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A Simple Trick to Sound More Bluesy

Blues guitar is not fun–said no one, ever. The truth is, blues has a special place in many of our hearts, because the majority of us began our guitar journey the same way. We learned a couple of blues progressions and got acquainted with the minor pentatonic scale (at the expense of our parents’ ears). For most players, this is all we’ll ever need.

After all, some of the greatest blues guitar players to ever shred the earth knew hardly more than the most standard blues scales, yet they proved the mileage you can get out of a series of only five or six notes on the guitar neck.

Yes, blues guitar is timeless, and while the note choices in the genre can be sparing, the mastery of various techniques and articulations is what transforms a seemingly boring group of notes into a melodic statement that resonates with us all.

In this lesson, I’ll demonstrate one of those classic techniques. Reminiscent of a double-stop move, this technique takes a bit of precision and finger tone to pull off effectively. To set the stage, we’ll start with a basic blues lick in EXAMPLE 1.

Nothing special about that, right? You’re probably thinking, “What kind of crap is Guitar World putting out these days? I learned this kind of lick when I was 12! Give me something I can use!” Never fear, the simple blues trick is here. Continue to EXAMPLE2.

That’s more like it, huh? As you hear, the addition of a pedal tone ringing throughout the otherwise uninteresting lick from EXAMPLE1 produces an entirely new feeling around the sound.

Proper execution of this lick requires strong finger dexterity as you should bar your finger along the fifth fret while simultaneously plucking each line of the phrase. If playing with your fingers, your thumb should be playing the original lick on the thicker strings while your middle finger attacks the high E string at the same time. If using a pick, I’d recommend using your ring finger for the ringing E string.

This technique will morph your single line blues phrases into new tools for your bluesy tool belt, which is good news, because unlike the real world, where tools are usually used for fixing things, guitar tools like this are used for making new things.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.