The Basic 12 Bar Blues Riff – Blues Guitar Lesson #4
The Basic 12 Bar Blues Riff – Blues Guitar Lesson #4

Hi! I’m Nate Savage and welcome to video #4
of the Blues Guitar Quick-Start Series. So far throughout the series, we’ve been really
focusing on learning the 12-bar blues progression and applying our power chords and dominant
7th chords to that progression. It’s important that you learn how to dress
up your rhythm blues guitar playing and one way to do that is through blues riffs. In
this lesson we’re going to learn the most basic blues riff and in the next lesson, we’re
going to dress that riff up even more. Now, for this basic blues riff we’re going
to be learning, there’s quite a bit stretching involved. So don’t feel bad if you can’t get
it right away. Just know that it may take some work to get that stretching down. What
we’re basically going to be doing is outlining the chords throughout the 12-bar blues progression
with this riff and we’re going to be applying a heavy shuffle rhythm to these riff too.
So keep that in mind. We’re also going to be introducing some muting to give your style
a bit of a more bluesy sound. Let’s just jump right into this. So in our
12-bar blues progression, the first four measures are over a I chord. So we need to learn this
riff that goes over the I chord. And it’s pretty simple. You’re going to start of with
just an E power chord and you’re going to play that twice with a swung feel. That’s it. The
next little half of this riff, you’re going to leave your index finger where it is and
then come down on the 4th fret of that A string right there. And you’re going to do the same
thing; you’re going to play 2 swung eighth notes. And believe it or not, that’s basically
the entire riff. You’re just going to repeat it over and over again. So the whole little
chunk is this. So that takes up only 2 beats, so in order to get it a whole measure for
this riff, we have to play that thing twice and that will take up 1 measure in the 12-bar
blues right? So 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. So that takes up for 1 measure. We have 4
measures of the I chord so do a little bit of math you’re going to find out you have to play 8 times
to fit over 4 measures of the I chord for the first 4 bars in the 12-bar blues riff
so 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Alright now the 12-bar blues riff switches
to the IV chord in this case, that’s an A chord right? So we need to kind of adapt this
riff to play over our A chord. We’re going to do the exact same thing. Just make an A
power chord, index finger, first finger on the 2nd fret of the D string and you’re going
to play just the 5th and 4th strings. Same exact thing so 2 swung eighth notes there.
Then you’re going to come down on the 4th fret of the D string and again play 2 more
swung eighth notes. And that’s your basic riff over the A chord. And again, we have
to play that twice to fill up 1 measure so if we have 2 bars of A, we’re going to have
to play this 4 times. Now, we have two more measures of the I chord.
So we’re going to go back to the riff over the A chord and play that for 2 more measures
for 4 times. And here is where the stretching part comes
in that I was talking about. We’re going to go to the V chord, the B chord. What we’re
going to have to do is make a B power chord but because of the stretch that’s coming
up, we have to make it with your first and second fingers instead of your first and third
fingers. So, first finger on the B note there on the 2nd fret of the A string and your second
finger on the 4th fret of the D string. And that’s going to be your first 2 swung eighth
notes over the bar B. From there here is the stretch; you have to
stretch your pinky all the way up to the 6th fret for the next 2 swung eighth notes.
So that may take a while to get that stretch down but just work on going between those
2 eighth notes and these two. So that’s your riff over the B. You only have to do it twice
because you only have one measure of the V chord here.
Now we have the measure of the IV chord. So go back to your A riff and play 1 measure
that. Then go back to the I chord for 1 measure. And finally, we end up on the V chord for
1 measure. So get that B power chord on there. Again with the first and second fingers. And
you’re going to stretch all the way up again with your pinky and play that for 1 measure.
So here is what that rhythm riff will sound like with one of the jam tracks. That’s the most basic 12-bar blues riff that we’re going to learn. One thing that you can
add to this to kind of dress it up and give it a little more style is some muting. So,
if you have just riff regular swung eighth notes, you have 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and what
you can do is kind of divide this up by the beat. You have 2 notes on each beat, right?
You can mute the first one or cut it short so. What I did is just hit the strings and
then come down and mute them right after I hit them. And then the second note in the
2 eighth note is just normal. And if you do that over and over again, muting just the
numbers the 1, 2, 3, 4 you end up with this. And my fretting hand is also helping out to,
to mute the strings. So, work on that and get that style down and then you can apply the entire thing to the 12-bar blues it might sound like this. Hopefully, you see how learning this really simple 12-bar blues riff kind of dresses up
your rhythm blues playing and gives the 12-bar blues a little more forward momentum. Like
I said this is the most basic version of this rhythm riff that we’re going to learn. But
it’s really important that you get it down because this is the foundation for the rhythm
riff that we’re going to learn later, too. Slow this down. Practice this as much as you
need to until you start to feel comfortable with it then you could pull up either of the
jam tracks 70 beats per minute or the 100 beats per minute. And then try to play along
with that too. Thanks for watching. In the next lesson, we’re
going to dress this 12-bar blues riff up and make it a little more interesting for you.
If you have any questions, you can leave them here in the comments or just e-mail me [email protected]
See you!

11 thoughts on “The Basic 12 Bar Blues Riff – Blues Guitar Lesson #4”

  1. Michael Vierra-Reis says:

    That b finger stretch is extremely hard

  2. GrizzyAnt says:

    For the B power chord I use my first finger and my middle finger and my pinky is that okay? also, great videos! I have subscribed 🙂

  3. Jyoti Jain says:

    thank you so much for the tutorial…hows F7 played?

  4. Aaron Smith says:

    I know this is an older video but could you explain something to me please? Basically I know the blues scale and how to change it to different keys and I understand the 12 bars blues chord progression which is derived from the scale but I don't understand how you can be playing the e power chord and then add in the 4th fret as well? What I mean is I don't understand how that's "allowed" because it's not a part of the e blues scale? Sorry if i'm not making any sense….. By the way I love your videos so far and your an awesome teacher because your helping me understand how everything works 🙂

  5. Zhiyar Ali says:

    Thank you so much, I just finished and mastered the 4th video.
    I'm going to watch the all series ofc.

  6. Levi Standley says:

    My hands are not big enough

  7. Soulx 21 says:

    I already knew this one. 😁 Only thing I didn't knew was chord progression. Thanks!! Sir Nate.

  8. sherlin nazeem says:


  9. Don Lessnau says:

    Great info and lessons as always Nate. But you must be an alien to make that stretch. There's no GD way I can even come near reaching that 5 chord stretch. I have to play it as a single note. Is there an alternative way to play this 1-4-5 in a closed position farther up the neck? That would be a lot easier. Very few of us have hands and fingers like insects.

  10. A Hydeman says:

    I need a shorter neck. I'm 53 and can see the end of my guitar career on this stretch. Two weeks and no progress on this bar chord. May have to go another blues direction. Sad.

  11. Rev. Jos. West says:

    Where are the jam tracks?

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