Do you know your blues?

If there is one musical genre that is the ideal starting point for improvisation it has to be the blues. No other form of music is so easily communicated and allows you to express your feelings as the blues does. So if you plan to play freely with other musicians you have to have your blues down. Fortunately this is quite simple. Let’s look at the parts we need to play a blues in A.

Part 1: The chords

While you can get by with your usual triads you really want to play dominant seventh chords while playing the blues. Those are slight modifications of the chords you already know and they have just the right sound for the blues. You need three chords for the blues: A7, E7 and D7.


If you use the open chords version of A all you have to do to switch that to an A7 is to lift the middle of the three fingers you use to play on the second fret. Depending on the fingering you like to use this may be the middle finger or the ring finger. See below for the tabs.


For E7 it’s the same idea. Raise the finger that frets in the middle between the other two. Compare your results with the tabs below.


For D7 we have to invert the shape. The shape of the D major chord look like a small triangle pointing to the right. The shape of the D7 chord looks like a small triangle to the left.

Try to memorize the shapes and listen to the sound of those chords.

The order of the chords.

Now that you know how to play the chords you have to know the order in which to play them. There are several types of blues forms you can play. We will focus on the form used most often. It’s called the 12 bar blues. The chords in the 12 bar blues in A goes like this:

A7 | A7 | A7 | A7

D7 | D7 | A7 | A7

E7 | D7 | A7 | E7

The blues is usually played in 4/4 timing and each of the notated chords stands for one measure.

Congratulations you now know enough to play the blues. Now play it.

These ideas were brought to you by Rene Kerkdyk. He teaches music and guitar in Hildesheim, Germany. If you are interested in mastering the guitar in Hildesheim, be sure to contact Rene.