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  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • muddy and geneva waters

    Learning the Blues: 10 Essential Tips to Get You Started

    by Simon James

    If you are a guitarist and you want to make a start at learning the Blues there are certain things that you can do to help prepare for your journey into Blues music.

    By laying out a framework of study you can craft a syllabus that allows for focused study that maximises your practice time, works on topics that you have a desire to learn and ensures that your progress as a blues guitarist is more efficient.

    Here are a few pointers that are useful to help you find new things to practice and to keep your studies targeted. Some of them are specific to guitar whilst others are general concepts that are essential elements in any productive study of the Blues.

    1. Blue is a Unique Genre of Music

    The Blues was the forerunner of Jazz and Rock n Roll and can be traced back to the Deep South of the USA. Delta Blues, namely that which originated from the Mississippi Delta, is the earliest form of Blues and although other genres have spawned from it it is important to understand that there are ways of playing that are true and unique to the Blues.

    2. 12 Bar Blues Progression

    The Standard Blues form is a I,IV,V progression played over 12 bars. These chords are derived from the Diatonic Chord sequence of the Major scale and it is this form that provides the foundation for the majority of Blues material.

    3. Blues Scales

    An enormous number of Blues solos are derived from a Minor Pentatonic Scale so this is the first base for any musician making inroads into Blues soloing and improvisation. This is by no means the only scale used in the Blues and there can be other notes added to this scale, but it appears in abundance in the Blues and so is a must know exercise.

    4. Time Signatures

    Much of popular music consists of tunes that are in 4/4 time. The Blues, on the other hand, often incorporates other time signatures. 4/4, 12/8 and 6/8 time are among the most common and all have a variety of effects on the tempo and feel of the Blues.

    5. Hear the Blues

    Once you are accustomed to the I, IV, V progression you will start to recognise it when you are listening to music. It is important to be able to notice a Blues progression and is a fun way of measuring how far you have come for to develop your ear it is necessary to listen to a lot of music.

    6. Learn Blues Licks and Riffs

    Blues Riffs and licks are your artillery as a Blues musician and nearly all of the licks and riffs that you hear can be traced back to Blues music. Chuck Berry was famous for replaying old Blues riffs and working them into rock n roll repertoire and Eric Clapton was known for rewriting Delta Blues riffs in the British Power Blues of the 1960s. Listening out for and trying to pick up on the phrasing and nuances of early Blues phrasing will go a long way to help you make your own riffs and licks.

    7. Learn Slide Guitar

    No Blues repertoire is complete without a slide guitar number or two. Early slide players such as Elmore James all incorporated the bottleneck technique for slide guitar playing and since then it has becoming a staple form in the Blues tradition with guitarists such as Duane Allman, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton all including slide guitar tunes in their setlists.

    8. Take Ideas from Your Favourite Guitarists

    All musicians and artists in general steal ideas. Part of the Blues tradition is to rework licks and phrases to make improvisations of your own. One of the best and most fun ways to learn to play guitar is to try and take as many ideas as you can from your favourite guitarists. Learn to copy their playing by ear and you will be able to pick up on the subtle nuances of their playing.

    9. Immerse Yourself In Blues Music

    To really get good something it is essential that you try and absorb as much of it as possible. By listening to the earliest Blues recordings through to those of today you will have a taste of the whole spectrum of the Blues tradition. Understanding the history and the concepts behind the Blues tradition can only be done by listening to the stalwarts of Blues from Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson through to Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf and on to the more modern stars like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter.

    10. Feel the Blues

    Blues is about expression and once you understand this the rest of your time must be spent using the guitar to display how you feel. From the early African- American folk songs lamenting the way of life of the slave in the Deep South to the Modern tales of heartbreak and poverty Blues has a long standing tradition of digging deep and pouring out emotion. A complete Blues player can only be called such when he is able to draw upon his feelings and convey a sense of emotion in the listener.


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    Related Posts:

    1. Stormy Monday: How Jazz Influenced the Blues

    2. How To Play 12 Bar Blues

    3. Blues Variations Part 1

    4. Introduction to Jazz Blues

    5. Using Minor and Major 3rds in Blues Soloing