Understanding the 12 Bar Blues on Guitar

February 26th, 2010

The 12 bar blues in the most basic form aren’t difficult. Sure some of the great blues guitar players use a lot of technique, but in the basic form any beginner can understand the theory behind it. In this beginner lesson I’m going to show you how to find the chords that go into making up a 12 bar blues progression, the pattern and way to play those chords and also a couple of tips on where to find the chords on the neck.

So before you can start playing anything you need to know what chords you’re going to be putting together. Since the 12 bar blues is a simple pattern you can learn it’s easy for you to determine what chords you must play in a given key.

You need to find the first, fourth and fifth notes that are in the scale for the given key you want to play in. If you know your scales well then this won’t be a problem, if you’re a little rusty on this no problem the net has all the resources you need. The first note is just that the first note in the scale and so on each note counts up one as you go down the line.

Once you’ve figured out which notes are what number and you’ve chosen the first, fourth and fifth notes we can plug those in as chords in the following 12 bar blues pattern:

1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 – 5 – 4 – 1 – 5

The 12 bar blues always follows this same pattern above. The numbers of course correspond to chords that we find in the first part of the article. Each number stands for one measure, and there are 12 in all making it the 12 bar blues. The length of a measure could vary, if we assume we’re playing 4 beats per measure then we’d give each chord 4 beats for each bar.

Let’s look at a short example of how to piece together a 12 bar blues progression in the key of A.

We need to first start with the A major scale. The scale looks like this:

A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A

Picking out the first, fourth and fifth notes gives us A, D and E respectively. Next we add those to the 12 bar blues pattern we learned above, and it provides us with a progression that looks like this:

A – A – A – A – D – D – A – A – E – D – A – E

Finally take a few minutes to watch the lesson video below. I walk you through the 12 bar blues in the Key of A and show you where on the neck to play these chords and what feel you should give your playing. Once you’ve finished that I urge you to go grab your own guitar and give it a try.

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Blues Guitar Beginner Lesson

February 21st, 2010

For those of you who have seen the mildly comical movie Adventures in Babysitting, you’ll probably recognize the quote, “nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues” from the film. At the climax of a chase sequence, the babysitter and the group of kids she is watching, appear to reach safety inside a busy underground club. However, there is one drastic difference. Everyone in the club is black, except for the babysitter and kids. The group attempts to dart out the back of the building, but an attendant of the club stops the group in their tracks and utters the infamous line – “Nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues.” Long story short, the crew gets on stage and steals the show.

You too, can steal the show with an amazing beginner blues set. The Blues are one of the musical backbones of this great nation. It’s also a very difficult style to learn on the guitar. However, difficult never means it’s impossible. In fact, the web offers a number of great videos for beginners on the very basics of rhythm blues.

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Blues Lessons might possibly contain the greatest collection of Blues lessons on the web. The site also features some fantastic information in regards to the blues scales, pentatonic licks, fingerpicking lessons, as well as Blues equipment, styles, and artists.

One of the first aspects of the Blues you’ll need to learn is the special scale system the genre utilizes. The Pentatonic Scale is the key to any Blues solo playing. Below is a couple of quick exercises (along with photos), needed to learn the 1/5 Pattern on the Pentatonic Scale.

1. Notes on the fingerboard.

Notes on the E string


You’re now ready to learn the five patterns of the Minor-Pentatonic Scale. Each pattern is movable over the complete fingerboard (e.g. in the keytone G the first pattern starts on the 3rd fret, in the keytone A it starts on the 5th fret, in keytone C on the 8th fret, etc).

1st Pattern

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1
In the keytone G (from the 3rd fret, because the keytone G is on the 3rd fret) the first pattern looks like this.


Practice: Play from the the high E-string to the low E-string and back. Use one finger for each fret. That means Index finger for the 3rd fret in the key of G, the Middle Finger for the 4th fret, the Ringfinger for the 5th fret etc.

Pattern Exercise

If you want to move the pattern into another key, just use the graphic above where you can see the keytones on the fingerboard.

Excercise: A simple Pentatonic-Lick (use bendings, hammer-ons as much as you like)


For more sensational information and lessons on the Pentatonic Scale, check out Blues Lessons catalog of Blues Scales exercises.

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JamPlay is a very versatile product which touches up on some of the beginner techniques. As always, you can also reference the wide number of blues lessons on You Tube.

Simple Tips to Stay on Course

February 11th, 2010

Taking up a new hobby is easy. Something has led you to want to try and explore something new. However, the excitement of a new-found joy, such as learning to play the guitar, can only fuel you for so long. Over time, you need something wholesome to stay par for the course.

Make no mistake about it; learning to play the guitar at an intermediate or advanced skill level takes a lot of consistency. One who desires to play the guitar well must remain disciplined to a demanding schedule. If you are not taking private lessons with an instructor, the time spent practicing  is 100% dependent on you. Fortunately, there are some very minor and subtle ways to stay dedicated to learning the guitar.

1. Learn with a Friend

A lot of people will seek a friend to teach them the guitar, but very few will seek someone to help learn the guitar with. There are several benefits to learning a new musical instrument with a friend, namely the issue of accountability. When you learn to play guitar alone, the only person who will challenge or hold you accountable is yours truly. However, when you learn with a friend, you both should (and will) push each other.

2. Reference You Tube

You Tube is filled with plenty of garbage that will never advance your brain cells, however the site also offers a nice selection of informative and instructional footage. This is especially the case when in regards to learning to play the guitar. You Tube is absolutely filled with home-made videos (some better than others) which show you everything from how to play the G chord to nailing the solo in “Free Bird”, like this one for example:

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Whenever you are having a frustrating day with the guitar, reference one of your favorite video lessons on the site. Something made you appreciate or enjoy this particular video and you’ll likely rekindle that desire to play again after you watch it.

3. Follow a Guitar Blog

As is the case with You Tube, the internet is riddled with blogs. And just like You Tube, some are much better than others. Regardless, you should subscribe to at least one or two informative guitar blogs. The content is often added weekly (if not daily) and is filled with plenty of useful material relevant to learning to play the guitar in today’s world.

4. Join a Forum

Guitar forums bring together individuals of similar interest from all over the world. Forums are very resourceful for a variety of reasons. Exhibit A, forums are terrific for questions and concerns you encounter during the learning phase. If you are stuck on a particular lesson in the book, it’s very difficult to ask the book for any other advice not included in the contents. However, a forum can help solve your dilemma. Please keep in mind that forums are not bulletproof, meaning that not everyone’s advice for the solution is plausible or even true. Make sure you also do your own research, as everyone can pretend to be an expert online.

5. Make a Financial Commitment

The guitar is an investment in itself, but you should take it a step further. In today’s day and age, not everyone needs a private instructor. However, you should invest in some type of course to help direct your efforts. This could range from a standard book on learning the guitar to something as detailed and complex as an actual online course. If you are interested in something like this, check out JamPlay or Learn & Master Guitar. Both of these courses are highly recommended by guitarists.

Intro to Major Chords – E and G Major

February 2nd, 2010

Chords are exciting and difficult for beginners. They’re exciting because it means you’re getting closer to playing a full song, they’re frustrating because you’re going to need your fingers to move in ways they have never had to before.

There’s a lesson video below that fully explains the tab and shapes for these chords. It would be good to read through this brief article and then also watch the video.

Tips Before Starting

When you first learn chords proper technique is important. Remember to use the tips of your fingers and keep your thumb flush on the back of the neck.  Also below I talk about finger numbers, your fingers are numbered one to four starting with your index finger (1) to your pinky (4).

Let’s get started…

The E major Chord

E – 0 –
B – 0 –
G – 1 –
D – 2 –
A – 2 –
E – 0 –

To play the E chord you use your first three fingers. Finger two is placed on the 2nd fret of the B string, finger three is placed on the 2nd fret of the G string and your first finger is placed on the first fret of the D string. Play all six strings when you strum.

The G major Chord

E – 3 –
B – 0 –
G – 0 –
D – 0 –
A – 2 –
E – 3 –

To play the G chord you also use the first three fingers on your hand. Place your second finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string, your first finger on the 2nd fret of the A string and your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string. All six strings should be strummed when playing the G chord.

Practice Tips

When learning chords proper technique is a must. It takes time for your fingers to feel comfortable making these shapes on the guitar neck. I suggest start by making the shape correctly then squeezing your hand and fingers and then releasing them. Next make the shape again and repeat. This will help create muscle memory in your fingers.

Also learning to play slowly and then adding speed and changing between chords is better then trying to do it right away and getting frustrated. All things worth learning take time!

Interested in learning more beginner guitar chords and techniques? Why not consider trying a beginner guitar dvd? Self study programs such as dvd and online videos are quickly becoming the new private guitar lessons of the 21st century.

3 String Beginner Guitar Chords C, G and D7

January 20th, 2010

When we start to learn guitar the thing on our minds is almost always chords. We want to learn to play songs that we know and we know that learning to play chords is what will get us there.

Today I’m going share with you some beginner guitar chords you can learn quickly. All three of these chords are three string chords, meaning they only require you to strum 3 strings and that’s it. So lets get going.

C Chord

E — 0 —
B — 1 —
G — 0 —
D — X —
A — X —
E — X —

A quick note about what the guitar tab means above. The X’s mean you do not strum that string, the 0′s mean to play that string open and a number refers to a particular fret that you press when strumming the 3 strings.

For this three string C chord you are pressing down on the first fret on the B string and playing the G and E strings open.

G Chord

E — 3 —
B — 0 —
G — 0 —
D — X —
A — X —
E — X —

To play the three string G chord you play the G and B strings open and the 3rd fret on the high E string.

D7 Chord

You will find the D7 chord a bit more challenging then the G and C chords we covered first. Why? Because you have to press on a fret on the three bottom strings at once.

E — 1 —
B — 2 —
G — 1 —
D — X —
A — X —
E — X —

For the D7 chord you must place your second finger on the 1st fret of the E string, your third finger on the 2nd fret of the B string and your first finger on the 1st fret of the G string.

This will feel uncomfortable at first but focus on using the tips of your fingers and keeping your thumb on the back of the neck. I give more explanation in the video below.

After watching the video below grab your guitar and give these three chords a try. Don’t get discouraged if at first you find it difficult, also don’t try to immediately switch between them while strumming. Before you trying strumming them and switching between chords ensure you can easily make the shape and strum the chord on it’s own.

To learn more beginner guitar chords fast why not try a learn to play guitar dvd? Self study dvd courses teach you beginner guitar skills at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.

Guitar Tricks Review Updated

January 11th, 2010

I just finished updating the Guitar Tricks review to include some of the more recent changes they’ve made, and my take on them.

Hopefully this will make it even easier to decide if GuitarTricks.com is your best bet for learning guitar.

Tuning Your Guitar By Ear without an Electric Tuner

January 6th, 2010

Checking to ensure your guitar is in tune is something you should be doing each time you pick up your guitar. After all there are no chords or scales that sound correct when even one string is out of tune.

This brief lesson is going to cover how you can check to see if your guitar is in tune quickly each time you pick it up. We’re going to accomplish this not with an electric tuner but by choosing one particular string on the guitar neck and then tuning the rest of the strings to that string.

Of course there is a chance that none of your strings are in correct tune so even though you may get all your strings in tune with each other if you double check it against an electric tuner you may find all your strings are either higher or lower then they should be.

In order to tune correctly there are only two things you must remember.

  1. The 5th fret is the magic fret
  2. There is one exception on the G string for the 4th fret.

Let’s walk through a quick example. We’ll tune all of our guitar strings to the low E, or 6th string closest to you on the top.

Press the 5th fret on the low E string and play it. This note is an A, which is the same note as the 5th string below it, the A string. By playing the E string on the 5th fret you check to see if the A string below it is in tune. Go back and fourth between the E string on the 5th fret and the open A string below it. Note any pitch differences and adjust the A string either up or down using the tuning peg.

Next move to playing the 5th fret on the A string, this is a D note which matches up to the D string below the A string. As before go back and fourth between the 5th fret of the A string and the open D string. If the D string doesn’t sound like it matches the 5th fret of the A string then adjust its tuning either up or down.

Follow this same pattern for the tuning the G string to the 5th fret of the D string.

Now here is the one exception I mentioned. In order to tune the B string you must use the 4th fret on the G string. Why? Well because it’s the 4th string on the G string that makes a B note. This is the only exception you have to remember when tuning your guitar by ear.

To tune the high E, or first string again use the 5th fret technique explained above.

To get comfortable doing this I suggest each time you pick up your guitar you go through this exercise. It will become second nature pretty quick and you’ll find that in just a few seconds you can double check the tuning on your guitar without having to run for an electric tuner.

Want to progress further with your guitar skills? Why not consider taking some guitar lessons for beginners? You don’t have to sign up for private lessons or find a friend to teach you, there are lots of great online programs from online videos to dvd courses you can use to learn right from the comfort of your own home.

Learning Guitar String Notes – First Step to a Solid Beginner Foundation

December 20th, 2009

A lot of beginner guitar players like to jump in and learn to play chords. While that can be fun it doesn’t always provide you with the foundation needed to grow as a more advanced guitar player. I feel it’s important that beginners learn to play the notes on each string first before they begin chords. After all everything, chords and scales, are made up of notes.

This post is going to cover how you can find the notes on each string following an easy to understand pattern. We’ll first discuss the concept of half and whole steps and how this translates to the guitar neck, then we’ll talk about the spacing between each of the 7 musical notes and finally I’ll show you how to find those notes on the guitar neck.

After you read this post I suggest you watch the short video at the end. It explains this post in more detail and gives you a solid example you can follow and try on your own.

Whole and Half Steps

The idea of whole or half steps comes from the piano, unfortunately we’re playing the guitar so we need to understand what that means in terms of a guitar neck. Thankfully it’s quite easy. The guitar neck is divided up in frets. Each fret denotes one half step, so a whole step would be two frets.

Understanding this is the first step to finding the guitar string notes. The second step is understanding how many steps are between each note A through G.

Space Between Notes

We’re only going to worry about the spacing between the 7 major notes A through G. There are sharps and flats in between there but that’s for a more advanced lesson ;) . The spacing between most notes is one step, or two frets with a couple of exceptions. The spacing between B and C is only one half step as well as between E and F. Below is a listing of the space between notes both in steps and frets.

A to B = Full Step or Two Frets
B to C = Half step or One Fret
C to D = Full Step or Two Frets
D to E = Full Step or Two Frets
E to F = Half Step or One Fret
F to G = Full Step or Two Frets

Now that you understand the spacing between notes we can look at some examples on the guitar neck.

Starting with Open String Names and Notes

A quick refresher on the string names, starting from the top Low E we have, E, A, D, G, B and E. The names of the strings also denotes the note when played when you strike that string in the open position (no frets pressed down).

So a quick example on the lo E string.

Starting open we have an E, so if we refer to the listing I gave above what comes next?

That’s right an F note, and the spacing between an E and an F is?

That’s right, only one half step it’s one of the exceptions. So we go from open up one half step to the first fret and that’s an F note.

The next note is a G note, and the spacing between an F and a G is one full step so this time we go up two frets, or to the 3rd fret.

Let’s do one more.

We go from the G back around to an A. What’s the spacing? One full step, so we slid up two more frets to the 5th fret on the low E string and that’s an A note.

Hopefully you can see where I was getting these spacings from, don’t worry if it’s still a little unclear, the video below will explain in more detail. Take a few minutes to watch the video below it will explain all of this in more detail. After watching I urge you to grab your own guitar and give this exercise a try.

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Intro to the CAGED System – Locating all Major Chords on the Guitar Neck

December 7th, 2009

As a beginner learning to play the open major chords is a very big accomplishment. It opens a door to learning to play some popular songs and even write some of your own. When you want to stretch your legs a little further you need to enter the realm of barre chords.

Learning the same major chords at different positions can be a little more difficult. After all there are a lot of frets and a lot of note combination’s to choose from.

In this post I want to introduce you to a unique system that is sure to help you find, play and memorize several versions of all seven major chords on the guitar.

The CAGED guitar system is a method of finding 5 different versions of all 7 major chords using familiar chord shapes from the open position. As the name might have given away those shapes are from the C-A-G-E-D major chords.

A quick example: If you barre the 5th fret and play an E chord shape you have an A Major chord.

The system works like this. Using those 5 chord shapes you can find five versions of each major chord at different locations on the neck. You do still need to find those variations and if you want memorize them, but this system makes it a lot easier to locate them.

I’ve created a brief video below that explains the CAGED guitar system and also provides a complete example of finding four different variations of the E chord using the D, C, A and G chord shapes as barre chords. Take a few minutes to watch this video and then grab your own guitar to give it a try.

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Understanding Guitar Scales – The First Step to Playing Lead Guitar

December 1st, 2009

Note: This is a guest post by Ian, from GuitarLessonsReviewed.com.

For a lot of beginner guitar players the thought of having to learn scales can seem a bit daunting. Chords, sure they weren’t too difficult to handle, but moving into the realm of scales is something completely new. Thankfully there are easier scales to learn then others.

The pentatonic guitar scales are probably the easiest to master and that’s what this article will cover. If you haven’t yet learned some basic musical theory, names of each string and some of the notes on the neck you might want to consider getting a quality guitar lessons dvd to grow your foundation. I know when you want to learn something new you want to do it right now but trust me on this, knowing the basics about theory and the neck will make this a lot easier.

So back to the lesson

There are 5 notes in each pentatonic scale. This is what makes it so attractive to beginners since most other scales have 7 or more notes. To go along with this the scale has 5 distinct shapes it follows depending on which note of the scale your starting at.

Once you memorize the shapes it’s just a matter of knowing where the notes are in the scale and then pick up the scale using the proper position (1st through 5th position) based on that note.

Here’s an Example:

A simple A Minor Pentatonic scale on the 6th string (low E) starts at the 5th Fret. It then slides up three frets, then two frets, then two frets then finally sliding three frets to finish the scale. Those are the 5 main notes in the A minor pentatonic scale.

So let’s take it a step further and play it on more then just the 6th string. In first position your going to start at the first note of the A minor pentatonic scale, that’s the 5th fret of the 6th string. From there you’re going to follow the 1st position shape for a pentatonic scale. I won’t describe the exact shapes since it would take quite a bit of time to explain, but they are readily available online.

For the second position you would start at the 8th fret of the 6th string. This is the second note of that scale if you remember from just a few moments ago. I bet you can see the pattern now, the 3rd position starts on the 3rd note of the scale and so on and so on.

The key to pentatonic scales is

  • memorizing the 5 different shapes
  • Knowing where the scales are on each string

Since the shapes stay the same through out you can see how it’s easier to learn pentatonic guitar scales then any other type of scale on the guitar neck. Of course it takes some serious practice but it’s well worth it once you start to integrate these scales into your practicing and jam sessions.