Introduction to blues guitar
I love the sound of acoustic blues guitar; there is nothing like it. Acoustic Blues Guitar music is in a unique genre of its own. Its' distinct sound sets it apart from other guitar music and believe it not, it is easy for any beginner to duplicate once they unravel the basic techniques required to generate the distinctive acoustic blues guitar sound. Following is a couple of essential techniques that any beginner can accomplish with consistent practice and patience to launch their blues guitar journey.
The Foundation of Blues
The foundation of blues guitar is the 12 bar blues. This consists of three lines with four bars, or 12 bars, using the I, IV and V chord progress often with the sevenths dropped in. For example if the key is C the other two chords are F and G where C is chord I, F is chord IV and G is chord V. This is worked out in the following manner:
I = C
II = D
III = E
IV = F
V = G
VI = A
VII = B
So, if the key was in E then the following chords would be used in the blues progress: chord I = E, chord IV = A and chord V = B.
Some Basics you should Know
- Before we launch into the lesson you need to know the names of the strings of your guitar: (low) EADGBE (high)
- You need an idea of how to read guitar TAB
- Simple chord shapes are essential
- As a beginner you will need a soft pliable pick
What you are going to learn
- Two Simple Power Chords used widly in blues: E and A
- Simple strum: DD DD DD DD DD (the 'D' represents a down stoke)
The Two Power Chords
These two standard power chords, E and A are used broadly in rock guitar music; they are also used with great effect in blues guitar music especially when muting techniques are applied. These two chords are the easiest chords to begin with. To form the E power chord place your first finger (index finger) on the second fret (technically between the first and second fret) of the A string and play the top two strings, the E string and the A string. Experiment with the placement of your first finger; try moving the first finger closer to the second fret and see if that gives you a better sound.
The A power chord is formed in a similar fashion this time with the first finger on the third string or D string on the second fret (again between the first and second fret) of your guitar. Strum or rather pick the A string and the D string together. Experiment with the placement of the first finger to get the best sound.
Add a Simple Strum to the Power Chords
The following strum is very common in blues guitar music. It consist of a series of down-strokes which are played in pairs; four sets making up a bar. It looks like this:
DD DD DD DD
Try tapping it out like this: dah / dah-dah / dah-dah / dah-dah / dah or counting it out like this: one / and- two / and – three / and – four / and. So now lets put the two power chords with the strum like this starting with the E chord and moving to the A chord after the count of four:
'E' power chord:
one / and
two / and
three / and
four / and
'A' power chord
one / and
two / and
three / and
four / and
Add two notes to the mix
Now let's add two other notes to the mix to give our playing some 'blues' those notes are B and F sharp (sometimes written as F #). We will add the B note to the E power chord and the F sharp to the A power chord. To add the B note to the E power chord we are sure to drop the third finger (ring finger) to the fourth fret of the second string (the A string). First we form the E power chord as described above with the first finger on the second fret of the second string (the A string) then we just drop the third finger down onto the fourth fret – and again we just pluck the top two strings. You do not remover the first finger.
To add the F # to the A power chord we form the A power chord with the first finger on the second fret of the third string (the D string) then we drop the third finger onto the fourth fret of the third string. You do not remove your first finger.
Now to apply the strum above would look like this starting with the E power chord and moving to the A power chord and adding both the and F # notes:
E – one / and (two down strokes with the pick)
B – two / and
E – three / and
B – four / and
A – one / and
F # two / and
A – three / and
F # four / and
Strictly speaking the E power chord consists of an E note and an A note while the A power chord consists of an A and E notes. Both these pairs are plucked simultaneously. To add an authentic Acoustic Blues Guitar sound you need to apply a muting technique using the picking hand. This will be explained in a following article.