This is the first blues my teacher Joachim and I composed together, but I liked the second one better so we recorded that one first (Minor Blues). But once that project was taken care of, I grew fond of this one, too. It’s the best little fingerstyle etude to start your daily guitar routine with and get into the feeling. I called it Blues No. 17 because No. 1 sounds boring and my birthday is on the 17th of December 🙂 I’m playing Blues No. 17 at 75 bpm.
Seven steps towards your very own blues etude
Okay, now what did I learn about writing a fingerstyle blues guitar etude?
- Listen to and play a lot of fingerstyle blues pieces, especially the songs from the old days, to get in the mood.
- Start with the chords and pick a typical 12 bar blues pattern. Which do you prefer: the key of E, the key of C, the key of A?
- Pick a typical blues rhythm for playing the chords. There are strumming and fingerpicking rhythms to chose from. You’ll find lots of them in blues guitar play-along videos on YouTube.
- Pick a pentatonic position of the pentatonic that matches with the key you chose. Which do you prefer: lower, middle or upper fretboard?
Steps five to seven
- Play a melody along the pentatonic. Use the „question and answer“ system (i.e. imagine the first lick is the question and the second lick is the answer and has to be a musical reaction to the first). Begin and end a sequence with a keynote. Try to work in typical blues style elements such as triplets, bendings, hammer-ons (google „blues licks“ and you’ll find inspiration).
- Decide whether you’re composing a solo guitar blues or blues guitar duo. In a duo, the second guitar would be playing the chords / rhythm. In a solo guitar blues you will have to switch between rhythmical and melodical parts.
- Don’t make it too complicated. The best blues pieces are the simple ones.
If course, an experienced blues guitar player wouldn’t have to write his or her blues down and would be improvising instead. But hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere! I gladly admit that I am a person who has to put things in order in her brain before she can let go and give in to the flow.
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