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  • Christian J. Triola

The Basic Blues Riff Every Guitar Player Should Know

In this beginner level lesson, I’ll show you how to get started playing a blues riff that is the basis for a countless number of songs, spanning a wide variety of genres.

Get the PDF here:

The blues is at the heart of most modern music, from rock, to jazz, to hip-hop. And what instrument made the blues what it is? The guitar. Therefore, knowing how to play the blues is essential learning for every guitar player, regardless of their favorite genre. In some ways, it could be argued that the guitar was built to play the blues.

This riff or chord sequence toggles back and forth between chords, giving the blues a feeling of forward motion. You’ve likely heard this riff at some point. It’s found in early rock n’ roll, rockabilly, Led Zeppelin used in their song “Rock n’ Roll,” and you’ll find it used many times by ZZ Top. And of course the Beatles made good use of it as well.

For our purposes, the example in the video is in the key of A. Therefore you’ll toggle among the following chords: A5 to A6; D5 to D6; and E5 to E6. In this case each chord is only two notes. The A5 for example is made up of the notes A and E. The A6 is made up of A and F#.

When you strum the chords, you’ll want to play an eighth note shuffle feel. (Also called swing eighth notes.) And this constant eighth note pattern is consistent throughout the entire riff.

The best way to learn it is to hear it, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the video. Otherwise, download the PDF and get to practicing.

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