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The Beginners Nitty-Gritty Guide To Getting Started With The Blues
By Bob Murnahan
The 12 Bar Blues
The blues means a lot of things to different people. There are fingerstyle blues, Delta blues, Chicago blues and on and on. One thing they all have in common is a basic structure. Most blues are based on a 12 bar structure, hence the term 12 bar blues. There are other blues forms like the 8 bar blues, 16 bar blues, etc, but they are not as common as the 12 bar blues. There are also major and minor blues. In this lesson I will stick to a discussion of the major blues. In this lesson I would like to look at the basic 12 bar blues and a couple of variations. Typically a 12 bar blues consists of three chords referred to as the 1, 4 and 5 chords of a particular key. That’s getting into a bit of music theory and not really something I want to get into deeply at the moment. It is however, something that you might hear when listening to a discussion about the blues. In brief the numbers refer to note positions in a major scale. The C major scale has the notes:
1 C 2 D 3 E 4 F 5 G 6 A 7 B 8 C
As you can see the notes in the 1, 4 and 5 positions are C, F, and G. Therefore the chords in a 12 bar blues in the key of C would be C, F and G. Another thing about the chords in a major blues is that they are typically dominant 7th chords. Again this is more of a theory discussion but it basically means you play C7, F7 and G7 instead of just plain old C, F and G.
Here is a chart of the 1, 4 and 5 chords in some typical blues keys for guitar.
Key A E G 1 A E G 4 D A C 5 E B D
Once you learn the basic form of the 12 bar blues and know the 1, 4 and 5 chords in different keys, it becomes very easy to play the blues in these different keys. That’s why the blues is a staple at jam sessions. The blues is also the basis for thousands of rock songs. It’s a must learn for anyone that’s even halfway serious about learning the guitar.
Let’s take a look the typical 12 bar blues form. The fifth and sixth measures move to the 4 chords and then back to the 1 chord in measurers 7 and 8. 12 Bar Blues In A A7 D7 A7 A7 D7 D7 A7 A7 E7 D7 A7 E7 Audio Example 1 . 1 1 or 4 1 1 4 4 1 1 5 4 1 5 Notice that the first 4 bars consist of the 1 chord. Measures nine thru twelve have one bar each of the 5 chord. A common variation is to use the 4 chord in the second bar instead of the 1. You can play this progression as many times as you need for a complete song. 4 chord. 1 chord and then back to the 5 chord to end the progression and provide a strong pull back to the beginning.
The open position chords are useful in some situations however. .Here are the chords used in audio example 1 A7 D7 1 E7 1 3 2 1 1 1 3 X O X X O 2 O O O O Audio example 2 uses the same chord progression but uses the following barre chords instead of the chords above. You can have more control over the sound by muting the strings between each strum. A7 1 2 3 1 1 D7 1 1 E7 1 3 4 3 4 Played at 5th fret Played at 5th fret Played at 7th fret I personally like the sound of the barre chords a bit better. The choice is yours dictated by experience and the sound you want to hear.
Even though we are not really playing full chords here there is enough of the chord to imply the sound of the chord we want.The Shuffle Our final example for this lesson is known as a shuffle. It really sound like music and is fun to play. The pattern played is the same on all string sets with the note at the 2nd fret being held down by the first finger and the notes at the fret being played by the third finger. Again this example is in the key of A. Listen to the audio example to really get a feel for this. This is a great rhythm pattern to learn. . The characteristic of the shuffle is the long short rhythmic pattern.
. 4 and 5 chords of whatever key we are in. 12 Bar Blues In G G7 C7 G7 G7 C7 C7 G7 G7 D7 C7 G7 D7 Audio Example 4 G7 1 2 3 1 1 C7 1 1 D7 1 3 4 3 4 Played at 3rd fret Played at 3rd fret Played at 5th fret These are the chords used in audio example 4. Our first example was in the key of A. It consists of the 1.More Blues Guitar Earlier we discussed the makeup of the basic 12 bar blues. I would like to show you the same progression in the key G.
because the blues is built on the same basic structure.Now if you compare the blues in A with the blues in G you notice that the chord pattern is identical with the exception of the frets they are played in. it makes it very easy to change keys. The 1 and 4 chords are in the same fret and the 5 chord is two frets higher. 12 Bar Blues In C C7 F7 C7 C7 F7 F7 C7 C7 G7 F7 C7 G7 Audio Example 5 C7 1 2 3 1 1 F7 1 1 G7 1 3 4 3 4 Played at 8th fret Played at 8th fret Played at 10th fret These are the chords used in audio example 5. As I said earlier. Here’s another example in the key of C. .
Played at 1st fret Played at 3rd fret . 12 Bar Blues In C C7 F7 C7 C7 C7 C7 F7 F7 G7 F7 C7 G7 Audio Example 6 C7 1 3 4 1 1 F7 1 2 3 3 1 G7 1 2 Played at 3rd fret These are the chords used in audio example 6. Using Chords Starting With The Root On The Fifth String The earlier examples all started with the 1 chord on the sixth string.As you can plainly see. Here’s a second way to play the 12 bar blues with the one chord starting on the 5th string. You should now be able to play the blues in any key following the structure of the previous examples. all three examples follow the same structure in how the chords are played.
You then move back up two fret to play the 5 chord. Here’s another example just to make sure you have it. the 4 chord is played two frets lower.Take notice of the pattern now. Wherever you start with the 1 chord. The 1 chord is now located on the root on the fifth string. . The 4 and 5 chords are located with the root on the 6th string. The 1 and 5 chords will be located in the same fret. 12 Bar Blues In E E7 A7 E7 E7 A7 A7 E7 E7 B7 A7 E7 B7 Audio Example 7 E7 1 3 4 1 1 A7 1 2 3 3 1 B7 1 2 Played at 7th fret Played at 5th fret Played at 7th fret These are the chords used in audio example 7.
http://www. Check these out on Youtube.com/watch?v=4nFRi3TSkY8 Even though Stevie Ray adds a few wrinkles to the basic chords. Each way only covers a span of three frets and is built on a repeating pattern so it’s easier to play and memorize.com/watch?v=w-BEphVRgts http://www. E7 1 2 A7 B7 1 1 1 1 3 2 3 4 O O O O X O X O Audio Example 8 .youtube. If you are new to barre chords. As a guitarist. Make sure that you practice at a nice slow tempo when starting out. Here’s another useful example of the blues in E using open position chords. these are both examples of blues in E that use the chords below. There are many examples of the blues in E with these chords. Keep a steady beat and use a metronome if you have one. you have to know how to play the blues in this fashion.youtube. hang in there. They get easier.You now know two different ways to play the chords in a 12 bar blues in any key.
Here is the shuffle in C with the 1 chord located with the root on the 6th string. Much like the barre chord progressions we talked about. Shuffle In E Audio Example 9 . String with the 1 chord on the 6th string or the 5th string. This makes it fun and easy to play but restricts you to the key of A. Just like the barre chords the distances between the frets stay the same.The Shuffle Revisited On page 5 you learned a basic shuffle in the key of A. the shuffle can be played with the two variations you learned. This pattern makes use of the open strings on the guitar.
Using the first chord as an example. Just hang in there and you will get it. The fingering for each of these chords is exactly the same. The note on the 5th string. 8th fret. You don’t have to stretch as far. The 1 and the 4 chord are in the same fret and the 5 chord is two frets higher. is played by the first finger.What makes this a bit more difficult is the stretch of the left hand. The stretch gets to be a little bigger because we are moving lower on the fretboard. . The next example is a shuffle in A. It’s higher up on the fretboard where the frets are closer together. 10th fret. Here’s what it looks like in diagram form 1 3 4 There is a back and forth motion between the third and fourth finger. Listen to the audio to hear how it’s supposed to sound. is played by the third finger. Notice that just like the barre chord examples. Try not to lift your third finger off of the string when your fourth finger goes down. That’s why this first example is in the key of C. The note on the 5th string. 12th fret is played by the fourth finger. Stretches like this get easier over time. the pattern stays the same. the note on the 6th string.
.Shuffle In A Audio Example 10 One more example. this time in the key of G.
lets’s look at a couple of examples with the 1 chord starting with the root on the fifth string. Now.Shuffle In G Audio Example 11 That’s three examples of the shuffle with the 1 chord starting with the root on the sixth string. . You should now be able to play a shuffle in any key with the root starting on the sixth string.
The 1 and 5 chords are in the same fret and the 4 chord is two frets lower.Shuffle In E Audio Example 12 Again take notice of the pattern here. One last example on the next page. . just like the barre chords.
practice at a slow tempo and gradually speed up as you get more comfortable playing the example. Use the audio as a guide.Shuffle In D Audio Example 13 That should give enough to go on to play the shuffle in any key now starting with the 1 chord with the root on the 5th string. As always. .
In the minor blues the 1 and 4 chord become minor 7th chords. 4 and 5 chords are all dominant 7th chords with a major third in the chord. 12 Bar Blues In A Minor Ami Dmi Ami Ami Dmi Dmi Ami Ami E7 Dmi Ami E7 Audio Example 14 Ami 1 2 3 Dmi 1 2 3 2 E7 1 X O O X X O O O O O These are the chords used in audio example 14. The 5 chord typically stays a dominant 7th but it can be minor as well. Check out the following example in the key of A minor. . The only difference between the major and minor blues is the quality of the chords.The Minor Blues I would now like to take a little time to discuss the minor blues. We will still be using the same basic 12 bar structure. In the major blues the 1.
You can have more control over what you hear. I think the barre chords sound better to my ear. 12 Bar Blues In A Minor Ami7 Dmi7 Ami7 Ami7 Dmi7 Dmi7 Ami7 Ami7 E7 Dmi7 Ami7 E7 Audio Example 15 Ami7 1 1 1 Dmi7 1 2 1 E7 1 3 3 3 4 Played at 5th fret Played at 5th fret Played at 7th fret These are the chords used in audio example 15.Now let’s make things a little more interesting by using barre chords. Just a bit hipper. . As I said earlier. We will also use minor 7th chords this time instead of just plain minor triads.
1 1 3 4 If you find this chord difficult to play you can always use the one on the previous page. Here is a different fingering you can use on the 1 chord. You should try to learn as many variations on these chords as you can. You should easily be able to move the minor blues to any key by starting in the correct fret. On the next page we will take a look at the minor blues with the 1 chord starting on the 5th string. This is in the realm of music theory and after you master these basics you can move on to some of these other chords and sounds. If you want to learn about this in more detail I recommend that you click here and check out this resource. The 1 and 4 chords are in the same fret and the 5 chord is two frets higher. Ami7 Notice the addition of the 4th finger on the 2nd string. . There are many ways to spice up these chords by adding extra tones like the 9th or the 13th.Again notice the pattern is the same that we had in the major blues. If you don’t know what this means don’t worry about it.
12 Bar Blues In D Minor Dmi7 Gmi7 Dmi7 Dmi7 Gmi7 Gmi7 Dmi7 Dmi7 A7 Gmi7 Dmi7 A7 Audio Example 16 Dmi7 1 2 3 3 1 1 Gmi7 1 1 A7 1 2 3 Played at 5th fret Played at 3rd fret Played at 5th fret These are the chords used in audio example 16. If you have been working through all of this material you have learned quite a bit by now. You can play the 12 bar blues in all keys using barre chords with the 1 chord starting on the 6th string or the 5th string. . You can also play a shuffle rhythm with a couple of variations and in all 12 keys. In the last section of this report we will discuss how to solo over the blues.
Let’s use the blues in A as an example. My goal for this report is to get you started on the basics by showing you the blues scale. A and C. The chords in an A blues are A7.. most of this falls under the music theory umbrella. The reason for this can be found in the analysis of the relationship betwen the chords found in the blues and the scale of choice.. Three notes with the second chord D. For instance.the blues scales. stopping on the note D against an A7 chord doesn’t sound quite right. You can also get a good book on music theory.Soloing On The Blues The blues is a great place to start with playing solos on the guitar. The notes found in each chord are as follows: A7 .D E7 . If you are confused by this it’s ok. And two notes with the last chord E and D. . This is a classic scale and fingering that has been used by blues and rock guitar players for many years. Again. It’s these shared notes that make it hard to play wrong notes but you still have to use your ear to determine if what you are playing sounds right or wrong. a few basic licks and giving you a few solo ideas to start with. D7 and E7. You can learn it later by checking out some of the resources mentioned at the end of this report. C and G. Let’s start by learning the blues scale.A D7 .E C# F# G# E A B G C D The notes of the A blues scale are: A C D D# E G As you can see the scale shares three notes with the first chord A.
Continue in this manner until you play the entire blues scale. The 2nd string would also be 4th finger. This means you can play it anywhere on the guitar. The 4th string would be 1st finger and 3rd finger again. you are changing the key. Continue on until you complete the entire pentatonic scale. more on this later. Learn it well. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this means. Just make sure you keep the spacing between your fingers the same as you move the scale around the neck. This note determines what key the scale is in. When reading this diagram of the blues scale. This is the low E string (6th string). The 3rd string would be 4th finger.The Blues Scale This is the most commonly used fingering for the blues scale. When you move to a different fret. When you arrive at the end of the scale. The following chart shows the names of the notes along the 6th string. start on the left hand side of the diagram. you would start on the 1st string and play 4th finger followed by the 1st finger. You will find many uses for it in your guitar playing journey. 3rd finger. 1st finger. . In reverse. turn around and go back down the scale. In this example you would play 2 notes on the 6th string. The note in red is the tonic. The fret does not matter. On the 5th string you would play 1st finger followed by the 2nd finger and then the third finger. 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 Here are a few important points Notice that this diagram of the blues scale has no open strings. 1st finger. It should be memorized. The 1st finger followed by the 4th finger. Play all of the notes on this string from top to bottom before moving on to the next string.
Notes on the 6th string This chart shows the names of the notes on the 6th string up to the 11th fret. the 13th fret is F. You would use this to solo over A blues in the key of A. When you get to the 12th fret it starts all over again at E. etc. Big surprise huh! You see. Audio Example 17 Notice that this scale started on the 5th fret. it’s actually quite simple. Here is the scale in notation and tablature. 6th string is E. . So the note at the 12th fret. so this is an A blues scale. On the next page there are a few more things to remember. You just use the blues scale that matches the key of the song you are playing and away you go. Looking at the chart above you can see that the note at the 5th fret is an A.
your enjoyment of playing will increase many times over. I would recommend that you find a good teacher in your area if you are just starting out. • As you spread your fingers to cover the 4 fret distance. • The palm of your hand should be parallel to the bottom of the neck. Your 1st finger should lean towards the head stock and your little finger will lean towards the bridge. Turn your palm forward and without moving the upper arm. and it’s this kind of practice that will help you learn guitar in the shortest time possible. . Learning proper technique from the beginning is a great way to avoid headaches later on. The string should make a mark in the center of the fingers. they should be well separated at their middle joints. that would be 400 repititions in a month. • These are general guidelines. When you start to get command over the tools of music like the blues scale. Arch your fingers over until they press down on the 3rd string. • When playing a note with the 1st finger. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do this.• To get your fingers in the proper playing position. the string mark should be more on the side of your finger towards your thumb and the mark on your little finger will be out by the side of your hand. Use a metronome when you practice and get plenty of repetitions. go slowly. • Place the thumb in the center of the neck behind your 1st finger. Your goal for now is simply to memorize the blues scale. allow your left hand to hang by your side completely relaxed. 5 days a week for one month. If you were to play the blues scale 20 times a day. Do the repetitions and I promise it will be worth it. As with all things in music. raise your forearm until your hand touches the edge of the fret board at the point where your fingers meet your palm. The tips of the fingers should be at a 90 degree angle to the fret board. This will vary depending on where you are at on the neck as you play.
play the note at the 9th fret on the 3rd string. This is your target note.Here are a few common licks out of this fingering. This bend needs to raise the note one whole step. Audio Example 19 . 2nd string. This type of bend is very common in pentatonic blues licks. Now put your 3rd finger on the 7th fret 3rd string and your 2nd finger on the 6th fret 3rd string. It can be used as an intro or part of a solo. Use the same technique but this time your target is the note on the 10th fret. You will find that bending is much easier if you use two fingers to bend the note. Use both fingers to push the string up until it matches the pitch of your target note. In this case. It ends with a bend at the 8th fret on the second string. The first thing to notice about this lick is a bend at the 7th fret. Audio Example 18 This lick is typical of a slow blues. Your thumb should be over the top of the neck for added stability. Really get the sound in your ear. This is equal to 2 frets on the guitar. 3rd string. If you are not used to bending here are some guidelines for this lick and those to follow. A good way to practice bends of this type is to listen to a target note and try to match it.
then pull your little finger down towards the second string. To really get command of a scale you have to do lots of experimenting. Listen to your favorite guitarists and get ideas from them. first finger. The note you pull off to should be as loud as the note you pick. After that do the same motion by pulling off of the 7th fret with your third finger to the 5th fret. In this example you will be getting three notes to sound but you will only pick the string they are on once. First. Using pull offs is a great way to increase your speed. By pulling down towards the 2nd string your little finger will be snapping off the 3rd string creating a strong pull off. Be sure to listen for this snapping sound as you pull off. I try to pull my little finger into the 2nd string and use the 2nd string to stop the downward motion of the pull off. This lick also contains consecutive pull offs. third string. Audio Example 20 Example 20 makes use of the entire blues scale from top to bottom with a couple of twists and turns thrown in. It has over 250 licks for you to learn and use in your solos. . The idea of a pull off is to get two or more notes to sound by only picking the the string one time. By allowing the little finger to come to rest on the 2nd string also prevents any unwanted noise. They are marked with the little arcs between the notes. If you pull your finger up off the string the second note (the one you are pulling off to) will not be loud enough or not heard at all. Try to come up with some licks of your own. You can check it out here. In my book Pentatonic Power I give you a day by day plan to master the pentatonic scale. I often tell people that a pull off should be called a pull down. This is blues scale use at its finest. pick the note at the 8th fret.Example 19 is like the first lick that Jimmy Page plays in the Whole Lotta Love solo.
1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 2 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 2 3 2 2 1 1 1 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 Even though it’s beyond the scope of this report. There are five altogether that connect the entire fretboard from end to end. When you know them all well you have the freedom to play anywhere you want on the guitar. Just knowing one locks you into a small area of the guitar. you should definitely take the time to learn all of these and begin to see how they connect together.Other Fingerings For The Blues Scale So far you have just learned the first fingering for the blues scale. Again. if you really want more detail on these scales along with a day by day plan on how to learn them. check out Pentatonic Power. . Below are all five fingerings for the blues scale.
youtube. Bob .com/watch?v=DiHPTigXoRE http://www. Larry Carlton http://www.com To your guitar playing success. Albert King.youtube. If you want to learn more be sure to check out the recommended resources at the end of this report.com/watch?v=KmqQnLQhRcI http://www.com/watch?v=_4RwZoEwNZI http://www. King and many others.youtube.com/watch?v=UFfg6_x5R9s http://www.I hope you have enjoyed this report on getting started with blues. Best Wishes. B.com/watch?v=FNk5MbegzFs Robben Ford http://www. Don’t forget about Stevie Ray Vaughn. To finish things off I would like to include the links to a few of my favorite youtube clips from my favorite guitarists.B.youtube. If you have any questions or comments be sure to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org/watch?v=hZggXLPkUMA These are just a couple of my favorite guitarists.youtube.youtube.
you’ll get better today! This is the most comprehensive. Until next month. innovative method to teach you the blues FAST! In fact. and that’s just the beginning. You know exactly what to practice each and every day. You will learn every amazing lick. You haven’t been following a proven path to success. BB King.. scale. Angus Young. Step-ByStep. Buddy Guy. Pentatonic Power is a guaranteed path to lead guitar success.A Guide For Lead Guitar Players A brand new. You’ll learn what guys like Eric Clapton. easiest method to learn blues lead guitar out there. Playing Through The Blues . To your guitar playing success Bob Murnahan Rcommended Products Pentatonic Power . It’s a day by day. Nothing is left to chance.. Roadmap for Playing Lead Guitar Like a Pro. and so many more have amazed audiences around the world with. To find out more click here. Jimi Hendrix.“Finally... SRV. step by step plan that you follow for 150 days.. 100% Guaranteed” If you have been struggling to play lead guitar then there’s a darned good reason why. To find out more click ..I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the blues. Freddie King. technique. the First Practical. and cool trick that you’ll ever need to know . Pentatonic Power takes all the guess work out of learning lead guitar..
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