🎸Blues Guitar 101

Let’s have a little fun this week.

Blues had a baby and she named it rock and roll.

It’s the first thing I ever learned on guitar.

If you are into rock, country, jazz, R&B, Pop, etc., the roots can be traced, at least in part, to blues.

It is so much fun to play!

I have a short Blues series on my You Tube channel. Here is one to start with.

It is a form of 16 bar blues, the first thing that I learned.

Check out the video and have fun!

Blues 101 – 16 Bar Blues

Rock on until the next time!

My Problem With This Instructional Video

I want to begin by saying that this is a very good instructional video that I saw on Guitar World’s Blog. He covers some really good, simple techniques for working on some basic bluesy riffs that involve bending the strings. In this video he specifically covers bending the 2nd (B) string to the 1st (E) string. If you are trying to get this stuff down please do check it out. He does a great job breaking it down.

HOWEVER, there is a BIG caveat to my recommendation. (I’m sure you were wondering where the “beef” part was coming from!). I want to direct you to around 7:50 into the video and the riff he shows you. Watch it, then come back…

Guitar World Instructional Video

Ok, so let’s look at our left hand. Go ahead. Now, assuming you weren’t the victim of an accident or have a birth defect (I almost lost part of my left ring finger when I was 13, it was obviously saved), you should have FOUR fingers plus your thumb. My question is this, if you were playing an instrument like this, wouldn’t you want to use ALL of them or at least make the attempt? I mean, think of how much more you can do? Or, how much easier it would be to play certain riffs?

There are a number of guitar players, and many are bonified skilled pros, who don’t use that little finger when playing leads (Alex Lifeson and Michael Schenker come to mind right away and I love both of their playing). Whatever method they learned the guitar, it seemed to work for them quite well. But please do remember, you aren’t them and don’t possess their skills. You want to develop your own. I do know that there are many more greats who do use that finger.

As another analogy: you could go see some blues players who are left handed who simply turned the guitar upside down and learned that way because the supply of left handed guitars was non-existent to them – or scarce at best. They had to figure it out on their own in the only way they could; given their circumstances – whatever they were. Now, as a teacher, would you really teach a student how to play guitar that way? My guess is that you would encourage them to learn righty (I have done that successfully to some students, my brother is one) or to search and purchase an actual left handed guitar. The availability is better these days.

My thinking is the same regarding using the left hand pinky when playing leads. Let’s start off that way right from the beginning and open up the possibilities! Yes, I show those leads on the video utilizing the left pinky on the 1st (E) string. There is so much less unecessary movement. The notes are played in a much more fluid manner. It goes like this:

My Video

One great way to work on this is to use the chromatic scale. It’s one of the first scales I teach beginners and I personally still use variations on the scale as a warmup to this day. It utilizes the “one finger per fret” idea. Now, the scale has many other uses to work on technique (that’s for another post!), but the point of this exercise is to use ALL of the fingers, including that elusive pinky finger.

Here is an instructional video I send to my students:

Chromatic Scale

And the TAB:

Chromatic Scale TAB

Make those fingers work for you!

Take care and rock on!

Tony G.

Choosing the Right Guitar Pick

“What kind of guitar pick should I use”?

I get asked this a lot. And the answer is almost always:

“whatever works for you”

I know, not much of a help there, but at the end of the day it does come down to personal preference.

Regardless, give some thought on what kind of pick to use. It might just help you a little more with your playing.

What I can offer are the following thoughts and suggestions:

If you are primarily a strummer on acoustic, you might want to go with a lighter pick. It doesn’t offer that much pick/string resistance as you strum. It makes for an easy movement across the strings.

If you do a lot of single note picking, especially soloing, you might want to look at heavier picks. This would mostly be for electric players but it can also be for acoustic players too.

And if you do a lot of both, like me, you might want to find something in between.

Here is a good starter set to purchase for $4 where you can find what you like. It’s a variety pack from Dunlop (a brand I favor):

Variety Pack

I use Dunlop Tortex picks in the following way:

.88mm for my electric

.6mm for my acoustic. I should note that because I strum and pick a lot, this is a good “hybrid” for acoustic. Sometimes, if I am only picking notes on acoustic, I’ll grab the .88mm for that song, then switch to .6mm for the next song. I really don’t use the light picks because of my style of playing. But, it might be good for you.

Here are some ideas for light picks:

.46mm Tortex

Dunlop Nylons

Fender Thins

For electric players who do a lot of single note picking and/or soloing, this is a long time favorite of many players (including me):

Fender Medium

Hopefully you get the idea. I think the best way is to simply try a bunch yourself and see what works best.

And as always, I’m here to help to!

I hope this helps make you more successful in your playing!

Rock On,


PS: I just made my TOP 10 Favorite Alex Lifeson Riffs Video taken from his huge catalog of Rush songs. It was a lot of fun to make! Let me know what you think: Best Rush Songs on Guitar

PPS: I’m also on a roll creating some CRAZY 30-60 sec guitar solos using some exotic scales. It sounds pretty cool:

Hungarian Gypsy Minor in F

Hindustan Scale in G

PPPS: Oh and hey, can you do me a favor? I’m starting a mission to grow my You Tube Subscribers to more than 22 (Ha!). No, seriously, if you can quickly hop over there and “Subscribe”, it would be so very awesome!

I promise that the videos (most of them at least) will be entertaining and/or informative!

Here is the path to arrive there:

6 String Corner


Want to know the 4 Techniques to help you play your favorite songs? Get the eGuide here: Chronic Chord Condition