Watch the Blues: Technique 1 online guitar lesson by Robbie Calvo from RhythmCraft

Strumming the acoustic guitar is a great way to start playing a 12 bar blues in E. The chords we'll be playing are E7, A7, B7. This is a I7 IV7 V7 chord progression in the key of E. We will also be adding some chromatic chord moves to this progression to create harmonic flavor and to show you some typical blues turnaround moves. A turnaround could best be described as a harmonic phrase that takes you back to the beginning of the 12 bar progression.

Check out your chord charts and fingering diagrams to see where the chord changes take place. In our musical example I am playing a quick change 12 bar blues. This means I am changing to the A7 in bar 2 rather than in bar 5.

The rhythmic structure of this 12 bar blues is pretty straight forward as we'll be playing a very steady blues shuffle feel by strumming with the right hand. This is also known as a 12/8 feel, all this means is that you are subdividing the four main pulses per bar into three equal parts per beat. In other words each beat is occupied by an 8th note triplet. The shuffle feel however is created when you play the first two eighth notes as if they were tied (quarter note) and then attack the 3rd eighth note separately. This gives you two main pulses within the beat. The first one longer(quarter) and the 2nd shorter (eighth). Watch my right hand strumming technique to achieve a smooth and consistent shuffle rhythm and you will hear exactly what I am talking about regarding note durations and feel.

This guitar part would be an excellent approach to accompany vocals because the harmonic structure is pretty simple yet the shuffle rhythm drives the music along at a nice steady pace. You can try this approach on the electric guitar too.