5 Tips to Start Playing the Blues

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Oct 15, 2021 . 4 min read

5 Tips to Start Playing the Blues

These 5 tips to start playing the blues will give you a starting point for approaching this vital genre of music.

It is hard to overstate the importance of blues, especially as it is the basis for other types of music. For instance, rock, jazz, and country are genres that are deeply rooted in the blues. As a matter of fact, the blues scale can be used extensively in those three styles, and with great success. As you get more acquainted with what the blues is, you’ll develop the insight necessary to understand that music is connected and start seeing everything in a more cohesive manner. Without further ado, here are the 5 tips to start playing the blues.

Listen to the blues

Before you even touch your instrument, you need to be listening to the blues. As a matter of fact, listening is one of the most underrated aspects of learning music, yet is one of the most important. This applies not only to the blues but to any kind of music. It is imperative to listen actively and consistently. Sure, you can listen while you exercise or do laundry, but it is also vital to listen with undivided attention. Ask yourself questions like what the drums are doing, what is happening with the guitar, etc. Taking the time to listen to the great bluesmen in history will give you a perspective that you can then apply to your own playing. 

Learn the blues form

Learning the 12 bar blues form is one of the most important steps you can take as a musician. This form is used in countless songs and represents the heart and soul of the blues. Make sure you learn it in as many keys as possible. After you learn the traditional 12 bar blues form, it’s time to learn the 12 bar minor blues form. From then, you can look into the different variations that exist. 

Learn the blues scale

The blues scale is heavily used in styles like rock, country, pop, folk as well as blues. This is one of the first scales a guitarist learns, and for good reason. It is relatively easy and has an endless amount of applications and contexts in which it can be used. Additionally, the blues scale includes a blue note. The concept of a blue note is a very important one, so make sure you understand it well. This might take some time, but the key is to go slow and have fun. 

Learn some blues licks

A blues lick is a short musical phrase that has a blues flavor. This is done through the use of the blues scale, or a blue note, or both. Blues licks are a great starting point for soloing because they are easy to learn and can be used throughout. Naturally, you should try to learn a few blues licks to have a bit of variety in your playing. Blues licks will typically fit nicely in many styles, including rock and traditional jazz. 

Practice with a blues play-along track

We live in an incredible time for learning an instrument. The internet is full of valuable resources that were not so readily available 30 years ago. For instance, YouTube has a plethora of play along blues tracks that you can use. Simply pull one up, make sure it’s on the key you’ve been working on and play. 

Playing along with a blues track will give you a context to apply everything mentioned above. You can try the blues scale, see what different blues notes sound like, and find out where the blues licks fit the best.

These 5 tips for playing the blues will keep you busy for a while. Remember to take your time with each of them. If you follow these, you will be on track to play the blues and make it a part of your abilities as a guitar player. Most importantly, remember to have fun!

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