12 Bar Blues Guitar Riff

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Learn To Play The 12 Bar Blues Guitar Riff!

12 Bar Blues Riff Chord ChartIn this lesson, we are going to learn a classic 12 bar blues riff that you will be using quite often in your guitar playing. Riffs like this pop up in blues, classic rock, hard rock, jazz and even metal. Odds are that you have already heard something like this before because it is really cool sounding and pretty easy to learn. In order to learn this 12 bar blues riff, you will need to be familiar with the 12 bar blues progression, basic power chords, a B7 bar chord and some basic muting techniques.

Let’s get started by looking at the basic 12 bar blues progression. We will be playing in the key of E. So the chords that we will be using are E, A and B. The basic 12 bar blues progression in the key of E consists of the following: 4 bars of E, 2 bars of A, 2 bars of E, 1 bar of B, 1 bar of A, 1 bar of E and 1 bar of B. We have provided a chart so that you can see a nice layout of the 12 bar blues progression.

There are three basic shapes that you need to have down in order to play this riff. A regular open power chord, a regular power chord and a B7 bar chord with the root of the chord on the A string. We have provided all of the chord diagrams for you to make learning this riff as easy as possible.

When you listen to this 12 bar blues riff you will notice that there are some spaces in between the notes that we create by muting the strings. All that we are really going to be doing is stopping the strings with the palm of your right hand just after you hit the strings. It is very important to work on your muting in order to give the riff the proper feel for the particular style of music that you are playing. I really encourage you to experiment with different amounts of muting to change the style of this riff.

The actual riff that we will be using is pretty easy but it sounds really great at the same time. Play a regular open E power chord with your index finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. You should just be playing the open E and the 2nd fret of the A string. Once you play those two notes, mute them with your right hand. Now, all you have to do is use your 3rd finger to grab the 4th fret of your A string. You should be playing an open E and the 4th fret of your A string. That is really all there is to this riff. Move this shape over to the A and D strings. You should be playing an open A and your 1st finger should be fretting the 2nd fret of your D string . Play those two notes. Now use your 3rd finger to grab the 4th fret of your D string. You should be playing an open A and the 4th fret of your D string.

Now, we just have to learn the part of the riff that is played over the B chord. This part is a bit harder, but after just a little bit of practice it should be pretty easy for you. The riff over the B chord is very similar to what you are already playing, but it involves a pretty good stretch with your left hand. If you have never had to use any big stretches in your playing, you may have a bit of trouble at first. Take your 1st finger and put it on the 2nd fret of the A string. Keep that 1st finger there and stretch up to the 4th fret of the D string with your 2nd finger. Play those two notes together. Here is where the big stretch comes in. Leave your 1st and 2nd finger where they are and stretch your 4th finger all the way up to the 6th fret of your D string. You can let up with your 2nd finger when your 4th finger is down if you’d like. Now we will finish off the riff with a standard B7 bar chord.

Thats it-the basics of the 12 bar blues riff. Now you should go to the detailed tab for the entire riff. This 12 bar blues riff is a great way to have fun and start playing with other people. Play this riff with your friends. You can even take turns improvising over the riff with your E blues scale. Remember that this is just one variation of this popular 12 bar blues riff. Listen for this riff in some of your favorite music and use it to come up with your own original music as well.

Click Here to go to the next lesson in the Blues Guitar Quick-Start Series.

This Lesson Has 21 Comments

  • marichu says:

    where cn i have guitar lessons in iligan city/

  • marichu says:

    where cn i have guitar essons in iligan city?

  • Felicitas P. Calicdan says:


    • Mathurin says:

      Well if you’re using the sample to make fun of snomoee then it’s not similar to satire, it *is* satire. Parody is one factor in deciding whether a use is covered by Fair Use for precisely this reason.However as Negativland showed with Dispepsi and U2 it’s often the case that victims of parody use copyright law (or trademark law) to threaten or bully the authors of the parody.I tend to think copyright, patents, trademark can mostly just go. They do good but they do about as much harm. It seems like we could devise better incentives for creativity and research that don’t impose such awful restrictions on future works.

  • Jake says:

    it was a little hard for me to but keep practicing and ull git it

  • Joshua P. Calicdan says:

    i dont think i can stretch my fingers that far

  • Logan says:

    i can’t understand with all the modern technology why has utube still got this delay in the video, man you loose interest quickly

  • Chris says:

    Little bit of a stretch huh?

  • Alana .C says:

    It was easy for me! Your lessons are so helpful! I made a new years resolution that I’d be advanced by my 12 Birthday ( which is this December) and your making that come true! Thanks! Email me when you got some more blues/rock lessons for me!

  • francisco says:

    it seems a little hard but I think if I keep practicing I ll get it tahank you nat..

    • Sonam says:

      Copyright laws don’t actually prcoett the RECORDING of the sound, they prcoett the notes that make up the song.No, that’s what this decision indicates. It covers the recording of the sound. Which makes sense. I can’t take a couple CDs, make a mix CD and sell it.Can anyone reproduce your music if they pay the fee? You have no right to reject someone a license? That would be nice if it were true. Tell me it is. It is. There are also laws and decisions that you seem to miss… your example of notes is backwards – you can *only* copyright a melody (“notes”), whereas chord progressions cannot be prcoetted.This is all pretty basic stuff. Go to your local music store (or bookstore) and pick up one of the many legal books aimed at professional musicians. The vast majority of musicians (the non superstar ones) deal with this stuff all the time. Sort of like basic wiring, a bit of legal knowledge is an associated skillset with being a working musician.

  • Payge says:

    My fingers soo aren’t long/ big enough.

  • greg says:

    this video is ghetto. it’s like learning from an instructor with parkinson’s.

  • Bucks says:

    for the first time…i just did a simple blues riff i made :D..

  • John says:

    I like your style, Nate.

  • Big J says:

    being an official middle aged buffoon (45 and a bit) its all fairly slow going for me, however ur videos are really helpful and i am improving bit by bit. by the time i’m any good i’ll be annoying the other oldies in the rest home haha. cheers nate :)

    • Wes says:

      I’m with you on this Big J. My mid-life crisis led me to persuading my Mrs to bid for me in an auction, on a Washburn x200, so long as I promised her I’d learn to play it!

      Nate has made the beginning of my new (and somewhat steep) learning curve enjoyable and a lot easier than I thought it would be.

      Here’s to the next lesson…

      Thanks again, Nate :)

  • Sanskar says:

    Thanks Nate. The video’s well covered.

  • Frankie says:

    Well explained and demonstrated :-)

  • beats by dre pas cher chine says:

    Salut, bon travail, Merci pour la part


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