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Learning Blues Guitar

Last Updated: April 09, 2012 / by Mark Buchanan


As American as cornbread, catfish and collards, the musical genre known as "the blues" is one of the most interesting and evocative art forms around. Born in our country's "Deep South" and now the expression of choice for countless musicians worldwide, if you have a little sadness down deep in your heart, what better way to express it than with some soulful blues-guitar licks?

But-impulsive and raw as it often sounds-playing blues guitar doesn't just happen. Beyond spontaneous expression, it's a matter of studied technique that must be learned, understood and mastered. So, ready to begin learning blues guitar?

Blues-guitar basics

These days, there are a number of steps you can take toward gaining familiarity with the blues guitar style. For our purposes, we'll assume you already possess a basic feel for the instrument, and are wishing to add blues technique to your existing guitar facility. (If you're totally new to the guitar, please refer to other articles on this site about beginning lessons, electric guitar lessons and lessons for children.)

The Internet offers a wealth of options ranging from brief on-line instructional videos-many free of charge-to more in-depth video-presentation packages for those dedicated to self-learning. Sites such as this one are focused on matching guitar students with appropriate guitar teachers and providing other valuable information. Just aim your search engine toward "learning blues guitar" and the selections will line up for your inspection.

Given that "the blues" is considered a specialty technique usually acquired and developed by those already familiar with guitar-playing basics, briefer video clips and other self-learning methods may be just as appropriate here as one-on-one work with an instructor. However, there are gifted guitar teachers in every city and town who await the chance to help you pour out your heart with this soulful sound, so consider the advantages of guidance by a fellow musician who has walked the same path.

12-bar blues

Beyond logistical considerations such as where, when and how often your blues-guitar lessons will be taught, chances are good your instructor will start you off with the most basic of blues-guitar forms known as "12-bar" blues. This form is so named because it follows a chord progression-within any chosen key-through 12 bars, then repeats. Beyond this, there are 8-, 16- and 24-bar blues-following the same repeat pattern-along with numerous other variations.

Your instructor will also guide you in the fine points of note flattening and note bending-basic blues techniques used to add yet more layers of funky feeling to the performance-setting you on the path to discover and develop your own special tweaks and touches, and the reward of a musical expression that conveys emotion like no other.

Feeling a little sad? A lot sad? Want to tell the world about it? Go ahead: You got a right to play the blues!


About the Author: Mark Buchanan

I am an avid musician with 20+ years experience. I have performed live in the Midwest area with various bands performing mainly as a sideman. I enjoy all types of music and approach the study of music with an open mind. Though my performing schedule is heavy, I have a small group of students I teach when time allows. Music is a lifelong journey and I'm proud to be a part of it!


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