How to Use High Moves to Play Blues on the Guitar

You can play moves on the higher strings. These guitar strings often involve the same notes played on the lower strings (the fifth and sixth of the chord featured in the Jimmy Reed move —), but when played up high, it sounds more like a riff than a chord figure.

That creates a bridge between chord figures and riffs and licks. Think of these new, higher moves as chord forms added to your basic eighth-note strumming. As you play these added chords, notice that the sound produces a melodic motif.

Here is the first high-note move in the key of E. The two added chords are E7 chords with your 4th finger of the left hand playing notes on the 2nd string.

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Now add two chords to the A7 chord sequence. The notes are the same relative ones you added to the E7 chord — the sixth and the seventh. Check out the fingering with the added notes played by the 4th finger of the left hand.

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For the B7 chord, the 4th finger again plays the added note, but because the finger is already in place — on the 2nd fret, 1st string — you must move it up to the 3rd fret briefly. This may seem a bit awkward at first, and the stretch between your 4th and 3rd fingers may take a while to get smoothly, but it will come in time.

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This shows all three moves in a 12-bar blues. If some of the moves seem difficult, or come too fast, try leaving them out at first. As long as you don’t break the rhythm in your right hand and you change left-hand chords where you’re supposed to, the blues still sound fine.

That’s the beauty of the blues: You can play any variation on the basic structure — from simple to complex — and it always sounds good!

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