Knowing some basic rhythms is the key to an authentic vibe in any blues jam. Read on as we look at some of the basics...
In general, blues jams are a good opportunity for some widdly soloing, but remember that a great deal of any jam session will be spent on rhythm duties. And, rather than chopping away on basic chords, you’ll develop a pro sound if you get some typical blues grooves down.
Try out our tab examples, which cover a few essentials for you to play around with. These ideas have been designed to be transferrable to other keys and for you to easily put your own stamp on.
Groove 1: Outlining the chords
Here we’re doubling the bassline, and, more importantly, outlining the chords - the first five notes of bar 1 form an arpeggio of the A7 chord. It’s much the same in bars 2, 3 and 4 where you play E7, D7 and A7 arpeggios. There are no open strings so it’s easy to move the shapes around the fretboard to outline any dominant 7th chord.
Groove 2: Texas style shuffle bassline
Texas blues is famous for its shuffle feel and walking basslines. Use a combination of alternating down- and upstrokes of the pick to play the shuffle feel. As you get more comfortable, it’s possible to incorporate elements of an open E7 chord as well for a fuller sound. SRV’s Pride And Joy should provide inspiration!
Groove 3: John Lee Hooker style repeating riff
This style of repeating riff is a classic blues ingredient and songs like these don’t really change chords much. Aim for a driving, hypnotic feel by keeping the notes quite short. You can play this one with picked downstrokes or with your fingers. This type of idea has many variations and works in any key, especially if the first chord uses open strings.
Groove 4: Blues-rock boogie
Rock bands like ZZ Top and Aerosmith have a solid grounding in blues. Here a driving shuffle riff is created by alternating various two-note powerchords with a muted G bass note. Try playing G bass notes with a light palm mute so that they contrast with the two-note chords.
Groove 5: Hendrix style funky blues
Blues-rock pioneer Jimi Hendrix played with a funky edge to his riffing. Here the signature E7#9 ‘Hendrix’ chord is used in combination with the blues staple E minor pentatonic scale (E G A B D). You can hear this mixture of chord and scale in songs including Purple Haze, Foxy Lady and Spanish Castle Magic.