I’ve been a blues musician for over 20 years, and have loved and played blues guitar for far longer than that. I’d like to share my love for the blues and also what I’ve learned over the years.
But this website won’t be just about the past. It will also be about today’s blues and blues guitarists. The blues is alive and well and a new crop of great blues musicians is coming up and playing the blues with a passion.
What Is The Blues?
Blues music has been around for over 100 years. Some would argue even longer. It’s popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years, but even when it wasn’t part of “popular” music it was always being played somewhere by someone who “had that blues feeling” and just had to find a way to express it… usually with a guitar.
There will always be someone somewhere who has the blues and needs to hear it, play it, and learn more about it.
And because the blues is an integral part of many other types of music, like rock and jazz, it will always be changing, growing and evolving. It will take on different personas and add new feels and grooves as it moves forward. Just like it has for over 100 years.
And to try and pin the blues down to one style, or one founder, or even one starting point, is really impossible. It’s changed and evolved to the point that “the blues” can mean something different to everyone.
But whatever type of blues YOU like, the more you investigate it the more you’ll find that it’s a deep river of styles, players, and sounds that are as alive and changing. The moment you say “I only like Chicago blues” is when someone will turn you on to New Orleans style, or West Coast blues, and a whole new vein of the blues opens up to you… and you’re hooked in a brand new way.
To try and say the blues is this… or that… is useless. It’s many things to many people. And if you really love the blues, and you keep an open mind, the blues will repay you with never-ending source of joy and inspiration, both as a musician and as a music lover.
The Guitar Has Always Been A Part Of The Blues
Try to imagine a blues song without guitar. It’s very hard. The guitar has always been there. Usually as the driving force behind the music.
Because the guitar was made for the blues. It’s range of expression is integral to the feeling that is the blues. The sound it makes is practically the sound of the blues. We’ll talk more about why that’s the case on other pages but there is a reason.
Also the guitar was one of the cheapest instruments someone could buy. Thanks to Sears Roebucks and their catalogs, poor share croppers in Mississippi could get their hands on a guitar at a reasonable price. Those early Stella guitars you see in old blues pictures were a big part of growing the blues.
Plus the guitar traveled well. Most of the early blues musicians traveled all around the south. They could hop a freight with their duffel bag in one hand and their guitar in the other. And that’s one of the ways the blues spread all over the south and then the country,
And when guitars became electrified, electric guitar took the blues into many different directions. New sounds from the guitar become the new sounds of the blues. Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all define the blues through their distinctive guitar sounds.
In fact, the sound of blues guitar is as integral to what makes the blues what it is, that to separate the sound of blues guitar from what makes a blues song great is like taking the spice out of a New Orleans gumbo… it just wouldn’t be the same.
You can identify B.B. King with just one note. There’s a reason for that. And we’ll try to identify that reason and help you understand it.
Learn To Play Blues Guitar
Exactly what makes a great blues guitarist. That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out since I started playing guitar in 1969. I’ve narrowed it down to three things… tone, taste, and technique.
- That great guitar tone that seems to come from someplace other than just the guitar and the amp.
- The taste it takes to know what to play… and what not to play.
- The technique required to play the blues authentically and with the right emotion. Technique comes last for a reason.
Once you get these three factors you’re on your way to being a great blues guitar player. Then you’ll be able to move people and inspire them to love the blues too.
And if you want to learn to play blues guitar we’re here to help. We’ll be giving you lots of free lessons through our videos on how to play not only beginner blues but more advanced styles as well.
But learning to play the blues is about more than just learning to play guitar. Blues music played by a band has certain structure and each instruments has a part to play. We’ll also be talking about how to play those parts and why certain bands know how to “play it right” while others are missing it and just don’t make it. In other words we’ll teach you how to not only be a blues guitarist but also a blues musician… playing the song not just guitar. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t play.
And the blues continues to evolve. With many great new and old blues guitarists out there, you always have a source of new things to hear and learn. There’s nothing like discovering an old (or new) blues musician and getting inspired to play in a whole new way, whether it’s a new lick, or a new tuning, or just a new rhythmic groove that has that special feel.
Even after 40 years of playing guitar and the blues, I still find new things to learn, and new musicians to inspire me, and new inspiration to help me “play it right.” Not that there is any one right way, but the deeper you go into the blues the more you realize that the early masters did it right, and no matter how much we try, it’s hard to improve on what they did. We may never be able to match them, but it sure is fun trying. It’s can be a life’s work… or more accurately a life’s joy to learn to play blues guitar,
I hope you enjoy my website. Think of it as a source of inspiration and place to come to hear and learn something new about blues guitar. Learning the blues is a journey. Some things you may not be ready for just yet. But keep at it… you will be. And the blues will grow inside you like a fine wine that only gets better with age.
And if you have any comments or suggestions, they are always welcome.
Rick “Honeyboy” Hart