Guitar lesson - learn new chords

Playing minor blues

Here are some ideas for playing a minor 12-bar blues. In its most basic form a 12-bar blues in Am would go like this:

Am7 (4bars) Dm7 (2 Bars) Am7 (2bars) Em7 Dm7 Am7 E7

Here's the same thing again, four strums on each chord:

Am7 /// Am7/// Am7/// Am7/// Dm7/// Dm7/// Am7/// Am7/// Em7/// Dm7/// Am7/// E7///

Since we can use an open A, D, and E string in this key we can use pedal tones. This is where the bass note stays constant, but the harmony or chord sequence moves around - leading to greater interest and harmonic complexity. You'll find a similar concept in many songs - Scarboro Fair is one, shamelessly stolen, one.

You could improvise with Am pentatonic scale, or Am blues scale, and try playing octaves too - a technique used by Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, and most other great improvisers since. The scale pattern for this that's easy to use is shown on the pictures below. Remember, it's like a map of possibilities, it sounds better if you play riffs with it, rather than going up and down the notes in a rigid pattern.

Guitar blues ideas


This blues can be as hard or as easy as you like - you can spice up the rhythm by playing with your thumb on the bass note, and picking the other notes of the chord slightly later.

Octaves are easier if you damp the middle string with your first finger.

Creative playing - one thing that really works is to take a chord shape you know, like E or Am7 and move it up the neck at random. You'll find some great new sounds this way, because often the addition of open strings to a chord will really bring it a new depth and make it sound more interesting - a bit of dissonance is good.

If you want to really study the chord possibilities on guitar, try Ted Greene books such as Modern Chord Progressions or Chord Chemistry, two veritable bibles for the aspiring guitarist. Ted was a great player and teacher, look him up on youtube.

The late great Ted Greene

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Comments 5 comments

connelly73 profile image

connelly73 7 years ago from Motherwell, Scotland

Great Hub. Tried out and very pleasing on the ear. Might try in my next recording.

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi. You could use this stuff in other contexts too, like in Summertime or Moondance. Try shifting an E chord up the neck, you'll find some great new chords.

whcobb profile image

whcobb 6 years ago from Fort Campbell, KY

I love guitar... I enjoy playing and I am actually learning at an amazing rate. Great article. I am now going to follow you.

William Cobb

"What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

Simrin Christraj 5 years ago

I really liked this article

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 5 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks simrin,and William. Good luck with your playing. Minimum 15 mins a day now!

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