Are you aspiring to become a versatile guitar player such that you can play almost any and every genre of music – jazz, country, folk, rock, metal – and even the blues? Then this article is for you. There are some important requirements that every guitarist needs in order to gain mastery at playing the blues and I’ll be sharing them shortly. Note that these requirements are not only applicable to guitarists that want to specialize in blues alone, they are also applicable to guitarists of other genres because, believe it or not, blues is the bedrock of music, it is the source of life that gave birth to almost every other kind or genre of music there is today. To successfully master rock music for instance, learning the blues first is a must-do; it’s the blues that gives your guitar ‘feelings’ and ‘expressions’.
“If you don’t know the blues, there is no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.”
– Keith Richards
“I think that the blues is in everything, so it’s not possible to neglect it. You hear somebody go ‘Ooh ooh oooh,’ and that’s the blues. You hear a rock n’ roll song. That’s the blues. Somebody playing a guitar solo? They’re playing the blues.”
– Wynton Marsalis
Blues is a genre of music that originated as far back as the 1860s in the Deep South of the United States. It bore its roots from African-American work songs, chants, spirituals, field hollers and was usually characterized by a repeated call and response pattern. Blues music has kept on evolving from back then to what we have now and we have some blues guitar legends/pioneers of modern-day blues music, check them out in this article.
Now let’s take a look at the requirements to successfully get a hang of the blues:
1. Listen to other blues musicians
Draw inspiration by listening to other blues guitar legends like B.B King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Eric Clapton etc., the more you listen to them, the more you gain muscle memory of their individual approaches, methods and distinctiveness in playing the blues. Listening, watching and learning from them will help to shape your own unique blues guitar style.
“The music that I listen to is very minimalistic. I listen to a lot of old blues that is just guitar and vocals.”
– Lykke Li
2. Practice often and record yourself
The idea is not just to listen and listen and just keep listening without doing anything about it. As often as you listen, make sure you also practice, there would be no learning process if you do not practice what you have heard or what you have learned. Practice gives room for mistakes but recording yourself gives room for correction of those mistakes because you can sit back and listen to what you have played, and can listen to where you made mistakes and correct them. Practice often, nut more importantly, record yourself or else your practice session may just end up being a total waste of time as there would be no opportunity to hear yourself and make corrections and improvement.
3. Take blues guitar lessons
With the help of the internet, it is easier to take lessons at your own convenience. Instead of paying a physical tutor to teach you blues guitar only (that’s weird, lol), you can now browse paid courses and free lessons on the internet and be on your way to truly mastering the blues. The lessons provide everything you nee to know about playing the blues guitar from the most important scale (which is the pentatonic scale) to phrasing, 12 bar blues progression, licks and tricks, etc. When you take lessons, it breaks down your confusion and makes what you’re trying to learn from your guitar heroes more understandable. A beginner who wants to learn blues guitar and is only listening to Vaughan, may get very confused because of the complexities involved in his playing, but with lessons, those complexities are broken down into more relatable forms.
4. Up your improvisation game
In order to get a hang of playing the blues, you cannot shy away from improvising. Improvisation is a spice in blues guitar playing that gives it a whole new different flavour, it is a combination of what you already know and what you can create on the spot. Improvisation gets better with constant practice and expansion of your guitar vocabulary.
5. Have a soul!
This right here is the secret ingredient! It is very important. Blues is soul. It is expression, emotions, feelings; it is what makes you scream simultaneously with your guitar. When playing blues, you have to be completely soaked in the vibe, you have to ‘feel’ what you’re playing. Blues has an aura, it has an attitude and you must bask in the euphoria of it to truly enjoy it and make others enjoy it too. I’m sure B.B King and others would know what I’m talking about.
“I wouldn’t count myself as being a true blues guitarist because I feel you have to live it.”
– Robin Trower
Check out this short video to better explain what I mean, lol.
Or click here https://youtu.be/Q42-oU3P1Is