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When I hear Hoochie Coochie Man or Sky is crying and the likes, the time stops, my body starts quivering, and my face starts melting. That is what blues does to me and I want to learn how to play the blues! I think blues runs in my veins but I may be tone deaf. Actually not, if I try real hard I can carry a tune, especially affer a few. That makes me think it's all on my head. Having said that I can barely strum "While my guitar gently weeps" or the beginning of "Wish you were here".

Years ago as a kid I wanted to learn guitar and got signed up for lessons and make the storytelling short, I walked off after the second lesson when I discovered "notes" were involved. Since I thought Paul and John (and yes, I do think first name basis is appropriate) did not know notes, as was the common misconception.

Anyway where was I? I've since decided that I will learn enough to play blues. But that's a relative concept, isn't it? When do you know you've learned it? Does BB know he's learned it? What about Eric Clapton or Joe Walsh? Did Stevie Ray knew? Againt these masters I have at least a 40 year handicap. But my goal is simple I want to be able play "Yer Blues", or Rocky Mountain Way, perhaps Sky is crying or Eric Claptons rendition of Alberta - to name a few. You know not to a crowd of hundreds, just for my own personal enjoyment.

I borrowed my kids' Learning guitar book with the "Mary had a little lamb" and the likes. There has got to be a another way! My friends learned to play, or in reality, learn to imitate the great ones in six months. I've been at this - on and off - since like 1980.

Of course I'm trying to be realistic as I do not expect to make much progress in few weeks but I just don't want to play Mary had a little lamb anymore. Enlighten me! What say you?

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closed as not constructive by Wheat Williams, Jason W, American Luke, Matthew Read Feb 11 '13 at 16:55

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Please see the FAQ -- this site is for concrete questions about focused problems. –  Matthew Read Feb 11 '13 at 16:56
@MatthewRead: How do you decide what is a good fit for your format? Do you get paid for interfering with other people's conversation? I've gotten a lot out of these peoples posts! It's not the "big brother" I worry about it's folks like you, and there seems to be a lot of you on these fora. I further must note that after reading you FAQ page I post was about practice, learning, music theory which are listed as valid reasons. –  Risho Feb 11 '13 at 18:58
If you'd like to hold a conversation, try Music: Practice & Theory Chat. This isn't a discussion site. –  Matthew Read Feb 11 '13 at 19:16
Well why didnt you suggested this before then? ;) –  Risho Feb 20 '13 at 5:33

3 Answers 3

Mary Had A Little Lamb is like a word problem. Your need to start to know how to do math in real contexts, and combining your apples with Mary's does you how to do that, and much the same with the song. You need to start to put together notes, and the song does that.

Blues is many things. It is a rhyme scheme, with call and response. It is a scale. It is a song structure. It is a oechnique, or a few techniques. It is a rhythm. All can be pulled out and used in different contexts. For example, the theme to the Batman TV show is a12-bar blues.

I'd start with the rhythm and structure, enrich you do by pulling out SRV and trying to play along to "The Sky Is Crying". Don't try to take Stevie's leads, but try to fit into the rhythm section. This is shuffling in a 12-bar blues, and one you understand that, you'll be able to go into the next part, which is the lead.

The blues scale starts with the pentatonic minor, which is root, minor third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, and dominant seventh. And you might not get what that means, but in the short term, count that there are five notes here. The blues scale adds the flat fifth, which is between the fourth and fifth. That's the easy one, because the blues is in part an attempt to map natural notes to modern intonation, and it doesn't quite fit. The blues third is actually between the major third and the minor third, and this is one of the reasons people bend. The blues seventh is in fact between the seventh and the sixth. Plus, many of your favorite players bring in the flat fourth, too, which means every note going up from the second to the fifth is kosher.

Ultimately, listen to slow blues and try to play along. That's really the best place to start.

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Blues is easier to think of as a mode than a scale. The Aeolian mode mirrors exactly what you are trying to interpret diatonically, except with extra "blue notes" thrown in. In fact, one of the mistakes people make is to try to think of the blues in terms of the traditional harmonic theory of Western music idioms. –  Robusto Feb 8 '13 at 13:10
I have no idea what you guys are talking about. Should that worry me? –  Risho Feb 8 '13 at 22:15
Nope. You'll pick it up. First step is knowing the backup part and then you start thinking about lead. But I'll try to clarify things. –  VarLogRant Feb 8 '13 at 22:24

There is an element of boring practice you will need to go through. When I start teaching beginners blues guitar, quite an early practice routine for them is to learn the chords E, A and B if they can manage a barre, or A, D and E if not, and to get them to play through some simple 12-bar blues rhythm variants. For more advanced students I'll develop that somewhat, using 7ths etc., but this is an easy start.

As examples I then get either a more advanced student to play some lead lines, or I do it myself, to show how you can fit notes to that sequence.

Blues, in my opinion, is actually the easiest structure for beginners to learn to solo over, as it is very well structured, but also lets you get away with notes you wouldn't normally think could work, as long as they resolve at the end.

You are starting off with an advantage over some people - you feel the blues, which means you will be able to tell when something works. Some people are switched off entirely by blues, so while they may be able to play it rote, they don't develop the nuances you only get from feeling the possibilities.

Update: Couple of links - there are millions online, just google:

And a video:

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can you recomend sites with some of these "easy practice routines"? Thanks. –  Risho Feb 8 '13 at 22:19

One advantage in learning the blues is that technically it isn't very challenging. If you've got a few chords and a couple of scales down, you can play a whole tonne of blues and sound pretty awesome playing it as well.

Learning to play the chords is more of a question of getting the rhythm right. I'm sure you'll be able to figure out how to play a few open chords to get started with (like an E major, or an A major for instance). Once the chords sound okay, the whole blues-y feel comes in playing it in the right rhythm.

Soloing on the other hand can be a little more challenging, especially because it's intimidating to get improvising. But I learned it to the point of sounding reasonably alright within about a year, so it can definitely be done.

I will strongly, strongly, strongly recommend the justinguitar website. I learned all my lead guitar and blues playing from that website. He's a brilliant teacher with a bunch of videos, as well as chord charts and the whole works. The forum helps if you're struggling with a particular thing as well. Good luck!

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