mississippi river to St Louis, then to Chicago, then across the East Coast, and eventually influencing musicians in New York.
The lyrics of early blues songs was often a single line repeated three or four times. It was typically a lament in which the singer expressed his desire to be rid of whatever his troubles were. Eventually the most common AAB pattern evolved into the standard blues form for lyrics. In this form a line would be repeated twice, then a third joining line would provide the conclusion. W. C. Handy wrote that he used this AAB form intentionally in order to avoid the monotony of the same lines repeated with no variation. Often, early blues music was played on horns in brass bands, or sung accompanied by pianos and organs in dance halls and churches. But a single player on guitar has become an iconic way of performing blues music. This is the result of several factors. The guitar is easy to transport and easily tunable. The singer is able to effectively and efficiently accompany himself without needing to consult or collaborate with anyone else. It also makes for a very powerful, intimate performance.
Many of the earliest blues artists were guitarists that performed as solo acts or fronted an ensemble that clearly took a back seat as the focus of attention.
Among the earliest blues musicians were Blind Lemon Jefferson. His song "Rising High Water Blues" is a narrative about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This is a classic example of the blues song as a lament over troubles and tribulations, a tale of suffering through hard times.
"Backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time,
I said, backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time.
And I can't get no hearing from that Memphis girl of mine."
- Blind Lemon Jefferson "Rising High Water"
The blues was also used in a humorous way to tell comic narratives. For example, Hudson Whittaker, known as "Tampa Red," had a bawdy humorous style that was called "hokum." His song "It's Tight Like That" is a representative example of his work.
"Listen here, folks. I'm gonna sing a little song,
But you mustn't get mad. I don't mean no wrong.
There's an old maid name is Liza Beck(?)
Always singin' the blues when she tumbles in bed.
Oh, it's tight like that.
Oh, it's tight like that.
Hear me talkin' to you.
I mean it's tight like that."
- Tampa Red "It's Tight Like That"
Tampa Red in turn influenced many other younger blues musicians with his songwriting style and slide guitar playing. Among those he influenced are classic blues musicians such as Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Mose Allison.
In 1928 Tampa Red was the first black musician to play a National steel-bodied resonator guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available before amplification, acquiring one in the first year they were available. This particular guitar was instrumental in the development of his influential style that incorporated slide and single string runs instead of chording patterns as an accompaniment. This was a huge influence on later players as the blues evolved and often the guitarists added extended soloing to each of their performances.
For his skills with the gold colored National steel guitar, Tampa Red was known as "The Man with the Gold Guitar," and he was sometimes billed as "The Guitar Wizard."
"Ma" Rainey, born Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett, was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first to be recorded. Ma Rainey was so successful and influential her nickname was The Mother of the Blues.
Rainey started performing at the young age of 12. She was known for her powerful, expressive voice, an energetic personality and highly individual vocal stylings. Her style of ‘moaning’ the blues was extremely influential.
Also notable was Bessie Smith, whose vocal style was extremely influential on countless later blues singers. Smith was nicknamed The Empress of The Blues. She also performed with Louis Armstrong, and as a result, has been regarded as a jazz singer as well as blues.
Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson are examples of early blues artists whose song lyrics clearly belong to the spirituals of the blues influenced religious hymnals. Both were guitarists with a highly developed individual sense of musical style. Both men achieved an advanced playing style that incorporated bass motion, chord figures, and melody much like the ragtime piano that they used as influence and inspiration.
"I'm gonna run through the streets of the city,
where my Lord have gone on before.
I'm gonna sit down on the banks of the river,
I won't be back no more"
- Gary Davis "Gonna Sit Down On The Banks Of The River"
"Nobody's fault but mine,
Nobody's fault but mine
If I don't read it my soul be lost
I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don't read it my soul be lost"
- Blind Willie Johnson "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine
Charley Patton (died April 28, 1934), also known as Charlie Patton, was one of the earliest American Delta blues singer-guitarists to be widely known and recorded. He is considered by many to be the "Father of the Delta Blues." Patton grew up and performed around the Dockery Plantation sawmill and cotton farm near Ruleville, Mississippi. It was here he developed his singular acoustic blues bottleneck slide and picking style to accompany his loud vocal blues lyrics.
"I say I'm just like a rattlesnake baby, I say in the middle of his coil
I say I'm just like a rattlesnake baby, I say in the middle of his coil
I ain't going to have no hard time, mama rolling through this world"
- Charley Patton "Rattlesnake Blues"
Patton influenced another young blues musician at Dockery by the name of Robert Johnson. Johnson is one of the most iconic early blues guitarists. His life story is the stuff of legend and contains as much myth and truth. Johnson spent most of his short 27 years in the Deep South performing on street corners, juke joints, and rural dance halls. He had virtually no large scale recognition or professional success. However, he recorded in 1936 and 1937 in a hotel room, where he performed a set of blues songs that have become legendary. These recordings reveal a singer-guitarist with a well-developed, distinctive combination of phrasing, playing, and songwriting that influenced countless generations of blues musicians. Because Johnson's life was so short and undocumented but his talent so large, the result has been a Faustian myth that he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to achieve such skills in such a short time.
"I got to keep moving, I got to keep moving
Blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail
Mmm, blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail
And the day keeps on remindin' me, there's a hellhound on my trail
Hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail."
- Robert Johnson "Hellhound On My Trail"
Also, of great note in the list of early blues musicians that were singers as well as guitarists are Sam John "Lightnin'" Hopkins, Huddie William "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. All these artists have been highly influential to later generations of blues musicians and artists. Another pair of early blues singer-guitarists influenced by Patton achieved much more professional success than their mentor: John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. Another artist born as McKinley Morganfield became one of the most successful and well-known of his style under the nickname Muddy Waters.
Hooker, Wolf, and Waters were among the first generation of singer-guitarists that were directly influenced by the older Delta, acoustic blues musicians. But this trio traveled beyond the South. They went up the Mississippi River to the larger cities to perform, record, and eventually become widely known as blues musicians to the general public. These new playing and performing situations also led to them to transition from acoustic to electric guitars.
"Boom, boom, boom, boom
I'm gonna shoot you right down
Right off your feet
Take you home with me
Put you in my house
- John Lee Hooker - "Boom Boom"
"I have a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
I have a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow for day
Keep everything in the barnyard
Upset in every way"
- Howlin' Wolf "The Red Rooster"
Baby, please don't go
Baby, please don't go, down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
I get you way'd out here, and let you walk alone"
- Muddy Waters "Baby Please Don't Go"
Women blues musicians were more often singers and featured performers. But they were represented among the early blues guitarists by Lizzie Douglas who became well-known as Memphis Minnie. She became known for her accomplished, impressive guitar style. She recorded over 200 songs and her performances were respected as professional and stylish.
"Won't you see my chauffeur
Won't you see my chauffeur
I want him to drive me
I want him to drive me downtown
For he drives so easy, that I can't turn him down"
- Memphis Minnie "Me and My Chauffeur Blues"
As blues musicians made their way from the South to the cities across America, there was again a cross-cultural mixing of influences as artists from different regions encountered each other and their diverse styles from the far flung corners of the States. There were soon almost as many different styles as there were individual artists.
After World War II, the increasing urbanization and electrification of the country lead to more musical developments. The Big Band Era had an influence on the evolution of the blues. In the 1940s, the jump blues style developed. Jump blues evolved from the basic boogie woogie blues beat but was strongly influenced by big band music. It had jazz aspects as the horns, saxophones, trumpets, and trombones took the melodic lead with the guitar in the rhythm section. T-Bone Walker was one of many blues guitarists to find success in the new jump blues genre.
"Let your hair down baby
Let's have a natural ball
Let your hair down baby
Let's have a natural ball
Cause when you're not happy
It ain't no fun at all."
- T-Bone Walker "T-Bone Shuffle"
These artists were part of what came to be known as the Second Great Migration. A great boom in economic activity that followed the austerity of World War II saw a massive migration of the African American population, the Second Great Migration, which caused an increase of the income among the urban black population. There was a brand new market for blues music and these artists were willing and able to supply that demand.
The new styles of electrified blues became popular in major cities in the American Midwest: Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and St. Louis. Each city had its own blues artists. And the artists started regularly traveling the country. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were among those leading the way in bringing blues from the Mississippi Delta to the North. Also among these artists were Willie Dixon, Elmore James, and Jimmy Reed, who were also born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago during the Great Migration. Bassist and composer Willie Dixon wrote many blues songs that would become standards of the genre and widely covered by his peers and later artists.
"When everybody's tryin' to sleep
I'm somewhere making my midnight creep
Yes, in the morning when the rooster crow
Something tell me I got to go
I am a back door man
I am, a back door man
Well the men don't know, but little girls understand"
- Willie Dixon "Back Door Man"
Elmore James was known as King of the Slide Guitar, but he was also noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice.
"Shake your moneymaker
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker, yeah
Shake your moneymaker
You got to shake your moneymaker
And then ...
I got a gal that lives up on a hill
I got a gal that lives up on a hill
Says she'll let me roll her
But I don't believe she will"
- Elmore James "Shake Your Moneymaker"
Jimmy Reed had a rollicking, lively style of playing, singing and writing. Reed had an enormous influence on early rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and Billy Gibbons.
"Bright light, big city, gone to my baby's head
Whoa, bright light, an'big city, gone to my baby's head
I tried to tell the woman, but she don't believe a word I said
It's all right, pretty baby, (gonna) need my help someday
Whoa, it's all right, pretty baby, gonna need my help someday
Ya' gonna wish you had a-listened, to some a-those things I said"
- Jimmy Reed "Bright Lights, Big City"
These 1950s blues artists all had a huge influence on mainstream American popular music. Some black artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry were influenced by the Chicago blues, but their individual styles were significantly different from the earlier blues. They were more upbeat, energetic. Their lyrics were lighter and less serious than the hard life trials and tribulations of the original blues. But they were considered electric blues singer-guitarists and achieved considerable success and lasting influence in their own right.
"Now when I was a little boy
At the age of five
I had somethin' in my pocket
Keep a lot of folks alive
Now I'm a man
You know baby
We can have a lot of fun
I'm a man
I spell M-A-N, man"
- Bo Diddley "I'm A Man""
"Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell
Go Johnny go!"
- Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode"
Many early rock and roll songs are based on blues: "That's All Right Mama," "Johnny B. Goode," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On," "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," and "Long Tall Sally." Artists such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis all used the driving, swinging rhythms of blues, the ornamental blue notes that flavored melodies, and the lyrical sexual themes and innuendos of blues music.
Aside from this pop and early rock influence, however, there was another generation of up and coming blues artists that were committed to keeping the old flame alive. They became known as the Three Kings: B. B., Freddie and Albert.
B. B. King's soloing technique and near life-long relentless performing schedule earned him the eponymous title King of the Blues. His singing was just as widely regarded.
"Everybody wants to know
Why I sing the blues
Yes, I say everybody wanna know
Why I sing the blues
Well, I've been around a long time
I really have paid my dues"
- B. B. King "Why I Sing The Blues"
Albert King was famed for his powerful string-bending style as well as for his soulful singing, which earned him the nickname The Velvet Bulldozer. His playing style was an enormous influence on many later blues guitarists that used wide, expressive string bending vibrato.
"Born under a bad sign.
I've been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn't for bad luck,
I wouldn't have no luck at all."
- Albert King "Born Under A Bad Sign"
Freddie King based his guitar style on Texas and Chicago blues influences and was one of the first bluesmen to have a multi-racial backing band at live performances. His live performances were legendary and, along with his playing style and personality, he had a long lasting influence on future generations of blues guitarists.
"Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground
Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground
Well, I feel like this
When my baby can't be found."
- Freddie King "I'm Tore Down"
Also during the 1950s, a new blues style emerged on Chicago's West Side, along those artists were guitarists Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Their bands provided strong accompaniment for their stinging lead electric guitar soloing. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, rock and roll and rhythm and blues genres formed the bulk of mainstream popular music. While blues (along with rockabilly, country, swing, and jazz) had directly influenced this popular music, blues as a popular genre had moved to the background of the market for music. Some blues artists sought and found new markets for their performances and recordings in Europe. Many blues festivals in Europe fostered the enjoyment of blues music on the international level. It was then, in the United Kingdom that many younger artists were exposed to and started to emulate these blues artists. The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream, and Irish musician Rory Gallagher performed classic blues songs from the Delta or in the Chicago blues traditions. They were all young United Kingdom musicians that started their careers by emulating their favorite blues musicians.
The blues musicians and these British musicians and bands they influenced in turn inspired many American musicians to use blues and mix it with pop and rock and roll genres into a blues-rock fusion style throughout the late 1960s and well into the 1970s. Popular rock bands such as the The Doors, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin, Ry Cooder, and The Allman Brothers Band all had strong blues influences in their music. All these and many other musicians and bands covered the songs of older blues artists. They mixed the blues style in their own compositions, up to and including writing out right blues songs of their own. The most legendary of the blues influenced 1960s rock guitarists started their careers by performing blues style music. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were the vanguard of this wave of British guitarists. Jimi Hendrix was viewed as an oddity, being a black man playing loud rock music. What was not immediately appreciated was that his playing and writing was deeply influenced by the blues he played while paying his dues in the American South Chittlin' touring circuit as a guitarist sideman in many backing bands for popular singers of the day. Clapton started by playing out right electric blues in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds. After forming his own power trio rock band, Cream, he continued to forge his own style of rock heavily influenced by old blues musicians, even covering songs (for example, "Crossroads") by his hero Robert Johnson in his rock bands.
"There's a red house over yonder,
That's where my baby lives
There's a red house over yonder,
That's where my baby lives
I ain't been home to see my baby,
for ninety-nine and one half days"
- Jimi Hendrix "Red House"
"Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, ooh
When you knocked upon my door
And I said "hello Satan
I believe it's time to go"
- Eric Clapton covering Robert Johnson's "Me And The Devil Blues"
After Clapton left the Yardbirds, two of his British peers also played guitar in The Yardbirds, and became legends in their own right: Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Both musicians had strong blues based influences but used them to craft highly individualized rock styled playing, performing, and song writing. Jimmy Page eventually formed Led Zeppelin, one of the most famous of the British rock bands. Zeppelin covered many old blues songs, wrote their own blues songs and used the blues as a strong influence in their own songs and performances.
"I can't quit you, baby,
So I'm gonna put you down for awhile
I can't quit you, baby,
So I'm gonna put you down for awhile
I said you messed up my happy home,
Made me mistreat my only child."
- Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin covering Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby"
Black cat crossed my trail
I ain't superstitious
But a black cat crossed my trail
Bad luck ain't got me so far
And I won't let it stop me now
The dogs begin to bark
All over my neighborhood and that ain't all
Dogs begin to bark
All over my neighborhood"
- Jeff Beck covering Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious"
In the 1970s and into the 1980s Texas rock-blues style emerged, and was strongly influenced by the British rock-blues movement. Some of the more well- known guitarists of the Texas blues-rock style are Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and ZZ Top.
Johnny Winter had been playing and performing since the late 1960s, but finally during the 70s began to emerge in mainstream music as a fierce live performer with a well-developed rhythm and lead playing style firmly grounded in the blues. His vocal delivery was also heavily blues based.
"Rock me baby, rock me all night long
Rock me baby, honey, rock me all night long
I want you to rock me,
Like my back ain't got no bones."
- Johnny Winter covering B. B. King's "Rock Me Baby
Stevie Ray Vaughan didn't achieve mainstream visibility until his 1983 breakthrough album "Texas Flood." But he had been performing, honing his considerable skills and paying his dues since the 70s. His mainstream success led to a new generation of young musicians and audiences to the blues. Vaughan's singing and playing style is very much in the same vein as his fellow Texan predecessor, Winter, fierce, over the top, a complete master of the blues form in rhythm and lead guitar playing.
"People talkin' but they just don't know
What's in my heart and why I love you so
I love you baby like a miner loves gold
Come on baby, let the good times roll"
- Stevie Ray Vaughan covering Earl King's "Come On"
ZZ Top formed in the late 60s and paid their dues as a bar band playing old blues tunes in their power trio rock format. Throughout the 70s they gradually gained popularity and success on the strength of their live performances and their original tunes and blues covers. Their originals, as well as their blues covers, were the epitome of the blues-rock fusion style. Every tune was firmly grounded in both styles, the result being a reputation as a hard rocking blues band.
"I been up, I been down
Take my word, my way around.
I ain't askin' for much
I said, Lord, take me downtown,
I'm just lookin' for some tush.
- Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top "Tush"
During the 1980s, blues continued in both traditional and new forms. In 1986, Robert Cray emerged with his album "Strong Persuader" showing a well-developed blues singer-guitarist. There were also many blues revivals with older blues artists gaining new visibility and success.
In the new millennium, from 2001 forward, blues rock gained a cultural following especially as popularity of the internet increased and artists started creating YouTube channels, forums, and Facebook pages. Many notable blues rock musicians in this time period have found critical and commercial success: Warren Haynes, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Jason Ricci, Eric Gales, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Bonamassa, and Johnny Lang.
Some newer pop rock artists and bands are looking back to the original old Delta blues for inspiration. Bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys are heavily influenced by all forms of blues but especially old, primitive Delta blues.
This essay is by no means an exhaustive list of blues artists, musicians, and guitarists. There are many other notable blues musicians to be discovered by the avid listener with more research.
Written by Christopher Schlegel
To learn blues songs on guitar, check out the songs page: Blues Song Lessons
Anders: Blues Chords
In this tutorial I'm going to show you some alternative "voicings" of the chords used in the blues. When you arrange the notes of your chords differently, take out or add certain notes, you can get many different sounds and possibilities out of them. In this tutorial we are gonna explore some of these sounds and look at how they are used in the context of the blues.Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will through the basics of voicing, left hand muting, strumming and palm muting power chords. Getting comfortable with this will ultimately enable you to play the 12 bar form in any key as well as adapt your rhythm playing to different blues grooves!Published: 01/01/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will be using the power chords that you learned earlier to play some blues. We are gonna talk about how to find the power chords for the 12 bar form in any key and try it out the "the band". We are also gonna cover a really useful blues "riff" played with power chords that you often hear in slow blues tunes.Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial I will show you how to play basic barre chords and how to use them in a blues context. The basic barre chord shapes can be very hard to play at first, but if you fight through the pain, I will show you how to use them in a blues context. These are really useful guitar skills that you are going to use for years and years to come, in blues and in all other styles of music, so don't give up on it just because it seems difficult at first!Published: 01/25/2010 Upgrade
Anders: Blues Rhythm
In this tutorial we'll examine different types of basic blues rhythm riffs: the classic blues riff with triads, one and two note riffs, using "outside" triads, and a funky horn section style riff.Published: 06/21/2011 Upgrade
In this tutorial we're going to look at three different rhythmic feels that are used in the blues. For each of these "grooves" I will explain what the drummer and the bass player are most likely to be playing, and I will show you a guitar part that fits it. This will give you a good understanding of the different types of blues grooves and what to play over them!Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
While soloing is an ever important part of playing the guitar, roughly 90% of the time as guitar players we are playing rhythm. In this tutorial, we are going to take a look some advanced rhythmic concepts and chord licks that you can use in your rhythm playing in not just blues, but in all styles. It is important to note too that you can use these skills in your soloing as well. Let's take a look.Published: 08/10/2009 Upgrade
In this tutorial we're going to focus on your right hand by breaking down a couple of really useful strumming patterns for the blues. Chord voicings and left hand technique is very important, but right hand chops and different rhythmic approaches are just as important!Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
This tutorial shows how to play a basic shuffle boogie blues, plus some rhythmic variations using 2 and 3 note chord voicings.Published: 06/25/2009 Upgrade
In these lessons I will introduce you to some really useful techniques like bending, vibrato and hammer-ons and pull-offs, so that you can start working on your feel. Great feel doesn't come from these techniques alone, but learning them will help you get in touch with that side of blues playing.Published: 01/01/2010 Upgrade
Anders: Blues Scales, Soloing, and Lead
In this series of blues course lessons, we'll take a simple A minor pentatonic scale and explore how much music can be made with one lick. We'll break down the lick, work on making it your own, then try trading fours with a backing track!Published: 12/13/2010 Upgrade
In this blues level 2 tutorial, we'll take a look at some basic building blocks to get you started on creating your own licks and building a blues vocabulary. We'll look at the importance of the root note, adding hammer-ons and pull-offs, a bend, combining these ideas, and playing them with backing tracks.Published: 12/13/2010 Upgrade
In this second "building blocks" tutorial on blues, we'll take longer fragments of licks and how to creatively put them together. Then we'll look at how to change up the rhythm and timing, repeating notes, and other variations and play them along with a backing track. We'll also look at playing in different keys, and how the same note can be played different places on the neck.Published: 12/13/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we're going to "up the ante" a bit. We'll take another blues lick that's slightly more challenging and go through a similar process as in the previous tutorial, changing the lick up and playing it along with a backing track.Published: 12/13/2010 Upgrade
Whenever you want to learn to play a style of music, the most important thing to do is to listen to it and imitate what you hear. But in order for you to be able to imitate what you hear, you need a basic understanding of the notes and techniques that are used. The good thing about the blues is that it ultimately comes down to just a handful of notes, played in different octaves and places on the neck, and in this tutorial I will break that down for you.Published: 01/07/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial, we are going to examine the technique of playing chord tones in our soloing. This essentially means that we are going to solo playing only the notes in the chords we are playing over, as opposed to just running scales. This technique is very helpful in aiding the listener in hearing the chords you are playing over. This gets you out of the habit of just running scale patterns, and also helps you to sound more authentic in your soloing. In this tutorial, we will be playing these licks without a backing track and will outline the notes in our I, IV, and V chords. Let's get started.Published: 06/29/2009 Upgrade
In this lesson we are gonna explore the sound of the minor blues. After breaking down the basic chord structure of the 12-bar minor blues form, I will show you how to play it with barre chords. After that we are gonna look at a common "turnaround" variation that you often hear in minor blues, and finally I will show you how to change the key of the minor blues, so that you can adapt the overall chord structure to any given song...Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
Learn what you can do to start finding your own voice in your soloing, using the minor scale.Published: 08/14/2009 Upgrade
While it is always important to learn licks and better your soloing ability, it is also important to figure out what you want to say with those skills. This is called "phrasing," and it can take a lifetime to truly get this concept down; communicating a unique voice on the instrument. In this tutorial, we are going to teach you how you can assemble all of those licks and skills into a meaningful vocabulary on the instrument that is unique to you. Let's get started.Published: 08/14/2009 Upgrade
No matter what style of music it is, it seems as though blues works it's way into it in some way or another. When it comes to soloing, blues licks are prominent in everything from pop to metal and beyond. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how you can apply your blues licks to other styles of music. This will help see the connection and history behind the power of the blues, and work to show you how you might already have the blues in your playing already. Let's get started.Published: 08/11/2009 Upgrade
Anders: Blues Techniques
As many techniques, scales, and chords that are used in blues music; at it's core blues was developed by players whom were self taught and played without these concepts in mind. In this tutorial, we are going examine some unique techniques and ideas that are used often by blues players. This will include using a capo, blues shredding, using your fingers to solo, along with hybrid picking techniques. All of these ideas will help you sound more authentic when playing the blues and will carry over into other areas of your playing as well. Let's get started!Published: 07/28/2009 Upgrade
A technique unique to the guitar, bending in blues is almost as key as the 12 bar form itself. Used primarily in soloing, this technique can be explored in a variety for different to create vocal like lines and memorable hooks. We will be exploring multiple techniques with bending in this tutorial, including bending major/minor thirds, bending up one note and down another, among others. All examples are in the key of C and we will play along to some backing tracks to hear how these sound in our solos. Let's get started.Published: 06/29/2009 Upgrade
Using a bottleneck slide is an expressive technique often used in blues. In this tutorial, we'll look at basic slide technique, open D tuning and standard tuning, some Duane Allman approaches, how to play slow blues slide, and pedal steel 3rds. We'll conclude by jamming along with a backing track.Published: 08/10/2009 Upgrade
The use of vibrato is an effect that is unique to all string instruments and all the more effective when used on the guitar. In blues playing, the use of vibrato is key and each blues player has his or her own vibrato. When used wisely, it can make even the simplest phrases and solos sound very effective. In this tutorial we are going to take a look at a few different types of vibrato that are both artist specific and usable by any guitarist at any level. Let's get started!Published: 07/29/2009 Upgrade
In this tutorial, we're going to go through six different exercises that will help improve your blues playing. First we'll do a basic pentatonic workout using alternate picking; then we'll do a hammer-on and pull-off workout. Next we'll work in grops of four, then do a triplet workout. Finally, we'll do a strumming workout and an exercise on arpeggios, using the myxolydian scale.Published: 06/21/2011 Upgrade
Anders: Regional Blues Styles
In this tutorial I will give you a brief explanation and a musical sample of some of the most well-known regional blues styles. I'm gonna introduce you to the sound of the acoustic Delta Blues, Chicago Blues, New Orleans Blues and more, so that you can start being aware of where the blues originated. Knowing some of the origins of the blues will help you determine what styles you like, and what your goal is with learning the basics of the blues.Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
British Blues is a style of music that was not only important musically, but had strong social impact as well. The popularity of American blues artists such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the U.K had a huge impact on the culture, and eventually the blues was no longer strictly a black style of music. The player with the strongest impact on the British Blues Movement of the 60's and 70's was Jon Mayall, whose band the Bluesbreakers went on to springboard the careers of Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Peter Greene amongst many others. In this tutorial, we are going to take a look at these players and their influence on this ever important movement in blues history. Let's get started.Published: 08/17/2009 Upgrade
Texas is home to many legends of the blues such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lightnin' Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, and many more. In this tutorial, we will examine both the acoustic and electric sides of this style; focusing on players in the genre and their approaches to the instrument. All examples are in the key of E.Published: 06/23/2009 Upgrade
The roots of electric blues are found in the sounds of the Windy City; also known as Chicago. The sounds of Chicago Blues trace back to when migrant workers from the south moved north to bigger cities to seek employment. What they brought with them was a rich tradition of Delta blues, but than amplified that with an electric guitar along with added instrumentation. Some key players to this style include Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and many many more. In this tutorial, we will look at the grooves and chordal concepts of this style; focusing on rhythm guitar techniques and artist examples. Let's get started!Published: 06/27/2009 Upgrade
The roots and origin of the blues language are firmly planted in the players of the Mississippi Delta area. Players such as Robert Johnson and Son House shaped the style to come and paved the way for a musical tradition that changed the entire world. The roots of almost every style of modern music can be traced back to the Delta, and our lessons today will give you an introduction to this all too important region. Using an acoustic guitar, open tunings, and a slide; let's explore this style.Published: 06/27/2009 Upgrade
The blues of New Orleans is most often rooted in the signature rhythms played by drums and piano. The grooves and "second line" rhythms in this style are true to the region all their own and are a mixture of many styles of music. The coming together of these styles and it's unique groove (rooted in the "clave") account for a blues style that is both unique and fun to play. While not often associated with guitar, I am going to show you in this tutorial how I would approach this style in a live situation. We will be taking licks and ideas from other instruments and applying them to the guitar to try and mock this style.Published: 06/23/2009 Upgrade
Jazz, like most modern music styles, is rooted in the blues tradition. Having an understanding of Jazz Blues is a great introduction to the world of jazz and it's wide world of possibilities. In this tutorial, we will break down how to turn your standard 12 Bar Blues into a Jazz Blues via a step by step process. Each lesson will take the form a step further, introducing you to some new chords and ideas within the blues. Explore each lesson thoroughly and work to fully understand how to turn your standard blues into a Jazz Blues.Published: 06/25/2009 Upgrade
Anders: Blues Legends
In this tutorial, Anders Mouridsen will reveal some of the secrets in the style of blues legend Albert King. We'll start off with an introduction to Albert's approach, then look at his touch, tone, and use of the pentatonic "box". Next we'll examine his aggressive bending style, then break down three licks: one fill lick between vocal phrases, a typical King-style soulful lick, and a turnaround lick. We'll conclude with a jam.Published: 08/11/2009 Upgrade
B.B. King is one of the true all-time greats of the guitar; his style is synonymous with the blues! In these lessons we are going to show you some techniques and approaches in the style of B.B. King: starting off a blues tune, using space and phrasing, bending strings, the use of turnarounds, and some soloing approaches. Take these elements and work them into your own sound!Published: 08/10/2009 Upgrade
Freddie King is another essential figure in blues history, who's style has inspired many of the blues and rock greats that we know today! In this tutorial, we'll take a look at some ways that we can work some basic components of Freddie's style into our own playing by using double stops, outlining the IV and V chords, turnarounds, using a thumb pick and a metal pick on your first finger, and we'll jam with a backing track too!Published: 08/11/2009 Upgrade
Anders: Global Blues Concepts
In this tutorial we'll explore different "micro positions" or "blues boxes" all over the neck and make some music with the notes that we find. Aside from claiming new territory on the neck, you'll be introduced to the concept of improvising and some useful things to keep in mind when you do this! Whether you wanna play blues, rock, funk, jazz, or even polka this is a great place to start.Published: 12/26/2009 Upgrade
The old blues guys made music history with just a handful of notes, so there are obviously a lot of other elements to a great blues solo than just great note choice. There is the "feel" that we covered earlier, the tone of your gear, which you will learn about later, but most importantly there is the rhythm and timing of your licks and notes. This is the concept that, above all the others, will make you sound like a blues guy. So in this tutorial we're going to experiment with the sound of different "subdivisions" and timing concepts.Published: 01/01/2010 Upgrade
Anders: More On Blues
In this tutorial we are gonna take the blues riff that you learned earlier and adapt it to any given key, all over the neck. Once we have covered the basics of that, we're gonna use it to play through the 12 bar form with "the band" in different keys. We are also gonna look a cool variation of the riff...Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
The "turnaround" is an essential part of playing blues of any style or region. The turnaround is essentially an end lick you play to show you are at the end of your 12 Bar Blues, and that you are ready to start the progression again. You can play this with chords, solo licks, and a wide variety of other approaches. In this tutorial, we will take a look at a few different turnarounds you can use in your blues playing to really showcase your own authenticity. Again, the turnaround really shows other players you know your blues and it also helps you to know where you are in the 12 bar form.Published: 06/29/2009 Upgrade
We are all familiar with a 12 Bar Blues. This widely used form has crossed genres and borders into what is probably the most common musical form we are all familiar with. Although the 12 form is the dominant force in blues (among other styles), their also exists many other blues forms that are used quite often as well. In this tutorial, we will take a look at some of these varied forms and see what we can do to integrate them into our playing. This includes the 8 Bar Blues and a swing blues as well as working with other chords instead of the I, IV, and V. Let's take a look!Published: 07/06/2009 Upgrade
Anders: 12 Bar Form
In this tutorial we'll learn the 12 bar form in the context of the blues. Step by step, we will go from playing through the 12 bar form with basic open chords to adding the bluesy dominant 7 chords, a turnaround lick, and much more. After each lesson, we will try out the new "tricks" with an authentic blues backing track.Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we are going to break down a classic blues riff. You are probably already familiar with the sound of it, but now you will learn how to play it, how to use it to play through the 12 bar form and how to add a cool "lick" to it.Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we're going to look at some of the most common variations of the 12-bar form, so that you can recognize them when you hear them and use them if you write songs. After each lesson we will play through the 12 bar variation with "the band".Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we are gonna work on a 12-bar blues progression in the key of E. After breaking down the basic chord structure and chord voicings, we will look at another authentic sounding variation of the blues riff that you learned earlier. After each lesson we will try out the new examples with "the band"...Published: 04/08/2010 Upgrade
Andy Gurley takes a look at the blues scale and it's relationship to the minor pentatonic.Published: 08/13/2009 Upgrade
This tutorial gives you an introduction to the concept of the riff, as applied to blues.Published: 03/24/2009 Upgrade
An introduction to basic open and barre forms of minor and dominant chords.Published: 03/24/2009 Upgrade
To take the previous "straight versus swing" lessons into the area of the blues shuffle, the primary feel of the blues.Published: 03/24/2009 Upgrade
Andy: Blues Tone
There are many different kinds of amplifiers to choose from. These are 3 primary amp styles on which most models are based, and here we'll look at 2 tube amps and a solid state amp. Use this demonstration by a pro to get a good idea of what kind of amp best suits your style.Published: 05/05/2010 Upgrade
This tutorial will give you the know-how to identify and put together great gear to get the tone you want. With these lessons, we hope to take away some of the work it takes to find the right effects and make the most of your hard-earned dollars. We'll look at overdrive, distortion, tremolo, delay, wah, fuzz, and vibe pedal.Published: 05/06/2010 Upgrade
These non-playing lessons will do a side-by-side comparison of guitar tones, amp tones, and the difference in tones created by the most common effects used by blues guitarists. We'll look at several tone configurations to give a good overview of the variety of choices available to get killer blues tone.Published: 06/12/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we'll walk you through the sounds and electronic configurations available on the most popular guitars in the market: semi-hollow body, Les Paul, SG, Telecaster, and more. You will have a great idea of what guitar will give you the sound you want, to become the blues player you want to be.Published: 05/05/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we'll answer questions about the tonal differences between using your fingers instead of a pick. We'll also look at the bottleneck slide, then how to use a capo. All these are important components of getting great blues tone and style.Published: 06/15/2010 Upgrade
In this tutorial we'll answer questions about the tonal differences between using your fingers instead of a pick. We'll also look at the bottleneck slide, then how to use a capo. All these are important components of getting great blues tone and style.Published: 06/15/2010 Upgrade
Here you'll learn many tricks so you can play great blues in the style of Ry Cooder with your bottle neck, using a drop D tuning. You'll start from the basics, go through several examples, and at the end you'll be able to create your own version.Published: 05/25/2008 Upgrade
In this set of lessons I'll give you some ideas for playing the blues with a drop D tuning and a bottleneck. I'll cover the drop D tuning, talk about the basic technique, then get into some chords. Then I'll teach some melodic ideas and groove examples, and give you a summary of ideas to create an entire tune.Published: 12/17/2011 Upgrade
"Bad Blues" will give you some ideas on how to play blues in a rubato style - without real timing. This gives you freedom to play blues with full expression and dynamics. I'll teach picking technique, then show you several licks to play. I also talk about sound settings, because they are also part of your dynamic expression.Published: 12/16/2010 Upgrade
In "Bad Blues 2", I'll teach you to play a theme I composed. I'll talk a bit about the theme, then show you a vibrato exercise. In lesson 3 I'll show you the first part, using the vibrato. In the next lessons I'll show you parts 2 and 3 and how you can create variations. To conclude I'll put it all together and play the theme for you.Published: 02/10/2011 Upgrade
In this set of lessons I'll teach you a short simple original song, "Arizona Blues". I'll introduce the tune to you, then show you how to play the two main parts. Next I'll put the two parts together for you, then get into the hammer-on and bluesy licks. I'll play the song through for you, then finish by explaining a bit of my philosophy behind it.Published: 02/29/2012 Upgrade
In this tutorial you'll learn to play a minor blues with some rock elements, and you'll learn to play dynamically by using specific sound settings and playing techniques to create feeling. We'll talk about sound and tone, then look at the chords. The next four lessons will focus on licks you can play over the minor blues progression, and in the final lesson we'll put it all together and play through the whole song.Published: 04/14/2011 Upgrade
In these lessons you'll learn some ideas about how to play an orchestral slow blues and solo licks in the key of E. We'll work on some rhythm ideas, talk about timing, sound and feeling, and good combinations of solo licks. Last, we'll put these elements together as we play through this slow blues progression.Published: 08/27/2011 Upgrade
Who says you can't play a tasty blues solo using only a few notes? In this tutorial you'll learn how to create a blues solo using only a few notes on one or two strings. We'll break down lots of very simple licks here, using on-screen graphics and played at half and quarter speeds so you can get them under your fingers.Published: 01/23/2009 Upgrade
In this tutorial of 15 lessons, Ill be teaching you numerous blues licks that are "in the style of" the players that have been my favorites and inspired me over the years. Each lesson contains one or more licks, often several, that are used in the context of a solo over the 12 bar blues form in the key of G. I'll use on-screen graphics to help you out, and also use slo-mo so you can really "get it".Published: 06/26/2011 Upgrade
The six lessons in this tutorial will tune you into some ways to play blues leads higher up the neck. In lesson one I'll show you how to emphasize the II note, F#, in the E minor pentatonic scale. Next I'll focus on the V note, B, and employ a bend in three short solos. Lesson 3 shows a simple blues riff that's made into a solo; following that I'll break down a relatively easy solo. Lessons 5 and 6 demonstrate the E minor pentatonic scale on the 12th to 15th frets and beyond.Published: 11/30/2011 Upgrade
This series of lessons demonstrates some funky fill notes that accompany a I-IV-V blues in the key of C. These fill notes are taken from the blues scale, and include the I, V, dominant 7, and octave. After demonstrating the chords used, I show you several variations with these notes that you can use to play fills over the chords.Published: 08/26/2011 Upgrade
In this tutorial I'll show you how to take a different approach to a turnaround by moving to the IV chord. We're using a progression in the key of A that I'll show you in the first lesson. Then we'll look at how to use the A minor pentatonic scale in this context, followed by the A dorian scale. In the last lesson I'll show you some licks using both scales.Published: 01/26/2011 Upgrade
Doug: Southern Rock
In this tutorial I'll show you some approaches to playing over southern rock style rhythms. First is the G minor pentatonic scale over a funky rhythm and a simple 2 note lick. In lesson two, I'll demo the chords in the key of G and play some funkified rhythms. Next up are some single-note fills, followed by a chordal fill. In lesson 5 we'll use the dorian scale in this context. Last, I'll show you another southern rock style lick.Published: 03/26/2011 Upgrade
In this tutorial we'll explore a wide variety of scales and licks that work with a 3 chord progression in the key of C. The 3 chords we'll be using are C (the I chord), F (the IV chord), and Bb ( the dominant VII chord). This chord progression has been used in many southern rock and blues rock songs.Published: 07/26/2009 Upgrade
Neal: Channel Episodes
In the weekly Guitar Tricks Channel, Neal Walter will show you in an fun, quick, engaging way how to play the blues. These episodes from 2009 to 2011 cover a variety of blues topics and even feature a special guest - Anders Mouridsen stops by to jam with Neal live in the studio.Published: 03/20/2014 Upgrade
These Guitar Tricks Channel episodes from 2011-2012 sample great blues topics like two-note chords, vibrato, chromatics in the blues, Texas style blues, and coping the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan.Published: 03/20/2014 Upgrade
These Guitar Tricks Channel episodes from 2013 will teach you more blues riffs and tricks, including turnarounds, call and response, Texas boogie, major blues, subtlety in lead playing, and a variety of bending techniques.Published: 03/20/2014 Upgrade
Christopher: Blues Orchestration
Christopher will show you how to play a blues type arrangement for solo guitar. To orchestrate means to put many parts together. In this tutorial we'll combine a walking bass line with upper chord tones. The end result is two parts playing together at the same time.Published: 04/15/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you new ways to play a blues type arrangement for solo guitar. To orchestrate means to put many parts together. In this tutorial we'll combine a walking bass line with upper chord tones. The end result is two parts playing together at the same time. We'll also add a variety of classic blues turnarounds.Published: 06/14/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you new ways to play a blues type arrangement for solo guitar. To orchestrate means to put many parts together. In this tutorial we'll combine a walking bass line with upper chord tones. The end result is two parts playing together at the same time. We'll also add a variety of classic blues walking bass lines.Published: 07/15/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to move the familiar pattern of the earlier solo guitar blues orchestration tutorials to any fretboard position by barring with the index finger and using it as a sort of movable capo. These new options will give us new skills and tools to play more varieties of blues type patterns!Published: 09/10/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show a new way to play a blues type arrangement for solo guitar. We'll move the standard boogie diad pattern up an octave to have motion in the upper register while making the bass notes more static.Published: 10/14/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you a new way to play a blues arrangement for solo guitar. This involves combining a bass line with middle chord tones as well as upper chord tones. In this way we get a very full sound and suggest three separate voices or things happening at once!Published: 11/11/2019 Upgrade
Christopher: 12 Bar Blues
The <i>First Law of the Blues</i> is the <i>12 Bar Blues Form</i>. By the end of this tutorial you should understand what the 12 Bar Blues Form is and be able to play a simple example of this important idea.Published: 07/17/2008 Upgrade
In this set of beginner blues lessons, I'll teach you how to play a simple blues in E. I'll start off with the riff and the triplet shuffle rhythm in E, then move it to A. Next I'll show you how to change those chords in time, then we'll learn the B7 chord. I'll go over the 12 bar form before I show you some fills you can play to spice things up. Then we'll put everything together, and finish up with a play along.Published: 04/21/2006 Upgrade
In this Tutorial Series we are going to learning how to play a 12 Bar Blues in A.Published: 08/25/2006 Upgrade
In this Tutorial Series we are going to expand upon our 12 Bar Blues in the key of A.Published: 09/17/2006 Upgrade
In this tutorial I've created a 12 bar blues backing track in every key and at two tempos (80 BPM and 120 BPM). I play each blues with a different rhythm guitar and lead guitar approach to show how much variation is possible within the 12 bar blues form. This is a valuable way to get used to playing in every key and comfortable with playing anywhere on the fretboard.Published: 12/22/2010 Upgrade
Christopher: Learning Blues Licks
Learning to switch between the wide strumming of a whole chord and the smaller motions of playing one string or note at a time is an important skill to develop. In this tutorial we'll use a simple blues rhythm and some fills as an exercise to learn that technique!Published: 08/10/2019 Upgrade
By the end of this tutorial, you should be able to play a basic 12 bar blues using simple open chords and combine it with simple lead fills by alternating between the rhythm chords and single note lead fills.Published: 08/21/2019 Upgrade
Learning to switch between the wide strumming of a whole chord and the smaller motions of playing one string or note at a time is an important skill to develop. In this tutorial we will learn to play a basic 12 bar blues using simple open chords and combine it with simple lead fills by alternating between the rhythm chords and single note lead fills.Published: 09/21/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you a basic 12 bar blues in B major in an early rock and roll style that combines and alternates between power chords and basic, beginner lead fills.Published: 10/24/2019 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn to play a lead fill that uses double stops in a basic 12 bar blues in C major. This is an important step in developing a style that combines and alternates between a blues rhythm riff and a beginner lead fill.Published: 03/13/2014 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn to play a basic 12 bar blues in G major in a style that combines and alternates between a blues rhythm riff and a lead fill. We'll learn two different turnarounds, use an applied dominant chord and add a bluesy ending lick!Published: 07/24/2014 Upgrade
Christopher will show you some basic blues licks that form the foundation of blues soloing vocabulary. This includes the following characteristics of blues lead playing: using the blues scale (minor pentatonic scale with flat 5th "blue note"), triplet swing phrasing, dynamics and articulations like sliding and bending. This is essentially a primer on playing single note melody lines in a blues style to start building a repertoire of blues licks.Published: 03/15/2018 Upgrade
Christopher will show you some basic blues licks that form the foundation of blues soloing vocabulary. This includes the following characteristics of blues lead playing: using the blues scale (minor pentatonic scale with flat 5th "blue note"), triplet swing phrasing, dynamics and articulations like sliding and bending. This is essentially a primer on playing single note melody lines in a blues style to start building a repertoire of blues licks.Published: 04/13/2018 Upgrade
Christopher will show you some basic blues licks that form the foundation of blues soloing vocabulary. This includes the following characteristics of blues lead playing: using the blues scale (minor pentatonic scale with flat 5th "blue note"), triplet swing phrasing, dynamics and articulations like sliding and bending. This is essentially a primer on playing single note melody lines in a blues style to start building a repertoire of blues licks.Published: 05/15/2018 Upgrade
In this set of lessons, I'll teach you a "bread and butter" blues lick that you can use in almost any blues solo. I'll start with an introduction to the lick, then how to do the tricking picking and bending. The we'll play the lick using the IV and V chords, then we'll review the whole 12 bar form before we do two play alongs in different tempos. Next we'll look at straight 8th rhythm, and finish up with two more play alongs.Published: 02/11/2013 Upgrade
In this next set of lessons on bread and butter blues licks, I'll teach you a major pentatonic lick. I'll introduce you to the concepts and lessons and show you the basis of the lick, then how to apply the picking and bending. We'll then play the lick over the IV and V chords, then add some variation. We'll do play alongs in two different tempos before we examine the lick in a straight 8th rhythm. We'll conclude with 2 more play alongs.Published: 03/21/2013 Upgrade
Bread & butter means the central or fundamental part of a thing. It also means how you earning a living; how you earn you bread to pay for your bread & butter! In this tutorial we'll learn another, more advanced major pentatonic lick that you've heard many times.Published: 11/20/2013 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to really spice up your blues rhythm and lead playing with some interesting chord progressions, chord voicings and lead licks! First we'll look at a chord progression that's not the standard 12 bar form. Next we'll add some extended chord voicings. Next, we'll add some licks that are more chord tone based than standard pentatonic. Finally, we'll put them all together in some play alongs to practice these new ideas.Published: 01/15/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to really spice up your blues rhythm and lead playing with some interesting chord progressions, chord voicings and lead licks! This time we're going to use the 12 bar blues form as a standard, but add more chords to the progression. Next, we'll add some lead licks to play over our new chord progression. Finally, we'll put it all together in some play alongs to practice these new ideas.Published: 02/15/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to really spice up your blues rhythm and lead playing with some interesting chord progressions and lead licks! We'll take a complex blues chord progression and learn some next level licks that build on the previous tutorial in this series. We'll put them all together in some play alongs to practice these new ideas.Published: 03/15/2019 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to build a blues arrangement. We'll use various rhythm and lead guitar techniques and combine them in a dramatic way to build and release tension over the course of many repeated passes at a 12 bar blues form. We'll experiment with loud & quiet dynamic levels, various approaches to alternating rhythm and lead guitar parts.Published: 07/13/2018 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn to build another blues guitar arrangement. We'll use various rhythm and lead guitar techniques and combine them in a dramatic way to build and release tension over the course of many repeated passes at a 12 bar blues form. We'll experiment with loud & quiet dynamic levels, various approaches to alternating rhythm and lead guitar parts.Published: 03/08/2022 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn 3 whammy bar tricks to spice up your blues playing technique.Published: 05/26/2011 Upgrade
Often, we hear of the 12 Bar Blues. But blues doesn't have to be 12 bars or measures! It can be any number of bars or measures that you want. In this tutorial we will learn to play a jazzy 16 Bar Blues in C.Published: 11/04/2011 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to really spice up your blues lead playing with these advanced licks! First we'll look at the basic pentatonic minor box as scale degrees. Then we'll do the same for the mixolydian mode. Then we'll start building licks from combining those two scales and play them over the changes of a 12 bar blues in A.Published: 06/15/2018 Upgrade
Christopher will show you how to turn the old Christmas standard tune "Jingle Bells" into a swinging blues tune with a harmonized diad melody, some fun bluesy licks for a solo and a rocking rhythm guitar.Published: 12/12/2014 Upgrade
Christopher: Major Notes In Minor Pentatonic
Christopher will show you how to spice up your blues licks by adding major scales notes to the minor pentatonic "box" blues shapes. For these example exercises we will use the A minor pentatonic scale and a 12 bar blues form in A major. The central idea is to use the pentatonic box as a visual reference while targeting chord tones.Published: 04/15/2017 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn to spice up the minor pentatonic "box" blues shape with notes from the major scale. For these example exercises we will use the A minor pentatonic scale and a 12 bar blues form in A major. The central idea is to use the pentatonic box as a visual reference while targeting chord tones. The lessons in this series are based on a lot of the ideas we already learned in the previous tutorial "Major Notes in Pentatonic Minor".Published: 05/13/2017 Upgrade
In this third tutorial of the series we will focus only on targeting chord tones in order to learn more ways to spice up the minor pentatonic "box" blues shape with notes from the major scales. The lessons in this series are based on a lot of the ideas we already learned in the previous tutorials from the series on "Major Notes in Pentatonic Minor". For these example exercises we will use the A minor pentatonic scale and a 12 bar blues form in A major.Published: 06/15/2017 Upgrade
In this tutorial we will learn to spice up the minor pentatonic "box" blues shape with notes from the major scale. For these example exercises we will use the A minor pentatonic scale and a 12 bar blues form in A major. The central idea is to use the pentatonic box as a visual reference while targeting chord tones. The lessons in this series are based on a lot of the ideas we already learned in the previous tutorials in the series "Major Notes in Pentatonic Minor".Published: 07/14/2017 Upgrade
Christopher: Rhythm And Blues Style
In this tutorial, we will learn to play some soulful R&B (Rhytm & Blues) guitar style rhythm parts & lead licks in a major key. This style is rooted strongly in blues and jazz, with distinctly soulful melodies and bittersweet jazzy chords. You can also hear a bit of a funky approach in the use of syncopated, percussive and staccato rhythms.Published: 10/01/2011 Upgrade
In this tutorial, we will learn to play some soulful rhythm and blues guitar style rhythm parts & lead licks in a minor key. This style is rooted strongly in blues and jazz, with distinctly soulful melodies and bittersweet jazzy chords. You can also hear a bit of a funky approach in the use of syncopated, percussive and staccato rhythms. We'll put it all together in this tutorial.Published: 04/04/2012 Upgrade
The use of sequences are a great way to better your technique and heighten your skill as a blues soloist. In this tutorial, we are going to show you a variety of different ways to approach the scales already used in blues to aid you in having better chops and technique. Make sure to develop these exercises even further as you move through this course; as all are great ways to warm up for your next lesson or gig. Let's get started.Published: 08/06/2009 Upgrade
This tutorial has no hands-on examples, yet has some of the most practical advice offered on the site. This is how you should use the information we give you here. This is how you should learn to play in a band situation. This is how you make the most of what you have, even if it's just a few crafty licks. We spend a good deal of time working your vocabulary and chops. Now it's time to make you into a MUSICIAN.Published: 11/19/2009 Upgrade
Jorma Kaukonen started here. Taj Mahal, and Keb' Mo' too, plus dozens of other acoustic blues masters. Even if you're new to fingerpicking, this tutorial will walk you step-by-step through learning to play the fingerstyle blues, and load you up with an impressive collection of tricks and riffs you can toss in at any time. You'll even learn to write your own blues song!Published: 05/09/2012 Upgrade
In this tutorial we'll zoom out and look at the big picture of blues musicianship: improvisation, using backing tracks, playing live, and writing music. These aren't playing lessons per se, although we use a couple of backing tracks for demonstration; these lessons are intended for you to step backk and take a look at the big picture, and put your playing into a context.Published: 06/21/2011 Upgrade
This tutorial will introduce you to six modes that will improve your improvisational skills. We'll examine the ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, and aeolian modes in G major, played over an A minor to D progression. I'll use on-screen graphics to give a visual aid.Published: 09/24/2008 Upgrade
In this set of lessons, Ry Kihn will teaching you how to play major and minor pentatonic scales in a solo. Ry will introduce you to the tutorial, then examine major pentatonic licks. In the next lesson, we'll be learning how to switch between these scales; then Ry will take a look at the extended major scale with the flat third, making things bluesy. To conclude, we'll put it all together and play with a custom backing track.Published: 03/22/2012 Upgrade
In this tutorial, I will show you five ways of spicing up a standard blues turnaround. Learn them, adapt them and make them your own.Published: 08/30/2007 Upgrade
Alright guitar players, now we're going to take a look at the 2013 Guitar Tricks channel tips and tricks! Host Anders Mouridsen gives you fun and instructive insights into guitar topics.Published: 02/25/2013 Upgrade
Dave breaks down Stevie Ray Vaughan's style into several key factors, showing you what makes it special, and then teaching you to play some licks in his style!Published: 09/05/2017 Upgrade
Tome will show you essential aspects of Guy's playing style and music across many decades has inspired players to learn about the blues of the past, bring those traditions to the present and expand on them into the future! Through his playing and showmanship, he directly influenced the early rock legends of the 60s. Clapton, Page, Beck & Hendrix all took a cue & a few licks from Buddy Guy!Published: 03/15/2017 Upgrade
In this tutorial you will learn to apply sweep picking technique to some basic chord progressions in a blues and jazz style setting using major and minor chord tones and scale notes.Published: 02/21/2022 Upgrade