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Guitar Guide - BB King Blues

Updated on April 3, 2013

Great blues players

Check out the 9 minutes of blues heaven on the video link below - BB King and Gary Moore having fun and playing great solos. BB has gone for the geisha girl look! This clip is nice in many ways - it shows the total respect guitarists have for BB, an iconic figure of blues guitar.

Update - the video has been removed, but you can probably find it somewhere on Youtube.

The 12-bar Blues

Most blues tunes are in a 12-bar format. Sometimes you'll also find 8,16 or 32-bar songs, but they are much less common.

Major blues: / A7 / A7 / A7/ A7/ D7/ D7/ A7/ A7/ E7/ D7/ A7/ E7/

Minor Blues: /Am7 /Am7 / Am7 / Am7 / Dm7 / Dm7/ Am7/ Am7/ Em7/ Dm7/ Am7/ E7/

Play 4 beats for each bar.

For the A7 major style:use Am pentatonic scale or A blues scale to improvise - if you also hit C sharp a lot (the major third) it will fit the A7 chord better, then use C instead over the other chords. This concept of slightly different scales over different chords will get you a long way in creating good solos. For the minor style use Am pentatonic.

Am pentatonic: From string 1 (highest string in pitch): Frets 8,5  8,5  7,5   7,5   7,5  8,5

Stormy Monday is a T-Bone Walker tune with more advanced chords, well worth learning.

Minor Blues

Minor blues tunes use minor 7th chords where the 7ths would be. As the key is minor, it has a sad, wistful, melancholy sound.

Cm7 / Cm7 / Cm7 / Cm7 / Fm7 / Fm7/ Cm7 / Cm7 / Ab7 / Gsus4/G7 /Cm7 / Cm7

Use Cm pentatonic scale to improvise over this chord sequence. Then try adding chromatic notes, usually where there is a 2 fret interval you can fill in the intervening note.

Gary Moore is playing a Gibson Les Paul guitar - great tone and feel. BB is playing a Gibson 355 - also sounds great, and I love the jacket too!

it's nice to see the mutual respect thing happening in the interaction between BB and Gary - kind of master and pupil relationship going on.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson was one of the most influential early blues guitarists, active in the 1930s. Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones have been heavily influenced by his music, which has a raw quality and a lot of slide guitar parts.

In some ways you can see this blues as a precursor of rock n'roll - it has certainly influenced many aspects of its development, in songs like Sweet Home Chicago and Love in Vain.

Muddy Waters, another very important figure, brought the delta blues to Chicago, and used electric guitars. He had his mojo workin'.

Other greats

Robben Ford is a terrific blues player, and his instructional DVDs are well worth a look, as they incorporate a lot of jazz elements too.

Jeff Beck is great - check out Brush with the Blues for some amazing playing.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - another Hendrix -influenced player of powerful Texas blues.

Robben Ford on youtube

The link for this didn't work - but if you look on youtube there is a great video of Robben demonstrating the use of jazz chords in blues playing, something that he is really brilliant at. You can see why he was picked for the Miles Davis band - an absolutely fantastic guitarist who is also good at tuition.


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    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I like playing guitar, but not expert, thanks for share. great Blues technique.

    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 8 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Thanks Jen -it's a bit short at the moment, but I'll keep working on it.

      Have just got an iMac as my PC died - it's terrific!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Bookmarked and another thumbs up! Thanks Jon.