Today I want to talk about blues guitar.
…And give you 11 tips for helping you to either get started playing the blues OR play better blues lead guitar.
…Plus, I’ll explain why this style can help you improve all your guitar playing…even if you don’t listen to the blues.
Here we go…
#1 – Licks – If you want to get good at playing blues lead, learning a handful of standard tried and tested licks is a great way to begin. A ‘lick’ is basically a little signature phrase and you can build entire solos off these (many greats such as B.B. King would do this).
#2 – Keep it simple – I’ve tried learning blues licks in the past from books that have hyped-up titles like “101 Easy Blues Licks”. They just didn’t work for me. No one really needs that many licks. Instead, 2-6 licks can be enough for most (at least they will be if you follow the other advice here).
#3 – Same strings – If you’re getting started with blues lead, playing licks on multiple strings can be tricky. It can increase the chances of plucking the wrong strings (which is very frustrating). Practising a few licks on one string is a great way to start.
#4 – Vibrato – This is the one single thing that will add life, sparkle, and shine to any lick – not just when playing blues but when playing any melody too (such as those in my new No Chord Fingerstyle course). When notes ring out, adding a little vibrato can really make them shimmer beautifully.
#5 – Scales – Learning a proper scale to jam with is important. The scale is the template you will use, the canvas you will paint your blues licks on, and practising a scale is useful for many reasons. The ‘minor pentatonic’ is a great scale to learn for the blues.
#6 – Micro bends – In rock lead guitar, there is a big emphasis on big bends and these can be tough on the fingers. You can play these big bends in the blues too, but the blues really suits ‘micro bends’. A micro bend is where you bend the string slightly. It doesn’t seem like much, but these simple little bends sound great.
#7 – Phrasing – A big problem beginners have when playing lead guitar is that they play big blocks of notes from a scale. Instead of doing that, use ‘phrasing’. This is where you have distinct little melodies with pauses or notes ringing out in between. It’s very much like how singers don’t sing continuously but pause often to take a breath.
#8 – Mixing rhythms – Many guitarists play lead guitar using the same old rhythm. Don’t do that. Experiment with faster and slower sub-divisions (i.e. rhythms). That will make your blues lead playing sound more professional and will improve all your rhythm skills too.
#9 – Backing tracks – If you like blues lead guitar, you will want to jam along with a backing track here and there. There’s plenty about, but some are tricky to use. A simple up-tempo 12-bar blues backing track works well and you can try out all the ideas above while jamming to a backing track.
#10 – Open bass – If you don’t want to play to a backing track, you can simply pluck an open string bass note, let that ring out and then play your lick along with it. This can sound really cool as you get the bass and the melody (just make sure your bass notes are in the right key).
#11 – Play variations – A cool thing you can do once you have a lick or two under your belt is to vary them. Bend one note for longer, repeat a note in the lick, add a new note, etc. You can be really creative here and that can mean lots of fun.
Anyway, I hope you found these ideas helpful.
Apply the tips above and your blues lead playing will improve for it.
…But it’s not just your blues playing that will improve, all your playing will improve.
I often say the blues is perfect for the guitar and I encourage every student to jam a little blues – even if you don’t really listen to it.
In fact, many of my students over the years weren’t hardcore blues lovers (they just love music in general) but each lesson we’d have a blues jam, and guess what…
…They loved the variety and loved the new skills they learned from the blues.
If you want more help from me with the blues, I’ve got a brand-new lesson out tomorrow on this exact topic for Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy members.
In that lesson, I take all of the above tips and put them together into a clear and organised video lesson.
It’s ideal if you’re an absolute beginner to the blues or you want to kick on and have some more blues fun.
To get this lesson, you will need to join the academy by tomorrow night at midnight.
Here is the link to join.
P.S. Also, in case you missed it, for this month only, I’m giving out my brand-new No Chord Fingerstyle Mini Masterclass for free for anyone who is already a member of the academy or joins by midnight tomorrow night.
Here’s a little about the No Chord Fingerstyle course…
In this course, you will learn 3 stunning arrangements of the classic tunes of “Amazing Grace”, “Streets of Laredo”, and “America the Beautiful”.
All three songs are timeless classics that have been recorded by the likes of Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Beyonce, Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Emmanuel, and 100s more famous artists and legendary guitarists.
If you ever wanted to play simple songs that sound rich, vibrant, beautiful, and melodic, all without painstaking practice, this is the course for you.
…So, head below if you want to get started with this exciting new course today.
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.