Blues Guitar - Using Tablature For Your Instruction

In the 60s, Stephan Grossman and others produced a form of musical notation for guitar that was peculiar to those times. Many of the original blues men were dead and gone by this time, but a notable few remained, such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin' Hopkins and Reverend Gary Davis

It was Grossman's meeting with Davis that was the spark that ignited the quest for old style blues and ragtime guitar. Many young men at that time wanted to learn and play the old acoustic blues in the authentic style, just like the original masters. Blues guitar tabs were the backbone of this revival.

Acoustic Blues Guitar Tabs - Just the Thing For Ragtime Guitar!

Jim Bruce Blues Guitar Tabs Right Hand Screen ShotBlues songs have a traditional root, and many variations have been created using an original piece. 

Take Robert Johnson's 'Sweet Home Chicago', for example. This was originally called 'Kokomo Blues' and was written by Scrapper Blackwell. In addition to countless variations around a theme, new songs were produced in many different regional picking styles.

Within the regional styles we can also find significant differences between artists, so producing a huge variety of blues guitar music

Of course, in the past, blues men stole each others material and also adapted traditional music to their own particular style which added to the richness of the blues. 

How could this material be recorded in such a way so that future generations can learn to play in the same way? We have the sound recordings, but there's so much music it's not enough.


Traditionally, musical notation was pretty much the same for all instruments, and consisted of a stave, notes and some indication of timing. If we wanted to stick with this accepted musical guitar notation, then we must learn how to read it - this is not too easy! 

Really, all we need to do is to know where to put the fingers of each hand. If we had some way of knowing this, and listen to the original guitar music, it would be a huge shortcut to performing the old fingerpicking styles. 

In fact, Grossman devised a form of notation called 'tablature', which speeds up up the process of learning how to play blues guitar.

The Guitar Tab Grid and Standard

The strings of the guitar are represented by 6 lines, and a number may be written on one of the lines. This means it should be plucked on the fret indicated by that number. 

A line extending upwards from the number means that we should pick with a finger on the up stroke, and a line extending downwards indicates a picking hand thumb strike.

The guitar chords
can also appear over the guitar tablature as well. Other symbols are also used, which help to define the timing, slide or type of stroke.The system is simple and very easy to learn. Although it seems a bit cumbersome at first, most people are sight reading within a couple of weeks.

Author: Jim Bruce 
Date: 2014-12-07
Category: Music

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