Any blues beginner guitar player will need to learn the chords and chord progressions that are used in blues music. When you start to learn to play the guitar you will be learning open chords which are mostly a matter of practice without too much pain, but blues music makes heavy use of seventh chords which are sometimes a little tricky. You can use the major or minor chords without the seventh if you want to but if you listen to a guitarist playing blues using seventh chords, you will see that the feeling is much stronger.
Without going into the theory behind seventh chords, what you need to know for purposes of this tutorial is that you may need to use all four left hand fingers to fret seventh chords. The G7 chord is quite straightforward but the C7 chord and the B7 involve applying pressure on four guitar strings. This involves the use of the pinky which will need quite a bit of practice.
The trick to changing to or from a seventh chord is learning to make as few movements as possible. Every unnecessary movement is learned by your muscle memory. Your fingers don’t know that certain movements are not needed for a chord change – your brain is going to have to decide how to carry out smooth chord changes while your body watches and learns as it carries out the movements involved.
One basic trick for the blues beginner guitar player is noticing when to lift fingers off the fretboard. Changing from the A minor chord to the C major chord involves moving only the third finger of the left hand from the second fret on the third string to the third fret of the fifth string, yet beginner guitar players will often make this chord change by lifting all the fingers off the old chord position and replacing them in the next chord shape.
A basic chord progression in the key of E can easily be learnt by blues beginner guitar players. It contains the chords E, E7, A7 and B7:
E E E E | E E E E | E E E E | E7 E7 E7 E7 |
A7 A7 A7 A7 | A7 A7 A7 A7 | E E E E | E E E E |
B7 B7 B7 B7 | A7 A7 A7 A7 | E E E E | E E E E |
Here is the tab for the E chord:
The E7 chord is the same but has a D note added at the third fret of the second string:
The B7 chord is a little awkward because all four fingers are crowded together:
And here is the A7 chord:
The seventh chords will take some getting used to but a few weeks of daily practice will soon have you playing these chords as if you had grown up with them. Once you have the basic chord shapes, practice the chord progression slowly to get used to going from one chord to another.