The 12-Bar Blues in 5 Easy Steps
We’ve all had the Blues at some time or another, but few of us can really play those Blues away. With its rich history and infinite variations, learning to play the Blues on your guitar is a wonderful way to enhance your musical repertoire. These tips are but one way to learn the basic form of the 12-Bar Blues.
#1 – Play from the Heart
The most important part of the Blues is not so much technique as it is emotion. The point of playing the Blues is to convey what is in your heart, not your fingers or your head – so let go. Get into the music and let it take you away! When writing, use your life experiences with all its trials and tribulations.
This is the best part, because you can begin playing right away – no matter your skill level. You don’t have to be a whiz on the guitar. If you begin by playing with your heart, your technique WILL improve. Play slow, play with emotion, and your personal style will begin to form. Speed and dexterity will follow soon.
#2 – Feel the Rhythm
One of the most blatant characteristics of the Blues style is the way it “feels” – and this comes from the rhythm. The origin of the Blues is clear, as you listen to the lyrics and to the wail and moan of the other instruments. Listen to your own heartbeat to build the swing style and kind of shuffling feel. Yes, it’s a basic 4/4 time, but it’s oh, so much more.
The best way you will know that you are in the rhythm of the Blues is that it just “feels” easy. Again, listen with your heart, it will take you there. Take a look at this video for some specifics:
#3 – Picks and Licks
Get comfortable with picking your guitar and learning particular riffs (or licks). These are repeatable little ditties that you can integrate into different areas of your music. They are transferrable into several songs. Experiment, and play them over and over until they become part of you. Soon, your fingers will be traveling all over the fretboard.
#4 – Slide Along
The slide guitar is another wonderful sound brought about by the Blues, and it is transferrable to several modern genres, including Country and Rockabilly – to name but a couple. Yes, it can be played using a regular guitar, though it’s not as easy. If you learn how to do this, you will be a showstopper.
#5 – Scale It
Probably the most important, if not tedious, step of learning your art form is to learn the basics in and out. Yes, this means you simply must know your scales. Every aspect of music is built on them! You will find your playing and interpretations growing by leaps and bounds simply because you know how they fit together.
Watch this video to get a feel for the E Blues scale. Practice it, and you’ll see what I mean:
These tips will help you explore the richness and variations of the Blues. The rest is up to you.
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