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Blues music is an expression of strong feelings and emotions. But what’s going on between each chord change in a blues song that evokes those feelings?

In this lesson, Ayla Tesler-Mabe goes through the ten different levels of playing a twelve-bar blues song on guitar. She delves into each chord in the song, the notes within them, and explains the meaning of various terms you’ll hear, such as harmonic functions, tritones, and turnarounds. If you’ve played the blues before, this lesson may help spice up your guitar sound. Additionally, if you want to start learning to play blues songs, you’ve come to the right place.

In a very small nutshell, here’s what each level looks like:

Level 1:
The simplest approach in playing a twelve-bar blues as you’re only switching between three open dominant chords.

Level 2:
Replace the open chords with their bar chord predecessors to get different voicings.

Level 3:
End the progression with an augmented chord to get a cool transition into the beginning of the song.

Level 4:
Shake things up again by changing the way you play the dominant chords in the song’s chord progression.

Level 5:
Add a diminished chord to the mix to which Ayla describes as a “classic blues move.”

Level 6:
Halfway through and we’re getting jazzy! Add a new interval that will bring more sophistication to your guitar sound.

Level 7:
Throw in a turnaround in the chord progression to get another cool transition into restarting the song.

Level 8:
Replace your dominant chords with a tritone substitution. PS - this level is easier to play than the previous level...your fingers will thank you!

Level 9:
Incorporate different tritone substitutions and re-harmonizations to the song.

Level 10:
Just play guitar but really FEEL what you’re playing!

No matter which level you’re on in playing the blues on your guitar, you’ll be able to see your progress and continue in the right direction for more success in this style of playing. Eventually, you’ll start pouring your whole soul into every strum and chord of the song.

Make sure to click the button under the video to get the PDF chord charts so you can follow along with Ayla!

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