The Blues


Jazz is the big brother of blues. If a guy plays blues like we play, he’s in high school. When he starts playing jazz its like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.”                             B.B King

From rock music to jazz, all popular music today owes a debt to the blues, and as guitarists we will all benefit from a study of this incredible art form.


The most common musical form of blues is the 12-bar blues. The term “12-bar” refers to the number of measures, or musical bars, used to express the theme of a typical blues song. Nearly all blues music is played to a 4/4 time signature, which means that there are four beats in every measure or bar and each quarter note is equal to one beat.


In basic, bare-bones blues, the main musical theme is expressed in the first four-bar line, and then repeated again in bars five through eight. The closing four bars usually cap the original theme line by putting a twist on it or summing up the original statement. And that adds up to 12 bars (or measures). We would call this form “Call, Call, and Response”, but more about that later.


“Honky Tonk” is a rhythm and blues instrumental written by Billy Butler, Bill Doggett, Clifford Scott and Shep Shepherd. Doggett recorded it as a two-part single in 1956.[1] It peaked at number two for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100,[2] and was the biggest R&B hit of the year, spending thirteen non-consecutive weeks at the top of the charts


Moving into jazz is easier with a blues background, and with adjustments of stylistic techniques, for example like slowing down vibrato and accenting the upbeats, musicians can “crossover” back and forth between blues/rock and jazz, thus becoming a balanced and versatile player.

The next lessons will serve as an entry point into this style by laying out a series of lessons with the goal of become a balanced musician who fully understands the “improvising process” and can interact with other musicians both on the bandstand and at the jam session.