About The Blues

When you hear musicians talking about “the blues” they are referring to a style of music that is characterized by certain musical forms, progressions and sounds. But where did “the blues” really come from? Most people know that the blues, as we know them today, originated in the late 1800’s from African-Americans that lived in the deep south of the United States. The phrase “the blues” often refers to a kind of sadness or sense of being down and out.  Considering the horrors of slavery, it is no wonder that the music that was born out of the every day lives of late 19th century African-American communities would reflect such sad or “bluesy” emotions.

Although it did not start out this way, the most common form of the blues is the 12 bar blues progression. You will also see 8 bar, 9 bar and 16 bar blues as well as several other common blues forms. The chords used in the standard 12 bar blues progression are usually the 1, 4 and 5 chords. It is quite common for the 1, 4 and 5 chords in any blues progression to be dominant 7th chords.  The flatted, or minor, 7th note in dominant 7th chords really helps to give the blues its signature sound. You will also find blues progressions in minor keys. The song “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King is a great example of what a minor blues song sounds like.

Blue notes are the special notes in the blues scale that really give the blues its soulful moaning sound. The flatted 3rd, flatted 5th and the flatted 7th all work together to give the blues it’s unique “bluesy” qualities.  You can start on the flatted 3rd, 5th and 7th and slide or bend up to the non-flatted 3rd, 5th or 7th, respectively, to conjure up the sounds that the blues is know for. It is almost like the blues is a cross between a major and a minor key. That is one of the things that makes the blues tonality so unique.

The lyrics of early blues songs were mostly about people expressing the trouble of their souls. Just go read some lyrics to an older blues song and you will see that it is no wonder why the melancholy state that most of these songwriters were in became know as “the blues”. The typical form for blues lyrics in a 12 bar blues song is AAB, but that was not the standard until the early 20th century. You sing the first A over the first four bars of the 12 bar blues progression, repeat that A over the second four bars and then sing the B over the last four bars. This lyrical influence has carried over into the phrasing and playing of modern day blues guitar players.

crossroadsThe blues permeates pretty much every genre of western music including rock, metal, country and pop. Blues guitar players throughout the years seem to have a huge influence on guitar players as a whole. Players such as Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page all had a heavy background in the blues These players have all had a monumental amount of influence on the guitar players of today. Robert Johnson became so good in such a short time that it was rumored that he sold his soul to the devil at "The Crossroads" to acquire his unearthly blues guitar abilities.

The blues has evolved over time and has become part of the foundation for just about every style of western music. The blues has become a very social and self-expressive style in the modern guitar community as well. There are blues jams all over the country where anyone can go and start playing with fellow musicians. The fact that you can pretty much learn one simple scale on the guitar and jump right in to expressing yourself musically has made the blues very popular with guitar players of all skill levels. I encourage you to use the blues guitar lessons on GuitarLessons.com to help you find your own unique blues voice. Start digging into the blues for yourself today.

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

This Lesson Has 19 Comments

  • Bob says:

    I’m turning 61 the 15th of September, I first picked up a guitar in 1062 I was 12. I have played, on and off for many many years, took lessons (Classical) for about 7 months, I can play a lot of songs but guess what it’s still sounds so, so, I’ve ordered numerous, lessons over the intenet some good some bad. Yet I have not yet found something that puts this all together for me. As much as parts of my own mind say “Give it up” I’m just not going to do it!!!! So here I am at your website and Since I have to go have a bit of surgery done, and I will be off work for about 3 weeks, I bought your blues package and 1/2 off, so no… I’m old yes but I’m not going to give I love the guitar.


    • Auth says:

      Buying an acoustic agtiur for my son??!!?Hello,My son is is nearly 10, and has been having agtiur lessons for about a year. He bugged me for a year previously before I gave in and agreed to lessons and a agtiur. So I knew he was serious.Well he still likes his lessons and agtiur. However he has grown and the agtiur is now too small! So want to buy him another one. A relative got this one for me, so I know nothing about agtiurs!Anyway Im in EU, and want a decent acoustic agtiur. But dont want to spend a fortune as he is still young and prob want another one! What brand of agtiur is decent?What sort of size would he need? The one he uses now is small!I looked on shop website and they had various makes, and said classic, western, jumbo etc??? This means nothing to me!!What type is best to play most types of music?Any help appreciated on decent brand, size and type of acoustic agtiur!Ps, he said he quite likes the agtiurs that are coloured!! Think he may have seen a blue acoustic!ThanksVA:F [1.9.11_1134]please wait…VA:F [1.9.11_1134](from 0 votes)

  • Noob says:

    damn Bob you’re old almost 970 years old now xD

    • tgsystem says:

      That’s hilarious!

    • Skip says:

      Is your Name noob Methusela LOL

    • Yadira says:

      I enjoyed the pick & pluck lssoen. I was just wondering how long finger nails should be for application of this method. Mine seem to hook the strings sometimes. I see some pickers with longer nails and some with short ones. This might seem like a dumb question but I would like to know. Thanks Leo[] Reply:October 31st, 2011 at 4:49 pmHi Leo, that’s a good question actually. Some guys keep their nails long for this, but personally I don’t do that, and I just use my fingertips and keep my nails short. It works okay for me, best thing is to try it out and see what will work for you.[]

  • Dale Pautzke says:

    I’m 69 years old and hope to learn to play the guitar. Music seems like a foreign language, but I hope I am able to learn it.

  • Bob Law says:

    Age means nothing if you are willing to learn. I retired from construction industry when I was 57 years young. Enrolled in college, and by the time I was 62 had a B.A. in Theology, and a B.A. in Counceling. Now I am learning to play guitar. Hang in there!

    • Gil says:

      Good for you Bob. I had a friend who was 62 when she started working on a degree. A friend told her that she was going to be 66 by the time she graduated. She thought a minute and replied, Well, I am going to be 66 anyway. When you are green you are growing, when you are ripe, you start to rot so we need to always be growing.

      As far as the guitar goes, I have been playing since I was 14 and now 62. By most standards, I am pretty good. The truth is, I never learned theory or the notes on my fretboard. It has held me back more than I want to say. With all the information on the Internet now, I wonder how good I would be if I had this information when I was just learning. With theory, you always know where to go. You don’t have to try to figure it out and you can create your own arrangements much faster. That is why I am here, to learn theory.

      If I could give anyone a suggestion, learn some songs, enjoy your guitar, pick up some good licks from your friends, but spend part of your practice time learning theory and the notes on your neck. A year from now you will be 10 times the guitarist than you would be without it.

  • prantik says:

    trying to understand this……….

  • Agape Yaan Maden says:

    Well, folks. I turned thirty-one on January 14, 2012 and I’ve been playing the guitar for seven-and-a-half years now. I first began by taking three months of guitar lessons at an institute called Fine Arts. And, just now, I’ve finished an 18 month guitar course from a great guitarist who lives in my town. Well, I must tell you learning guitar is great fun. By the way, my guitar tuition sure cost me a fortune. But Nate’s lessons are free. That’s a great thing. Three cheers for Nate. Besides, I must add that Nate’s tutorials are first class. By the way, I am Agape Yaan Maden from a town called Dharan in Nepal.

    • Houssein says:

      These lessons are rlaely great. Thanks a lot for posting them. Just an idea for future lessons how about something showing us how to play above the 5th fret? I’ve got Roy Sakuma’s chord chart book but I’ve found just playing chords in songs that are normally played below the 5th fret up above the 5th fret doesn’t always sound right. Can you post some tips for learning to play above the 5th fret and perhaps some song suggestions for moving chords up and down the neck? Thanks.

  • ajith says:

    i love to learn guitar,i know some codes too.i have box guitar.i really want learn rhythm with lead specially as i sing.may be finger style
    1,pls tell me what style i must learn according to my requirement?

    then i can buy your product accordingly

  • Jonathan says:

    Thanks Nate for the free lessons.I can’t keep my guitar down now that am learning new stuff.God bless you.

  • Dubravka says:

    I am not American but in my songs I express same filings ,Blues is for me the best music ,7-th cords have amazing sound.Thanks for information about blues music,and other free lessons Nate!

  • BILL HINDS says:


  • BILL HINDS says:


    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Bill, great to have you here. Feel free to post any questions or email me at any time.


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