Traditional blues is based on a very simple chord progression, namely (I, IV, V) and all using the strong sounding dominant 7th chord (1-3-5-b7). Scale choice is also limited mostly to the blues scale.

The tone of the guitar is quite simple (valve amp and a good guitar) and should leave the player free to experiment with different dynamics (from clean to natural overdrive). One of the main characteristics is the use of very expressive vibrato and bending (also use of the slide).

The focus is very much on ‘how to play’ one note then to play too many notes. Some important names would be Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddy King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robben Ford.


Ex 1: This lick is played using the slide but in standard tuning. The tone should be a crunchy valve-amp sound. The lick uses the G7sus4 arpeggio over the progression. This is a very popular approach for the ‘old school’ guys from the 1950’s, such Muddy Waters.

Ex 2: This lick shows a development of the previous idea but without the slide. Again it’s a G7sus4 arpeggio, although this time it’s over the IV chord, C7. This lick is typical of Buddy Guy.

Ex 3: In the Memphis area, blues is characterized by a mixture of the major (country influence) and the minor pentatonic (blues from Mississippi). B.B. King, Memphis Slim and many other players use these kinds of licks.

Ex 4: This lick is in the style of Stevie Ray ‘Texas Tornado’ Vaughan. SRV was a walking encyclopedia for blues… This lick shows the use of D minor pentatonic (V degree in the key of G) over the D7; a common trick employed by Blues guitarists.

Ex 5: This is a contemporary lick. Nowadays, many styles have incorporated influences from other genres and this one shows a more ‘jazzy’ approach. It works around the arpeggios of the chords. This lick is in the style of players such as Duke Robillard or Robben Ford.


GT132 – 50 Licks To Go
text & transcriptions
full band & backing tracks
only £1.99!
Pay Pal