Acoustic Blues Guitar Lessons
How to play blues on acoustic guitar Robert Johnson Style
The third acoustic blues guitar lesson entered in the Truefire Top Guitar Instructor competition, in which I look at ways of spicing up playing a Johnson piece in A.
Many blues songs are not that hard to figure out and play. Me And the Devil by Robert Johnson is in this category, and there are many lessons available to learn how to play blues guitar in this style. However, sometimes it's a long haul from learning how to play acoustic blues guitar in the basic patterns to performing a song fluently with that extra special 'something' that makes it stand apart.
Tablature can give us the basic idea but we have to look at the original blues men for inspiration. When first starting to create acoustic blues guitar lessons, I took my own playing apart and realized I did some things automatically, without thinking and these things gave the music it's flavor. That's what this week's lesson is all about - how to make Me and The Devil come alive.
We want to put our own stamp on our acoustic blues guitar playing, while understanding that we can never improve on the originals. Saying that, we can adapt it and give it a little uniqueness, as long as we keep the original feel and power. You can do this by keeping the basic style and approach, always being careful that new ideas don't pull it too far away from the original. Learn acoustic blues guitar with that first concept in mind, and the rest will follow.
There are a couple of things that strike us when we hear Johnson's guitar playing. First of all, it's intense! How does he get that sound? The treble string work, which I suspect is mostly plucked with one finger and sometimes two, is often delicate. As if to answer this delicate melody line, his thumb keeps the beat with a powerful 'thrum' across two or three bass strings that is immediately damped with the palm of his picking hand.
He also uses a common blues man's trick of doubling up on the thumb beat, making into a heartbeat which speaks directly to the emotions, so creating two hits to the bar instead of one.
The chord structure for this guitar master piece is very simple, basically three chords with some inversions - A/A7, D7 and E7, with a diminished chord thrown in for good measure - also makes it sound quite exotic! he starts the song way up on the fretboard, sliding from the 9th fret to the 12th using a simple 'D' configuration chord structure, which is basically an inversion of A7.
Do listen the this original delta blues song again and again - then do it yourself, it's incredibly rewarding to play acoustic blues guitar in this style.
Take it easy and keep it real!
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