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How to start playing blues on guitar?

How to play blues guitar

These essential tips and exercises will get you started on your blues journey. Playing blues from the beginning of your learning process will allow you to improve your rhythmic and solos, improvise easily, and discover new techniques. Get 7 days of free access to the interactive scores in the new Play Guitar Hits application to practice the Muddy Waters song.

For this study, we will look at the song Hoochie Coochie Man which is one of the most influential blues standards. It was composed in 1954 by Willy Dixon and performed by one of the most influential electric blues guitarists, Muddy Waters.

The tablatures of this song are available in the Play Guitar Hits application.

With Play Guitar Hits, you can learn to play your favorite songs on the guitar thanks to interactive scores synchronized with multi-angle videos.

In addition, you will find lessons and masterclasses of famous guitarists such as Joe Duplantier from Gojira, Oz Noy, Julien Bitoun, Eric Legaud from Galagomusic, Gareth Evans, and Florent Elter.

Play Guitar Hits is a fun and efficient method that will allow you to progress more easily and at your own pace.

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One of the particularities of the blues is that it is interpreted in ternary. The ternary being the division of the time by 3.

Its writing is most often transcribed in 12/8. This time signature brings the movement called swing, or groove, which brings a swaying feeling to the music.

The blues will most often be played at a slow tempo.

In this article, we will develop two rhythmic approaches as well as a blues solo study for electric guitar.

The first lesson will show a simple rhythmic pattern for beginners, the second lesson will show the original riff of the song, and the third lesson will be a solo in an electric blues spirit.

1. Blues rhythm – beginner
2. Muddy Waters blues riff – easy
3. Blues solo – hard
4. How to access the scores?
5. The author

1. Blues rhythm – beginner

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This song is perfect for guitar beginners. It’s divided into four parts:

In the first part, you will learn about right-hand control.

This technique allows you to mute the sound in order to indicate the rests. After having played your chord, you will just have to use the palm of the right hand that you will put without pressing too much on the strings in order to mute the sound.

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– In the second part, you will be able to practice the chord changes.
You’ll have to be careful to coordinate the two hands to find and play these 2 strings chords. Don’t hesitate to slow down the tempo and anticipate the chord changes before the first beat of the next chord.

– In the third part, you will approach the traditional structure of the blues. It is composed of three chords spread over a twelve-bar structure.

The chords for this blues are composed of an A7, a D7, and an E7 on a key of A major.

Like the second part, if you have difficulty with the chord changes, you can split up and slow down this part. For example, play the first and second bars at 50% of the tempo.

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– The fourth part shows the end of the song. You will practice it in the same way as the first part as far as chord changes and left-hand control are concerned.

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Once you have mastered all the parts, you can play the whole song.

I advise you to play it first by leaving it, and as soon as you feel comfortable, you can change the guitar track in the application Play Guitar Hits:


2. Muddy Waters’ blues riff – easy

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In this easy to learn intermediate-level course, you’ll find:

– in the first part is developed the main riff of the song which is one of the first famous guitar riffs of history!

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This part includes the left-hand control technique. I advise you to follow the upstrokes and downstrokes of the pick that are shown in the Play Guitar Hits application.

– in the second part you will learn the traditional blues rhythm with the alternation of fifth and sixth on the basis of a power chord. The technique used to play this rhythm is the palm mute technique. The palm mute has the action of muting the sound. Position your right palm at the junction of the bridge and the string. Be careful not to mute the sound too much.

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– in the third part, (as in part three of course 1), the traditional twelve-bar blues structure is developed, which you will find in most blues songs.

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Click on the logo to download the Guitar Pro 7.5 file

– part four proposes a traditional ending that concludes the song with a turnaround on the chords:
E7 and A7.



3. Blues solo – difficult

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For this third course, we focus on developing a solo in a pure blues spirit. It’s composed in the style of the greatest bluesmen: Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The sound used is a crunch sound that is slightly distorted.

The elements used to build this solo are the pentatonic scale of A minor and A major as well as the arpeggios from the A7, D7, and E7 chords.

Many left-hand techniques are used here: the hammer-on, the pull-off, the slide, and 2 effects that are very important in this aesthetic which are the left-hand vibrato and the bend. They will bring in the phrasing all the expressiveness to the blues playing.

The Bend is an effect that consists of pulling the strings, either upwards for the G, B, and E strings, or downwards for the E, A, and D strings, from a starting note to a finishing note, usually separated by a tone or a semitone.

The left-hand vibrato is an effect allowing to modulate slightly the pitch of the note by a light wavy movement of the left hand, to make this note more expressive.

The chicken picking is used here, it consists of using both the pick and the middle and ring fingers of the right hand.

Feeling what you play is the most important aspect when playing blues. Don’t forget that the guitar is an extension of your voice. To improve your phrasing, I suggest you sing the solo as you play it.

I also recommend that you pick up some of the licks that you like in order to expand your vocabulary and incorporate them into your playing.

Grab your guitar and have fun!

4. How to access the scores?

  1. Download the Play guitar Hits application on Android in Google Play or on iOS in the App Store or Mac App Store.
  2. Launch the application and write “Muddy” in search.
  3. Lessons number (1) and (2) are free.
    Lesson number (3) is not free but you can activate the 7-day free trial to access it.

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5. The author

Florent Elter has been teaching guitar for over 20 years. Professional guitarist, arranger, composer, and performer he is also the artistic director of Play Guitar Hits.


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2 comments
  1. Thomas Duflos - May 11, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Hi, thanks a lot for your feedback.

  2. rb soulman - May 8, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    seems like a good app.
    too bad it doesn’t work on computers.

    it only seems to work on little screens.
    i prefer to work on LARGE screens.
    easier on the eyes.

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