Learn Blues Guitar

Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck
CC 2.0

If you want to learn blues guitar, there are a few shortcuts I can share with you below so that your journey can go much more smoothly. If you have any questions or would like me to address any specific topics, please feel free to send me a message!

Mastering the Fretboard for Blues Guitar

Don't make the mistake of thinking that blues guitarists don't need to know the fretboard as well as, say, a jazz or classical player. Sure, the there's the stereotype of the unlearned blues player who learned his craft at the foot of the devil at the crossroads, but in reality, there's no substitute for learning what makes the guitar fretboard "tick."

You should be able to name every single note in every position on every string for starters. It's also good to know some basic music theory (like half-steps and whole-steps as well as intervals), since it can make everything from bending strings to learning licks much easier.

Basic Blues Guitar Chords

While you'll play many of the same chords for blues guitar that you will in other types of music, there are certain chord types (as well as keys) that are more common to blues than to other types of music (with the possible exception of jazz).

When you're learning to play blues guitar, you'll soon discover that there are some keys that are more common to the blues than others. While, technically speaking, any key is fair game, typically most blues tunes are in E, A, B, and G.

And most chords are either 7th or 9th chords of some kind. So some blues chords you should learn right away are A7, B7, C7, D7, E7, F#7, and G7. These are just a start, but there are a number of tunes you could play right away just with these 7 chords.

Click here to download a free chart containing some basic blues guitar chords.

Basic Blues Guitar Scales

Another common stereotype regarding blues guitarists is that they don't need to learn scales or are blissfully ignorant about basic music theory. Sure, it's doubtful Robert Johnson ever thought "Hmmm . . . I wonder if I should switch to the Dorian mode here or keep playing the Pentatonic scale?", but that doesn't mean that "unschooled" musicians weren't aware of what they were playing, even if they didn't organize them according to scales or modes.

Learning some basic scales (and how to use them properly) can jumpstart your playing and allow you to dig deep into the sounds of the blues. The most important scales for you to learn initially are the pentatonic scale (a five note scale, hence the name pentatonic) and the blues scale (a pentatonic scale with a single note addition, known as the "blue note").

Click here to download a free chart containing the pentatonic and blues scales.

Have a Plan to Learn Blues Guitar!

One of the most important things you can do as a blues guitarist at any level is to have a plan about where you want to go and how you plan to get there. Having a private teacher can be very useful with this step. If having a teacher isn't an option, then you should consider one of the numerous method books available, many of which have accompanying DVDs that can be very helpful.


What fun is it to learn some blues guitar riffs and licks without having some tunes to play? While it may be intimidating to choose some tunes given the large number of possibilities, the good news is that many blues songs follow a similar structure known as a 12-bar blues and can be played by using only three chords. A good first tune when you want to learn blues guitar is "Malted Milk," written and played by Robert Johnson and performed by many blues guitarists, including Eric Clapton.

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