12 Bar Blues Rhythm and Riffs
Riff #1. E Blues Riff Root 6 Open Position
In our 12-bar blues progression, the first four measures are over the 1 chord, so we’ll learn the riff that goes over this chord. Start with an E power chord and play that twice with two eighth notes, using a swing feel. Next, leaving your index finger where it is, place your third finger on the fourth fret of the A string and play that twice using two swung eighth notes. This is basically the entire riff, you’re just going to repeat it over again.
This has taken up only two beats so far, so to get a whole measure, we need to play this riff twice. Since we have four measures of the 1 chord, we’ll need to play this short riff eight times in a row.
The 12-bar blues progression switches to the 4 chord for two measures next. For this riff, we’ll make an A power chord by placing your index finger on the second fret of the D string, and play the fifth and fourth strings twice using two swing eighth notes. Keeping your index finger in place, come down with your third finger on the fourth fret of the D string, and play that twice using two swung eighth notes. This will be your basic riff over the A chord.
Again, we’ll have to play this twice for one measure, and since we have two measures of A in the progression, we’ll play this riff four times.
Next we have two more measure of the 1 chord, so we’re going back to the riff over the E chord. We’ll play it for two more measures, so four times through again.
Now here comes the stretching part that I mentioned earlier. When you go to the 5 chord, which is a B, we’re going to have to make a B power chord on the 7th Fret. Play this for two swung eighth notes. Now you have to stretch your fourth finger all the way to the eleventh fret. This may take you a while to get that stretch down. SLide down two frets to complete the A chord riff and play it for one measure. After that, go back to the 1 chord for one measure. Finally we end of the 5 chord for one measure, so make the B power chord shape again and stretch your pinky out to play that B riff for one measure.
One thing you can add to this riff to give it more style is muting. If you have your regular swung eighth notes, you can divide this up by the beat. You have two notes on each beat, so you can cut the first one short by muting it. Hit the strings, then come down and mute them with the palm of your hand right away. You can strum the second note normally. If you keep up that alternating pattern, you get a good blues feel
Riff # 2. The Box Riff in A