Jim Bruce Blues Guitar Lessons
 
 
Welcome

It can be tough to properly describe 'blues' in general terms, even if  its narrowed down to simple 'blues guitar'. In that one broad category there are of course lots of other smaller categories , even allowing for the differences between acoustic and electric.

In the video below Jim demonstrates and discusses
the
techniques of Texas blues great Lightnin' Hopkins


As acoustic blues guitar is the thing that I teach, let's focus on this area for a while.
In the USA, differences in picking style evolved according to a particular region, which was additionally dependent on the influences of the best blues guitarists in that area. In general we can say that the extremities of classic acoustic blues guitar are the dark tones of the delta and the ragtime dance rhythms of Piedmont ragtime blues picking. Naturally, there are other major styles between the two different styles. Its best to investigate all the techniques when deciding to learn how to play blues guitar.

Delta Blues Guitar

Just a step away from the early field work song, bottleneck or the slide delta blues guitar technique evokes a heart-felt cry from the emotions. It's probable that this blues style evolved before others, simply because it reduced the necessity to form many complex chords. Frequently, guitars were tuned down to open tunings, such as D, G and sometimes C (Skip James, for example). One thing is certain, it produces a very plaintive sound when performed in the right way, and some masters like Fred McDowell, and Robert Johnson perfected this interesting way of playing.

It could also be that a guitar that was tuned down was much easier to keep tuned in the hot weather of the Mississippi, delta where the blues first appeared.

One celebrated delta blues guitarist was not delicate at all with his playing style, but the emotional appeal of Son House gets him a prominent place at the top of the blues table when making a list of the masters we should study if we would like to learn blues guitar.

Other kinds of blues guitar

In general, blues guitarists preferred t go within their own regional way of playing,now and again including music from other styles to diversify the repertoire and keep their public engaged. Some blues men nonetheless, moved over the boundaries and mastered many styles of blues guitar, like Big Bill Broonzy and Gary davis. Any blues guitar lessons should included a study of such players.

The Reverend was a student of Blind Willie Walker, a really slick and precise ragtime blues guitarist from Greenville, Carolina. Reverend Davis could perform in mostly any key and in several  style, but he preferred to play religious songs in his later years.

Big Bill was southern born, but became a celebrity 'pop blues star' in the city of Chicago, where he created a  much admired and copied style called Chicago swing blues guitar, which was notable for its monotonic thumb strikes on the basses. He was additionally really fast and accurate - few present day guitarists can emulate his technique properly. Some of his songs lean towards ragtime blues guitar but he could also play pop songs from his day.

The Complexities Of  Ragtime Blues Guitar

Ragtime blues might be thought of as the most complicated style within the group 'acoustic blues guitar'. The songs of Lightnin' Hopkins was most definitely Texas bluesy and was frequently performed in the keys of A and E. Its true that many of his songs performed in the same key were quite similar. Nonetheless, his talent for up-beating the tempo and mixing styles puts him in a group all by himself. He shouldn't be ignored in any serious study, if if you want to learn authentic acoustic blues guitar.

It's fascinating that some great guitarists who could really play blues also came from South Carolina, like Floyd Council, Pink Anderson and Scrapper Blackwell. Anderson was a fast guitarist in the ragtime blues style and perfected his technique performing for the good Doctor Kerr's traveling medicine show.

Floyd Council didn't make a lot of records under his own name, but we can hear him playing second guitar to Blind Boy Fuller on some tracks recorded in the forties. The techniques were quite similar, and they were probably both influenced by Willie Walker and Reverend Gary Davis. He was called the 'Devil's Daddy In-Law' for advertising purposes, but it isn't clear why that is.

Scrapper Blackwell was a very influential artist who wrote quite a few blues guitar classic songs, like ' Nobody Knows You, Blues Before Sunrise' and the powerful 'Kokomo Blues'. This later song was 'borrowed' by delta guitarist Robert Johnson, who adapted it, giving it the new name Sweet Home Chicago.

Its also worth noting that a unique style of finger picking evolved called 'Travis' picking (it was pioneered and perfected Merle Travis) - it has a distinct ragtime blues guitar feel with a heavily damped alternating bass pattern. Doc Watson shows us the way of this style of playing blues guitar with his great rendition of  'Deep River Blues.
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A Final Word About Ragtime Blues Guitar

We talked about Rev Gary Davis, who was the daddy of ragtime blues guitar, but of course there were other worthwhile performers of this very appealing complicated guitar style.

Blind Wille McTell created syncopated patterns on his 12 string Stella guitar, writing classic songs like 'Statesboro Blues'. Fuller was maybe the most financially successful out of the ragtime blues guitar players, and his technique was heavily guided by Reverend Gary Davis, who had him as a student for some years.

Blind Arthur Blake recorded more than one hundred tracks under the Paramount label and produced many great standards. His complicated picking technique featured complex thumb-roll syncopation, lightning fast triplets using his fingers and slick single strings runs.


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