If your goal as a blues guitarist is to get on stage with the band more, chances are you will be filling a couple different roles. That is, you probably won’t just be the only guitar player, so you’ll be playing rhythm quite a bit! So, what happens when you need to comp for other instrumentalists as they take solos?
In his course, Two Guitar Blues Grooves, Jeff McErlain walks you through 10 commonly used blues tunes, and how to approach playing rhythm if you are one of two guitar players!
Here are 12 free blues rhythm guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Jeff McErlain’s Two Guitar Blues Grooves on TrueFire!
Stormy Days: Overview
Ah, “Stormy Monday”, a blues classic and one of the first “jazzed up” blues I ever learned. The changes still boil down to a standard 12-bar blues but with some added chords. By adding the chords, we’re “jazzing it up”. That’s where that term comes from. Many jazz standards like “Bye Bye Black Bird” were old songs that jazz musicians added more chords to to make the harmony more complex. Jazzed up.
Stormy Days Part 1: Performance
The original “Stormy Monday” is from T-Bone Walker, but I think the one that most of us now is from the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East. I suggest listening to both versions, although the Allman Brothers borrowed heavily from T-Bone. At Fillmore East is an essential record for any blues and blues rock musician to have. The band was heavily steeped in classic blues yet updated it with their own feel and approach. I highly suggest getting this record if you don’t already have it.
Stormy Days Part 1: Breakdown
Some of these chord may take a little while to get under your fingers, and that’s okay, as you’ll be using them a lot. We can also use some of these chord changes in other blues tunes, and you’ll see that as you start to progress more into the genre. This particular chord progression on a blues will always be heard as “Stormy Monday”, so we could say, “Let’s play ‘Red House’ but with the ‘Stormy Monday’ changes.” I’m not sure why we would want to do that, as it will always sound like “Stormy” with these changes.
Stormy Days Part 2: Performance
We have some cool sliding 6ths here that we can steal and use all over the place and I highly suggest you do! If you look, you can see that the 6ths are actually contained in each chord voicing, so we’re actually just playing partials of each chord. This is really effective, as they outline the chords exactly and compliment the primary guitar part.
Stormy Days Part 2: Breakdown
This is a great tune to work on playing with your fingers and/or pick and fingers. As you can see in the video, I do this quite a bit. It’s an essential technique that really opens up the instrument to different tambours and possibilities. I like it as it allows us to function a bit more like a piano player in how we can separate the notes a bit, and it also produces a different attack.
Stormy Days Duo View: Playalong
Let’s put the two together! What I’m playing here was almost totally informed by T-Bone Walker and the Allman Brothers, so I would have you listen to those two versions of the song. The Allman Brothers version is a great example of how two guitar player can play together in a band and give each other plenty of space and how they work together. They also had a keyboard player…
I’ve Got The Key: Overview
“Key to the Highway” is a classic 8-bar blues, so let’s take a look at it. The first version I heard was on the Layla record from Derek and the Dominos, and shortly after that, I heard the Little Walter version that I much prefer. The song has been recorded countless times and is a must know
I’ve Got The Key Part 1: Performance
Guitar 1 on “Key” is a variation on the basic boogie-woogie pattern we first learn on the guitar. The form is essential to have memorized because it’s not a standard 12-bar pattern. Like a standard blues, we really have to have the form committed to memory, not counting bars, just knowing where the changes are. A great way to do this is to listen to the song while away from the instrument.
I’ve Got The Key Part 1: Breakdown
On this part, we can see we have a cool mix of the boogie-woogie pattern to set the feel of the tune, and we’re also mixing in some arpeggiated chords. Another song that comes to mind that does this is Cream’s version of “Crossroads”. This is a cool approach to try as it breaks up the standard boogie pattern. You can experiment with playing all arpeggiated chords, all boogie-woogie, or both.
I’ve Got The Key Part 2: Performance
The idea with the second guitar part on “Key” is simplicity. I’m just playing the chords at first with very little ornamentation. Sometimes that’s the best route — playing simple. As I progress, I add in some 6ths and changed register to move it along. Again, I would normally pace that out a bit more, and a good rule of thumb is to play each chorus of the blues twice before changing ideas.
I’ve Got The Key Part 2: Breakdown
Here’s a good spot to try out some different fingerings for each chord and experiment. Break the neck up into three sections: low, middle, and high. This is a good way to think about how to approach a song: Start off low, then move to the middle, then go up high, then move back down again. High, middle, and low. It’s a cool way to discover different registers on the guitar and hear new things.
I’ve Got The Key Duo View: Playalong
Let’s put these dudes together like peanut butter and chocolate! Good stuff, right? I know this is a two guitar course, but experiment with mixing both these parts together, too. It’ll work! Some boogie-woogie, some chords, etc. Peanut butter and chocolate, baby!
Digging these free blues rhythm guitar lessons? Check out Jeff McErlain’s Two Guitar Blues Grooves.