You are currently viewing The Only Acoustic Blues Guitar Guide You Ever Need to Read

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

First, let’s start with 12 bar chord progression and learn 15 chor….NEVER start like this. Acoustic blues guitar is much simpler and always should be when starting out. You want to sound good as soon as possible after all?

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).

The Soul of Acoustic Blues

If you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the Delta resonating through your bones or found yourself tapping your foot to a rhythm that feels as old as time, you’re not alone. The acoustic blues guitar is a storytelling tool, a way to carry on a legacy, and let’s face it, a pretty cool party trick to impress your buddies.

If you don’t have an acoustic guitar yet, check this: Best acoustic guitars for blues.

Roots and Reverberations

The acoustic blues has its roots firmly planted in the rich soil of the Mississippi Delta, where storytelling and soulful melodies first intertwined. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s got more history than that dusty bottle of bourbon you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

Excellent example of acoustic delta blues:

YouTube video

Now, don’t get it twisted—playing the blues isn’t about being a downer. It’s about expressing the full spectrum of human emotions, and trust me, there’s a lot to unpack there.

A One-Man Symphony

Here’s a fun fact: the acoustic blues guitar can make you sound like a whole band all by yourself. Robert Johnson, the legendary bluesman, had a playing style that sounded like several guitarists jamming together when it was just him and his six strings.

Don’t believe me? Check this:

YouTube video

What’s the secret sauce, you ask? Fingerstyle and correct use of the thumb, my friend.

This technique has your thumb grooving on the bass line while your other fingers dance on the chords and lead lines, creating a rich, layered sound. And if you want to really get that authentic blues vibe, throw on a thumb pick to pluck the root of those chords.

Now, try this. You do not need anything else. Go through chords plucking rhythm with thumb and hitting other strings with your other fingers. This is your first mission.

I hope you get that we are onto something here. In the real core of the acoustic blues. When you master this, the 20% that makes more than 80% the results in acoustic blues, you will maze yourself and others. Let’s dive deeper…

Techniques That Talk

In the world of acoustic blues guitar, it’s not just about what you play, it’s about how you play it. Let’s dive into the techniques that’ll make your guitar sing the blues so authentically, folks will think you traded something at the crossroads.

Before we continue. If you are ambitious and really want to know the stuff you are learning, I believe that you can’t invest 10 minutes better than watching this video to capture the true essence of acoustic blues. Yes, this video is even better than the article you are just reading:

YouTube video

Fingerstyle Fundamentals

Alright, you’ve got your trusty six-string, a pick that’s probably seen better days, and fingers that are itching for a bluesy challenge. You already experimented a little…

My friend, it’s time to ditch that pick and get those fingers dancing with some fingerstyle fundamentals. This isn’t just some hoity-toity classical guitar technique; it’s the bread and butter of acoustic blues guitar.

Each finger has a role to play, and like a well-oiled machine, they work together to create that rich, polyphonic melody that’ll have your dog howling in harmony.

But. This doesn’t have to be hard. That’s why I have a real treat for you…

The best first fingerstyle blues lick you should learn:

YouTube video

Now, if you’re just starting out and your fingers are as coordinated as a newborn giraffe, fear not! Start slow. Practice. Maybe use some simple blues guitar scales and experiment. That’s how you make progress.

(Go on and learn that like I just shared if you didn’t already).

Slide Guitar Sizzle Basics

If you’re ready to add some sizzle to your acoustic blues, it’s time to get sliding! Slide guitar is like the hot sauce of blues music – a little goes a long way, and it can really crank up the intensity of your sound. You’ll need a slide, which can be glass, ceramic, or metal, and a whole lotta attitude.

Find our choices for the best acoustic guitar slides here.

If you want to gasp the basics, there’s no better way than to check this (you do not need to watch more than 50sec to get the idea and sound more bluesy than 90% of the players):

YouTube video

The slide lets you weep, wail, and whisper all with a flick of your wrist. This technique is about making that guitar cry out the blues in a way no other instrument can.

So pick your poison..I mean slide and start playing. Around here,we give the basics, you take action and experiment a lot.

Slide MaterialSound Characteristic
GlassSmooth, Mellow
CeramicMiddle ground
MetalBright, Edgy

The Thumb Pick: A Blues Staple

The thumb pick is the unsung hero of the acoustic blues world, turning your thumb into a bona fide bass machine.

Thumb picks come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, each offering a different feel and sound. They’re kinda like those fancy running shoes you’ve got – some give you more grip, while others are all about that sleek look. The key is to find one that fits snugly on your thumb and doesn’t take a dive mid-performance.

displays plastic Thumb pick
Plastic thumb pick is a good place to start.
Thumb Pick MaterialSound Quality
PlasticBright, snappy
CelluloidWarm, vintage
MetalSharp, clear

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge and a thumb pick that’s as essential as your morning protein shake, you’re ready to groove.

What should I play you might ask? Well the same stuff you have already played without a thumb pick! Now you will just sound cooler.

Learning from Legends

Channel the spirits of the Delta masters and contemporary blues maestros into your fingertips? Let’s get started.

Tales of the Delta Masters

First up, let’s pay homage to the original gangsters of blues. These are the guys who could make a single guitar weep like a willow or stomp like a freight train. You know the names:

  • Robert Johnson, with his hellhound-on-his-trail legend and a playing style so complex it sounded like he had an extra pair of hands.
  • Then there’s Blind Willie McTell, who could make his twelve-string guitar sing the sorrows and joys of life with just a slide and his soulful voice.

What made these Delta masters stand out wasn’t just their ability to belt out a tune; it was their uncanny skill to create a full-band sound with nothing but an acoustic guitar and their voices. You could close your eyes and swear there was more than one person playing. Their music wasn’t just notes strung together; it was raw emotion, storytelling, and rhythm all rolled into one.

Listen to these guys. Watch their performances. Learn their songs. Play along. That’s how you get the blues.

Contemporary Blues Maestros

Now, don’t think acoustic blues is all about dusty records and black-and-white photos. The torch has been passed to some incredible contemporary blues artists who keep the genre fresh while staying true to its roots.

Take Keb’ Mo’, the modern-day bluesman with a voice as smooth as your favorite single malt. He’s a storyteller who weaves together the old and the new, making his guitar sing with a mix of impossible-to-forget melodies.

Check Keb’ Mo’:

YouTube video

Contemporary blues is about taking the tradition and adding your own spin, much like Gary Clark Jr., Taj Mahal, and the legendary Bonnie Raitt have done. They’ve taken the essence of acoustic blues and peppered it with folk, soul, and even rock influences. What’s cool is that they still honor the age-old techniques of finger-picking and slides, giving you the perfect blend of past and present.

So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned strummer, learning from these legends is like getting a masterclass in heart, hustle, and the art of acoustic blues guitar.

Strumming the Right Bluesy Chords

Before you can run, you’ve got to walk—and before you can improvise, you need to know a couple of blues chords like the back of your hand.

Burn this chord into your brain, The Almighty E7:

displays how E7 chord is played on guitar

Play it. Fingerstyle it. It’s the thing in blues when it comes to chords.

Learn all the other essential stuff about blues guitar chords here (you will be surprised how little you need to know).

How transform into a Party Jukebox everyone Admires in 5 days?

Beyond the Basics

You’ve been strumming those bluesy chords and bending strings like you were born in the Delta, but now it’s time to kick it up a notch. If you’re ready to dive deeper into your acoustic blues guitar journey and stand out from the crowd, you’re in the right place.

Master the oxygen of blues improvisation, blues guitar scales here.

Advanced Techniques

Roll up your sleeves, because things are about to get technical. Advanced techniques in blues guitar aren’t just about showing off; they’re about expressing those deep, soulful feelings you can’t quite put into words.

For starters, let’s talk about the fingerstyle method. As you know, acoustic blues involves juggling a bass line and lead elements simultaneously, and you’ve got that down pat, right?

Now, imagine doing that while throwing in some intricate fingerpicking patterns that would make Robert Johnson tip his hat. It’s all about coordination – your thumb’s thumping out the bass line while your fingers are dancing over the chords and lead lines.

You do not need a tutorial from me to advance in blues fingerpicking. You can either experiment yourself or find a tutorial online. I just wanted to let you know there’s a new level and you should have a goal of reaching that.

1 last kind of advanced technique for you…add percussive elements into your blues.

The best place to start is your thumb. Pluck the strings for rhythm and try hitting the body of the guitar as well. Experiment. Once you are able to add smooth percussive rhythm to your blues playing…hats off.

Conclusion

You know what you just did? While others delay learning the blues because they think it’s hard and there’s so much to learn…you just went through all the basics and can play the blues (if you implement). Congratz and respect. You did something most men won’t do. You are my kind of guy. See ya.

Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
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