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I start this session with a short excerpt of a acoustic blues played in A in the style of Robert Johnson.
This song is played using a monotonic bass technique and the sound is muted heavily with the palm of the picking hand after each strike.

Johnson uses the basic blues chord structure of a long A shape using a bar and pinky, a D7 shape (often not fretting the high E string) and E/E7.

Of course, there are a few extra inversions thrown into the mix to make that blues sound even more intense and interesting, but basically its a three chord trick. You can always add your own embellishments as well, as long as you don’t stray too far away too far and lose that special feel.

For example, I often use the Texas blues man Lightnin’ Hopkins trick of fretting the last two strings of the long A chord with my pinky. It creates a fuller sound, making the music a little more interesting without spoiling the effect, which is to sound like authentic acoustic blues.

At 2m:50s you can see a close up of my right hand as I improvise a little around the basic idea of an acoustic blues guitar song in A. You’ll notice how I use an inversion or two, to add interest, such as moving up to the 5th fret to play a form of D/D7. Variations in your blues are very desirable but should be integrated into your music carefully, without going over the top. The idea is to keep the audience’s interest, and variations will do that.

I usually include a break between verses, maybe just once, or more if there are many verses, which is where I can use those inversion chords, moving up the fret board and possibly improvising a little. Clichés are good – people know them and like them, and will respond to them if there aren’t too many! The standard blues guitar riffs makes listeners comfortable, then you can start to push the boundaries a little.


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