Watch the Delta Blues online guitar lesson by Robben Ford from Rhythm Revolution
This kind of blues is a lot of fun to play. It's open E so you have the pentatonic scale at your fingertips. Something I like to do a lot is a major 6 against a minor third on top. That might be a Muddy Waters kind of thing. The way Muddy would play slides. So I'm avoiding any type of straight up major. The major third. It's in there occasionally, and a raised nine chord because it combines major and minor. It is something you can use fairly liberally on something like this. The real delta players did not play a lot of chords. It was more of that pentatonic thing. In a way, I'm playing a triad and they would do that. It's like "I'm a Man", Muddy Waters. That's the classic right here. A very classic delta sound. This is more of a minor darker sound. Sometimes it's hard to play chords on something like this. Because you just don't want to hear that, certainly, and when you start playing chords, you're getting into a more sophisticated situation. That's an E minor seven, G triad over E and I even think I did something like that because as our jam in this case, on the C minor blues, evolved I start moving into some further harmonic territory. Many people would not. Traditional players most certainly would not but for me, something like that it's still dark and moody. It's prettier, but with a band like mine, all my guys can play with some harmonic sophistication. So I like to use the talent around me, if it was a funkier more down home band we would never go there. In fact, I recorded "I Just Wanna Make Love To You", Willie Dixon tune, Muddy Waters recorded on a record I did called Hand Full Of Blues, and Danny Kortchmar was the producer and I invited him to play guitar with me. Danny just plays that great old school style really well. We never really went anywhere, we kept it strictly down home. The situation dictates what you do in every case to some degree. Notice the rhythmic aspect of just playing the riff. It's a rhythmic thing, not just notes. I'm playing some thirds in there. All I'm playing is the low E, minor third G, E an octave up, and also I choose to play that E again but on the A string. It has a slightly different texture and to me it's darker and for me the first is kind of awkward. I play the last ones a little bit softer. Pop that one and finesse that one. Brush it with your thumb. Notice I'm playing those with just my thumb. First finger picks up that high E, and that sound is all done with the thumb. The thumb is stronger and has more padding and thus it's good for finessing things. I'm just not inspired to play any chords. It'll happen, but sometimes when you play chords you start to lose that deep funk. I would suggest sticking close to the riff orientated things, basic seventh kind of things, fifth root, fifth seventh, root seventh fifth, minor third. That’s a nice little riff. Very mournful and dark. That would basically be my advice on how to approach something like this in a harmonic way. And John Lee Hooker wouldn’t even talk about a harmonic way he would just play it, and that is the kind of approach we want.