Previous page:

Blues Guitar - The 12 bar blues in E

Next page:
Previous page: Blues Guitar Introduction Next page: Blues Guitar - Some variations of the 12-bar blues in E

This is the first in a series of lessons on playing blues guitar. For a more on the 12 bar blues progression in general, go to my BASIC BLUES and Basic 12-bar blues lessons. (The lessons might be overlapping).

We start with the blues progression I have labeled Blues progression 1, in the key of E. E is a popular key for blues guitar, but it is not the easiest key to play if you are a beginner on the guitar. To play the blues in it's simplest form, you need to know four chords:

E E7 A7 B7

How to finger the chords

If you are not used to play these chord, the change to and from B7 in particular might be a bit difficult. Be careful with how you finger these changes. When fingering chords, you should try to make as little finger movement as possible. It takes time to shift fingers, and the less you do it, the more fluent will the changes be. A typical beginner error is to lift all the fingers off the fingerboard and relocate each finger. If you can keep a finger where it is, do it. Look at the fingering indicated in the chord diagrams. The fingering of the E-chord is in my view the only sensible way to finger this chord. There is also only one way to finger this voicing of the B7 chord. Notice that your 2nd finger is in the same position in both chords. Don't lift the finger off the string just to place it where is was - keep it on the 2nd fret of the 5th string through the change. This will reduce the finger movement, and the finger will be a guide for the rest of your fingers. The first finger is on 1st fret in both chords. But in the E chord it holds the first fret on the 3rd string, and in B7 it holds it on the 4th string. Just move the finger across, lifting it as little as possible. Your 3rd finger crosses in the opposite direction, from 4th string 2nd fret to 3rd string 2nd fret. If you find the change difficult, practise just this movement without caring about your 4th finger until it is fluent. Then you just add your 4th finger on 2nd fret 1st string for the B7.

There is no clear "right" or "wrong" when it comes to fingering of the A and A7 chord. It depends on where you are coming from and where will go next. When looked at in isolation, the easiest way to finger the simple A7 chord is with 1st finger on 2nd fret, 4th string, and 2nd finger on 2nd fret, 2nd string. But it is the least flexible fingering. You use two fingers, while the other two are placed in a useless position. So I will not recommend this fingering. Usually I will recommend that you use 1st finger on 4th string, 2nd finger on 3rd string and 3rd finger on 4th string. This will give you an A chord. Lift off the 2nd finger, and you get A7. It might be an alternative to finger the A7 with 2nd finger on 4th string and 3rd finger on the 2nd string. With this fingering it might be easier to change to and from both E and B7, but you do not have the A chord under your fingers. On the other hand, you get the Amaj7 by placing your 1st finger on 3rd string, 1st fret.

The blues progression in E can be played as follows:

 

MIDI file - 12 bar blues in E

We often use roman numbers to indicate chords relative to the root chord. The root chord will then be I. The chord a fourth above is labeled IV, and the chord a fifth above is labeled V. The advantage of using such notation, is that we can notate a chord structure that can be applied to any key. I the key of E the numbers will be: I=E, IV=A and V=B. The 12 bar blues will then be:

Listen carefully to the change from E to E7. It is almost as the harmony starts preparing for a jump to A. And this is in fact just what it does. The E7-A change could be seen as a V-I resolution in the key of A, and it really illustrates the double identity of the I-IV change.

Play the blues slow with a steady rhythm with four beats in each bar. You must play the 12-bar blues progression until it becomes second nature to you, and you can play it on "auto-pilot". Count the rhythm as you play. You should know both in which bar you are, and which note in the bar you are playing. The way to count is 1 - 2 - 3 - 4, 2 - 2 - 3 - 4, 3 - 2 - 4, etc, until you get to 12 - 2 - 3 - 4, when it is time to start over from 1 again.

The "Hoochie Coochie Lick"

I will give you one rather simple, but effective and very useful lick. By the name I have assigned to it, you will probably understand that it is inspired by Muddy Waters and the playing in his son The Hoochie Coochie Man. But I am not saying that this is exactly how Muddy Waters played the song. It is a simple lick played on the two bottom strings (or on the 6th string only, if you prefer that).

MIDI


Download Finale File

Alternate fingering - the entire lick on one string

More Material on Basic Blues Guitar

If you want some books and CDs to work with, in addtition to surfing the web, I will suggest these for beginners:

For more suggestions, go the the Beginning Blues Guitar in the Guitar Books Section.

Backing Tracks for Practise

Here you can find a simple Band-In-A-Box file with this 12 bar progression in E. If you have Band-In-A-Box or you have downloaded the free Band-In-A-Box player you can play just to listen to the chords, and as a backing track for your own playing.

Some Beginning Blues - books

Top Seller


More >>
Acoustic Blues Guitar
Format: instructional book/CD package. With guitar tablature, standard notation, instructional text, black & white photos, guitar tab glossary and guitar chord diagrams.
RefNr: WB0059B
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books


More >>
Play Blues Guitar with Keith Wyatt
RefNr: 0793556708
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Acoustic Blues Guitar - A Beginner's Guide
Book of the Month 2005-01
Learn to play dozens of songs, licks and exciting fingerpicking techniques in the styles of the great blues players, even if you have never played blues before.
RefNr: HT641703
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Blues Guitar Basics
Take the first step towards mastering blues guitar. This book & CD will guide you through everything you need to know to begin playing blues guitar, including shuffle rhythms, turnarounds, blues soloing, call-and-response patterns, play-along "jam" tracks, slow blues, blues scale positions, and the "B.B. King secret scale pattern." Includes complete play-along tracks on CD.
RefNr: APUBSBK103CD
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Beginning Acoustic Blues Guitar
The complete acoustic blues method by Lou Manzi, with full tuition in all aspects of blues playing, and compete with a CD of audio examples.
RefNr: AP22866
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Go here for full list of Beginning Blues books

Beginning Blues - videos


More >>
Anyone Can Play Blues Guitar
This course is a fun, easy way for a beginning to intermediate guitarist to learn how to play the blues.
RefNr: MB94733DVD
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Anyone Can Play Electric Blues Guitar
This course is designed for the beginning guitarist who wants to start playing the blues.
RefNr: MB94880DVD
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
Amazon UK
Amazon US

More >>
Ultimate Beginner: Blues Guitar Step One And Step Two
The Ultimate Beginner Series is designed to help you take the first step toward experiencing the fun of playing music.
RefNr: WB905010
Order From:
SheetmusicPlus
MusicRoom

Go here for full list of Beginning Blues videos

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Blues Guitar Introduction Next page: Blues Guitar - Some variations of the 12-bar blues in E