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Easy Blues Guitar

Updated on February 10, 2024
Jon Green profile image

For years I taught guitar and music theory in college. Learning blues on guitar is pretty essential.

Guitar blues

Here is the chord pattern for a simple 12- Bar Blues, with the number of bars for each chord. Only three chords are needed for basic blues.

E7 x4

A7 x2

E7 x2

B7, A7, E7, B7

Play each chord 4 times for every bar - four bars of E7, then 2 bars of A7, etc.

You should be very sure of this structure before working on this new material, and it doesn't take long to memorize it.

  • Now try replacing each bar of E7 with the boogie bass pattern shown - line 3 on the chord diagram below. You can count this: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and...for each bar of four beats.
  • The same pattern with added harmony is shown on line 4
  • The same idea then continues for the A7 chords, as shown.
  • All of this material can be used for many, many songs from the rockabilly era. Carl Perkins, Beatles covers of Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, etc. So many songs from the 1950s and early 1960s are based around a 12-Bar Blues, with some variations. Elvis songs such as Blue Suede Shoes and Houndog have some of these variations.

Guitar chords, riffs, scales - E Blues

Turnarounds 1 and 2

The two turnarounds shown can be used as an intro for a 12- Bar blues, or substituted for the usual chords in bars 11 and 12 of the sequence. The way to count these is in triplets:

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.

The two endings shown are interchangeable - turnaround 1 could end with C9 to B9 too.

  • Lines 3 and 4 of the Guitar Tab show the basic boogie pattern for E7 and A7, and then the same idea with added harmony.
  • Line 5 shows some riffs that work well with these chords
  • Last line shows some Delta style chords, and the basic blues scale for E7 blues. The E7 chord shape is like D7 moved up 2 frets, and then you move the whole shape down one fret, while your thumb hits the open E on string 6. You could then move the chords up the neck to make an A7 chord at frets 8 and 9, and hit the open 5th A string with your thumb. Some vibrato and sliding into the chord will make this sound even better.
  • All of these ideas can be combined in any way you want - as long as you stick with the correct bar length. So you could play a boogie pattern, followed by a riff or notes from the E blues scale. Although this is a difficult technique at first, it really will improve your co-ordination and guitar playing in general.
  • You should memorize everything, and know where you are in the overall sequence at all times.
  • Listen to Eric Clapton Unplugged album for examples of these ideas in action.
  • This album is a great all-round introduction to blues guitar.

Reading guitar tab

See my other hubs for a detailed explanation of guitar tab. When notes are stacked vertically, they are a chord. String 6, the lowest sounding string, is the bottom line and the numbers are the fret you play.

  • H means hammer -on
  • BSS means bend slightly sharp
  • Although there is not any rhythm indicated, you can copy this from blues recordings
  • When you're playing lead guitar remember that you can use notes from the chords (chord tones) as well as notes from the scale pattern. Usually, the more you do this, the better it will sound, because it is strongly connected to the harmony. I will usually play some chordal riffs to emphasize the harmony, mixed in with notes from scale patterns.


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