Blues Guitar For Dummies book cover

Blues Guitar For Dummies

By: Jon Chappell Published: 07-21-2020

Want to become the coolest possible version of yourself?

Time to jump into learning the blues guitar. Even if you don’t read music, Blues Guitar For Dummies lets you pick up the fundamentals and start jamming like your favorite blues artists.

Blues Guitar for Dummies covers the key aspects of blues guitar, showing you how to play scales, chords, progressions, riffs, solos, and more. This hands-on guide is packed with musical examples, chords charts, and photos that let you explore the genre and play the songs of all the great blues musicians. This accessible how-to book will give you the skills you need to:

  • Choose the right guitar, equipment, and strings
  • Hold, tune, and get situated with your guitar
  • Play barre chords and strum to the rhythm
  • Recognize the structure of a blues song
  • Tackle musical riffs
  • Master melodies and solos
  • Make your guitar sing, cry, and wail
  • Jam to any type of blues

Additionally, the book comes with a website that shares audio samples of all the examples covered in the lessons. Go online to practice your riffs and chords and develop your style as a blues musician.

Order your copy of Blues Guitar For Dummies today and get ready to start shredding!

P.S. If you think this book seems familiar, you’re probably right. The Dummies team updated the cover and design to give the book a fresh feel, but the content is the same as the previous release of Blues Guitar For Dummies (9780470049204). The book you see here shouldn’t be considered a new or updated product. But if you’re in the mood to learn something new, check out some of our other books. We’re always writing about new topics!

Articles From Blues Guitar For Dummies

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29 results
29 results
Blues Guitar For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-04-2022

To play blues guitar, first you have to know the basics of guitar in general, which means identifying the parts of a guitar and being able to translate a chord diagram. Then, you can get familiar with common open and moveable chord forms and create your own blues guitar style.

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How to Play an E Major Chord in the Guitar

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

The backbone of guitar playing is the basic chord, and learning how to play an E major chord is a great place to start. A chord is defined as the simultaneous sounding of three or more notes of different-named pitches. You can’t, however, just play any group of notes, like all six open strings — the notes must form a musically meaningful arrangement. To a guitarist, that means learning chord forms. To play the E chord, follow these steps:

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How to Test a Guitar Amp before You Buy

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

It is important to know how to test an electric guitar amplifier before you buy one to ensure that it meets your needs. When choosing an amp, you need to take several things into consideration, such as tone, distortion, features, and budget. Without testing it, you can't fully evaluate the sound that it creates. Before you buy it, you should plug in the amp and give it a try. You should inform the salesperson at your local music store that you intend to try the amp before you buy it. He or she may even make preparations for the impending noisiness. Many music stores have a separate room for just such high-volume noise-making. You'll need to check an amp's sound at varying volume levels, but try to keep the time when you're cranking out maximum decibels short.

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How to Tune Up a New Electric Guitar Amplifier

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

When you start working with an amplifier, you need to know how to tune it up properly so that when you play your guitar, you don't blow it out. Every amp is different, so you'll want to familiarize yourself with the various levels and controls of your new amplifier so that you get to know its unique quirks. Remember that different amps have different controls and front-panel arrangements, but there are some basics steps that are important to work out on every amp.

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Proper Slide Guitar Technique

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Slide guitar is physically easy in one sense — just drag a slide over the strings, and you can instantly hear the effect, right? However, proper slide guitar technique is not quite that simple. It can be difficult to control the sliding and keep the buzzing and rattling artifacts to a minimum.

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Playing Quintessential Blues on Slide Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Slide guitar may have become a stylistic choice over fretted guitar out of necessity by players who didn't have the skills or patience to fret the guitar and found it easy to slide a smooth, rounded object over the strings to achieve a similar effect. But for the greatest blues practitioners, such as Charlie Patton, Sylvester Weaver, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, and Robert Johnson, slide guitar was an unparalleled mode of expression evocative of the human voice as well as the wail of train whistles — a sound near and dear to country blues guitarists. But whatever its origin, slide guitar is a staple of the acoustic blues guitar sound unlikely to ever be imitated by synthetic, digital means. The tools that let you slide Early, rural-dwelling slide players used anything they could find to produce the slide effect. The edge of a pocket knife, a length of pipe, a section of bone from a ham or beef shank, and a medicine bottle were among some of the top "tools" used, but the most popular and effective was a broken bottle neck (which was filed or fired to eliminate the sharp edges). Because the bottle neck was probably the most popular, slide blues guitar is sometimes called bottleneck guitar. These days, you acquire your slippery weapon of choice by selecting from the pre-packaged slides in the display case at the music store. Metal and glass tubes are the two most common styles (though prepared bottlenecks are available, too) and come in various diameters to fit different-sized fingers. Metal slides, especially those made from brass, are heavier (they have more mass), bolder-sounding, and provide better sustain, but they're more difficult to master. Glass slides are light and have a rounder, mellower tone. Sliding technique Many Delta players combined slide technique with fretting, often playing the melodic portions with the slide while their fretting fingers played chordal figures or kept the bass line going. This technique dictated wearing the slide on the fourth finger (the pinky). Follow these steps to perfect your slide technique: 1. Slide an object like a glass or metal tube over a left-hand finger (usually the third or fourth). 2. Rest the slide on the strings (not pressed down), directly over the fret wire. Resting the slide on the strings and playing over the fret (instead of behind it as you do when fretting) takes a little finesse, but eventually, your intonation (the ability to play pitches in tune) and tone (the right pressure that produces rattle-free sustain) will improve. 3. Change pitch by gliding the slide along the string. This process produces a smooth, continuous change in pitch (sometimes called a glissando, or portamento, which is more correct). At first, your slide playing may sound clangy and rattly as you move the slide around. You can improve your sound by using one of two techniques: • Dampening (or muting), which involves placing your unused left-hand fingers lightly on the strings behind the slide (toward the nut) • Employing right-hand palm mutes Slide guitar is physically easy in one sense — you just drag a slide over the strings and instantly hear the effect, right? Well, it can be difficult to get sliding under control to play in tune and keep the accompanying buzzing and rattling artifacts to a minimum. Slide guitar doesn't require left-hand strength the way normal acoustic guitar playing does, but it does require finesse! Focus on intonation first, rhythm second, and dampening third.

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Playing the Blues Guitar: Acoustic Meets Electric

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Electric guitars came on the scene only in the late 1930s, and then only to those who could afford them. Thus, the acoustic guitar in blues had a long run, and the style continued even after the advent of the more-popular electric guitar. The acoustic guitar remained popular for other types of music (mainly folk and country), but for blues, the electric guitar was the instrument of choice from about 1940 on. Today, both acoustic and electric guitar blues exist. In fact, there are several sub-genres in each. Acoustic guitar includes Bottleneck or slide guitar Instrumental blues Singer-songwriter blues Electric blues has two huge offshoots: Traditional electric blues, as practiced today by Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King Blues rock, which was started in the 1960s by British electric guitarists and continues on through Eric Clapton and John Mayer Acoustic and electric guitars both produce great blues music, as will virtually any other type of guitar, whether it's an acoustic nylon-string classical or a purple metallic-flake solidbody with green lightning bolts. The blues is unrestricted when it comes to instruments. Today, acoustic and electric blues each offer a guitarist a world of history, repertoire, styles, instruments, techniques, and heroes to study and emulate. It's no longer a conflict of "go electric or be a front-porch picker," as it may have seemed in the late 1930s. Many players, Eric Clapton being a notable example, are excellent acoustic blues players and have paid tribute in concert and in recordings to their acoustic blues roots. Though you should always strive for the best guitar you can afford, be aware that blues guitarists — beginning with Robert Johnson — often played cheap instruments like Stellas, Kalamazoos, and Nationals. Hound Dog Taylor performed timeless slide classics on 1960s Japanese solidbody guitars. Sometimes the funkier the guitar, the funkier the blues can be.

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Stringing an Acoustic Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

One difference between changing guitar strings on and acoustic versus and electric guitar is that an acoustic uses removable bridge pins to hold the strings in place at the bridge. Bridge pins require a little more fiddling to get them to secure correctly to the string in place at the bridge. Take it slowly. If you think you haven't executed a step correctly, simply undo what you've done and start over. Nothing you do in stringing a guitar is permanent, even when you crease or coil a string in the process! After you remove the old strings and pull out the bridge pins, follow this process to restring your acoustic guitar: 1. Drop the ball end of the new string in the bridge hole and replace the pin. 2. Pull the new string until you feel the ball end come up against the bottom of the bridge pin. Tug on the string to make sure the pin doesn't pop out, but make sure not to crease the string as you grip it for tugging. 3. Insert the string end through the appropriate tuning-post hole. 4. Crease (or kink) the string at the top of the tuning-post hole toward the inside of the guitar (away from the tuning key). For the three lower (in pitch) strings, kink the string to the right as you face the guitar; for the three higher strings, kink to the left. 5. Turn the tuning key so the string wraps around the post. For the three lower strings, turn the tuning key so the posts rotate counterclockwise; for the three higher strings, the posts should rotate clockwise. Following this procedure ensures that the strings wrap from the middle of the neck over the top of the post and to the outside of the guitar (toward the tuning key). 6. As you turn the key and wind the string around the post, make sure that the string coils from the top of the post downward toward the headstock surface. The string may want to flop around as you start to coil the string, so use your other hand to control it. If you have too much string, you'll run out of room on the post before the string is tightened up to pitch. If that happens, simply loosen the string, pull a little more string through the post hole, re-kink the string, and begin the winding process again. 7. Keep turning the tuning key. As you do this, the coils around the post tighten, the slack in the string disappears, and the string begins to produce a recognizable musical pitch. Be sure that the string is inside the appropriate nut slot before the string becomes too taut to manipulate it further. 8. Bring the string up to the proper pitch by turning the tuning key slowly. 9. Clip away the excess string sticking out of the tuning post. Cut the wire as close to the tuning post as your wire cutters will reach so the point doesn't jab you in the finger! If you don't have wire cutters available, loop the excess string into a circle or break the string by repeatedly bending the string back and forth across the crease. New strings will continue to stretch (causing them to go flat) even after you tune them up to pitch. To help get the stretchiness out of the string, pull on the string gently but firmly, bringing it directly above the fingerboard, and then tune the string up to pitch by turning the key. After each pull, the string will be flat (under pitch), so repeat the process of pulling the string with your fingers and tuning up until the string no longer goes flat after you pull it. You may have to do this three or four times, but the whole procedure shouldn't take more than a couple minutes.

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Switching Out Guitar Strings

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Playing the guitar can be a sweaty, muscular, gritty activity — if you're doing it correctly, that is. And while your guitar can handle pretty much any abuse you deliver (within reason), your strings aren't so hardy. Through repeated contact with hands and fingers, guitar strings lose their tone and won't play in tune; they also wear out and eventually may break. Because of the repetitive use, you eventually have to change them, so do it regularly. Just like changing the oil in your car, it's almost impossible to overdo it. Knowing when to change your guitar strings You may need to change your guitar's strings in many different situations: A string breaks, providing a jolting reminder that all the strings may need changing. The strings sound dull and lifeless; they may even look dull. The strings no longer play in tune, exhibiting evidence that they've lost their flexibility. If you break a string while playing, you need to replace at least one of the strings (the broken one, naturally) immediately. But you should also change all your strings (the entire set of six) every two to three months to keep the strings fresh — that is, in tune and able to produce a bright, lively tone. No matter how gentle you are on the strings, the tone of your guitar isn't what it used to be after several months of constant playing, biochemical assaults from your fingers, and environmental changes. One sure-fire way to determine whether you need to change the strings? If you can't remember the last time you changed them, then it's definitely time! Choosing the right guitar strings Chances are, when you bought your guitar, it had the right type of strings attached. So hopefully, if you bought an electric guitar, it came with strings designed for an electric guitar in the appropriate gauge. But, just so you know what you're looking for when you want to replace your current strings (or if you want to experiment with different types of strings), consider the following list when making your string-changing decisions: The gauge of a string is its thickness and determines how easy the string is to fret and bend. Fretting involves pushing the string down onto the fretboard with your fingers. Bending is the act of pushing or pulling the strings sideways across the fretboard, which raises the pitch of the note. The fretboard is the top of the neck of the guitar — the part where the frets protrude and where your fingers press the strings when fretting. Higher-numbered gauges (or heavier gauges, as guitarists call them) are stiffer and provide more resistance, but they also hold their tuning and tone better and wear out less quickly than lighter-gauge strings. Striking a balance among playing comfort, string performance, and longevity is important. Here are a few tidbits to keep in mind when you're choosing your strings: Blues guitarists like their guitars set up with strings that fight back. This give and take allows the guitarist to really dig into the strings. Rock guitars, on the other hand, may use lighter-gauge strings because the light ones facilitate super-fast playing and extreme string bending. The more experienced you are as a player, the better you are at managing heavier gauges. But that doesn't mean you necessarily prefer them. Many guitarists go strictly for playability and comfort and put ultra-light-gauge strings on their guitars and then just get used to changing out the strings a lot. In the end, the choice of string gauge is completely up to the player's individual preference.

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Examining Different Types of Electric Guitar Amps

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

There are many things to consider when choosing among amp styles for electric guitar. The type of amp is defined by the sound-producing technology it uses, and the technology used affects the way your music sounds. So when shopping for an amp, you should be aware of what’s under the hood. Tube amps Vacuum tubes are the big, glass cylinders in amps that glow orange and get hot the more they’re used. Playing through tubes makes you believe the amp is playing along with you — that it feels your notes as you do. Some potential drawbacks of tube amps include Cost: Tube amps tend to be more expensive. Weight: Tube amps are heavy. Burn out: Tube amps tend to burn out more often and need more maintenance. Replacement parts: You might have to hunt far and wide to find new tubes. Although tube technology is old and virtually obsolete, except in amp design, you simply can’t beat it for producing dynamic, musically responsive tone. A tube amp. Solid-state amps One budget-conscious amp choice is the solid-state amp. This amp style uses transistors and printed circuit boards in its technology. This is the most popular type of amp, and many performers actually prefer its tone — including the distorted sound. Solid-state amps are also light, reliable, consistent, inexpensive, and provide a wide range of tonal and effects possibilities. Solid-state amps are the most inexpensive and popular amp style. Hybrid amps A hybrid amp combines both tube and solid-state circuitry. In a hybrid amp, the preamp uses a tube to create the initial sound, and the power amp uses solid-state circuitry to drive the speakers. This method uses the tube where it has the most effect on the sound. This is a great for both your wallet and your biceps! The Marshall Valvestate series uses hybrid technology. Digital-modeling amps For tubeless amps, which are cheaper and often lighter, you can also choose digital-modeling amps, which use computer modeling to create their sounds. Digital amps have a wealth of effects and flexibility associated with them. Modeling technology has the advantage of being able to imitate sounds, so modeling amps can emulate a tube-amp sound quite convincingly. Line 6 Flextone series amps use digital modeling technology.

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