40 Famous & Easy blues songs on guitar

As a beginner guitarist, learning some blues fundamentals is one of the absolute best ways to build proficiency on the instrument. Getting to grips with those minor pentatonic box shapes and learning where that b5 note sits can be done relatively quickly and have you sounding like a pro in no time.

But learning the scales and the typical blues progression is all well and good, but you’ll want a good vocabulary of phrases, licks, and rhythms to accompany it. And there’s no better way to do that than by learning as many incredible blues songs from world-renowned artists as you possibly can!

So today we’ve created a list of 40 popular blues songs that any beginner can try their hand at learning. We’ve even provided both tablature and video lessons to make it easy for you!

The Thrill Is Gone by B. B. King

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When it comes to learning some fantastic blues fundamentals, some B.B. King is the perfect place to start. He places a lot of emphasis on phrasing (things like bends and vibrato) as well as careful note choice. This minor blues piece was originally written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, but B.B. King’s version from his ‘Completely Well’ album made the song much more popular, and even won him a Grammy Award!

In addition to all the great bending and vibrato fluency B.B. showcases, one thing to pay close attention to is his tone. He’s extremely good at knowing when to swap between his bridge and neck pickup, try to ensure you swap at the same times he does and you’ll get a huge leg up in sounding great.


Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker

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One of John Lee Hooker’s most iconic and well known songs, it does a really good job of interweaving lead guitar and rhythm in a call and response fashion. Released in 1962 as part of his album ‘Burnin’. Since its release and success, it’s also been covered by a number of notable artists including a rendition from the popular British Rock band ‘The Animals’.

This song is played in the key of E minor which makes many of the lead sections require good use of the open strings. It’s a great chance to get used to that blues phrasing and lead playing very low down the neck. The rhythm section for this song is also really good, so you can easily choose to play that instead if you don’t feel like tackling the leads.


Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues by Buddy Guy

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This is a great example of how to do blues-style lead playing by incorporating tasteful lines and powerful bends. This was the title track from his album of the same name released in 1991.  There was also an expanded version that contains 2 extra tracks. The album performed quite well, hitting the number 42 spot on the UK charts and reaching number 18 in NZ.

There’s a nice simple bassline motif happening in A minor underneath this song which essentially serves as a backing to solo over. So don’t feel you need to play exactly what Buddy plays here, this is your chance to come up with your own lines too! One thing worth paying attention to is the wonderfully low gain and gritted up clean tone he uses here.


Smokestack Lightnin’ by Howlin’ Wolf

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The interesting thing about this song is it’s a 1 chord blues track, where the bassist stays glued to that low string which really grounds everything together. This was a promotional single released in 1958, despite the fact they had been playing it for over 20 years already in some form or another.  It was able to reach the number 42 spot on the US singles chart.

The song does a great job of keeping the key steady by having that main motif keep repeating. This leaves the lead guitars free to string together all the best lead lines and cool blues licks. A fantastic song to learn as a beginner as it’s going to get all those juicy blues lines into your vocabulary.


Muddy Waters by Mannish Boy

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This is an iconic blues tune of which you’ll see many of the phrases and rhythmic motifs used here show up time and time again in hundreds of other popular blues songs. McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) was a phenomenal blues singer/songwriter and had a significant impact on commercial blues music. He won no less than 6 Grammy Awards, and 6 blues foundation awards, and was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This is a good opportunity to step away from the blues leads and instead focus on a very simple, repeating rhythmic motif. It sticks firmly within that first position of the A minor pentatonic scale, so if you’ve learned that already you’ll have a big advantage when learning this song!


Crosscut Saw by Albert King

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Also known as ‘crosscut saw blues’, this is what some describe as a ‘dirty blues’ song, which means it uses some very tasteful dissonance and atonal note choice on purpose to give it that raw and unfiltered feel. The track was originally released by Tommy McClennan but it was the Albert King rendition that made it so popular and a staple of the blues during that time.

As mentioned this is a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with intentionally hitting jarring or unexpected notes. Purposely choosing not to head to the ‘right’ note, or to include harmony that’s not in key is a very powerful tool to have when you wish to express a complicated feeling that doesn’t fit in the box of simple minor pentatonic playing.


Boogie Chillen’ by John Lee Hooker

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A nice change of pace from the more soulful and somber blues, this one is an uptempo and lively piece that is justly just vocals and guitar with no drum accompaniment aside from John Lee’s footsteps keeping the tempo. Recorded way back in 1948 and released as a single, many prominent blues musicians have cited this song as the reason why they decided to begin playing the guitar.

The main thing to really nail in this song is the strumming pattern, it has a softer hit on the downstroke with the upstroke acting as the main accent. As there’s no drum accompaniment here either tapping your foot to the song is a great way to keep in time. You’ll also need a capo on the second fret of the guitar.


Born Under A Bad Sign by Albert King

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A brilliant and soulful blues song that interweaves small lead phrases in between vocal hooks. It’s been called by many ‘a timeless staple of the blues’. Released as a single from the ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ album. It was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988 as it’s considered a signature blues song, and was also covered by the band Cream where Eric Clapton performs an extended guitar solo.

This is a really nice track for beginners to learn as it tends to keep a lot of its runs and passages in a single position on the guitar, so there’s not too much jumping around and hard work. Instead, you can just relax and enjoy jamming some cool blues licks.


The Sky Is Crying by Elmore James

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You might already know this for the Stevie Ray Vaughan rendition, but today we’re going back to the source with the original Elmore James version recorded in 1989. After its release, it was able to reach the number 15 slot on the R&B singles chart. Despite the higher commercial success of other renditions, this original blues standard was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

It’s a really slow ballad in the key of C and is often used as a backing to improvise over, so although we have provided a tab, it’s completely valid if you want to just jam over this and find your own ideas.


Sweet Home Chicago by The Blues Brothers

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Immediately switching gears from the slow, ballad style blues, this is an upbeat and groovy tune that was originally recorded by Rober Johnson back in the 1930s. I say recorded and not written as there have been a few other similar songs that preceded it. It was able to garner a lot of additional popularity due to its prominent use in the classic movie ‘The Blues Brothers’.

This is a great all-around blues song for any beginner to learn as it does everything, it has that driving rhythm which follows the standard blues chord progression we all love. But it also works lead lines and phrases seamlessly in between everything, and even has a few dedicated leads to boot! You can really round off your skillset by learning this song.


Rock Me Baby by B.B. King

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While pretty much all of B.B. King’s songs are known for being iconic, this one in particular has become a true classic and is one of the most covered and re-recorded blues tracks of all time. It’s loosely based on the 1951 song ‘Rockin’ and Rollin’’ by Lil’ Son Jackson, but B.B. made sure to give it his own signature flair. The piano also really adds a lot to the song and makes a welcome change from just pure guitar-based blues music.

This is a mid-tempo song and we’ll be playing it all around C. The key to really nailing the vibe and feel is in those small lead guitar ‘fills’ between the rhythmic breaks. Getting a few of them into your vocabulary book will be invaluable if you are ever in an improvisation session and need to bust out some killer (and tasteful) leads.


Mary Had a Little Lamb by Stevie Ray Vaughan

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So you have probably already heard, or if you were unfortunate enough in school, maybe even sang this song a few hundred times already. It’s a classic English nursery rhyme from the 19th century. But Stevie was able to take these classic lyrics and work them into a rocking blues groove, it’s intended to be somewhat satirical by putting a children’s song out of context. But it ended up becoming an incredibly popular blues track with some fantastic guitar work.

Although lyrically it follows the classic nursery rhyme, instrumentally it very much follows a traditional blues chord progression that works in some very cool chord voicings, look out for that E7 inversion! In between the chords, there are a lot of catchy single-note lines that make good use of the palm muting technique.


Who Do You Love? by Bo Diddley

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Next, we have a more upbeat track that uses the famous ‘Bo Diddley Beat’ which is a particular syncopated rhythmic beat that he coined. It became very commonly used in the pop and rock genres. Originally released in 1956, many argue that it’s one of his best songs. He was inspired to write it after hearing a group of children try to ‘out-brag’ each other by using a particular kind of chant.

As mentioned this makes use of a particular kind of rhythm, so once you have that memorized it’s just a case of applying it to the chords. Chord wise we’re mainly jumping between the open E major and open A major shapes. Some of the movement is quite fast and frantic, but don’t worry about being clinically tight, this track has a lot of attitude in it so it’s ok to have that little bit of roughness present!


The Stumble by Freddie King

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Here’s a really fun tune to play that makes great use of blues fundamentals and is totally accessible for beginners. It’s a completely instrumental track which is great if you don’t have any interest in singing over the music. Released a single from Freddie’s 1962 album ‘Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King’. It’s also been covered by tons of notable artists including Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds, and Gary Moore.

Following a standard blues progression in the key of Em, this is every beginning blues player’s dream. You’ll stay planted much of the time in that first position of the pentatonic scale doing all those great fundamental and classic licks and techniques.


T Bone Shuffle by T Bone Walker 

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While not necessarily credited with inventing the shuffle beat, he was very much responsible for popularising it thanks to songs such as ‘T Bone Shuffle’ and ‘T Bone Boogie’. He was also known for his wild stage performances which are said to have been a big influence on Chuck Berry.

We essentially have a ‘walking pattern’ that outlines each of the chords in a standard blues progression, allowing us all the catchiness of the blues format but this extra movement going on behind everything adds this new energy to the feel of the track. 


Things That I Used to Do by Guitar Slim

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While many people are probably already familiar with the very popular Stevie Ray Vaughan rendition, it was originally written by Guitar Slim and was subsequently deemed a blues standard. It was released in 1953 as a single and garnered great commercial success, hanging in on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues charts for a whopping 42 weeks. It was even the best-selling R&B record that year.

Although this was very popular during its time of release, for today’s standard of guitar playing this is all considered quite easy stuff. It’s a great opportunity for any beginner to expand their blues vocabulary without taxing their hands too much.


Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out by Eric Clapton

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This is another blues standard that was originally written by Jimmie Cox in 1923, but for many, they will know this from the popular Eric Clapton rendition. He originally learned this back when he was still a student after becoming a big fan of finger-picking guitar. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later he would record it with his band Derek and the Dominos for their debut album.

This is a great example of how well blues music works on the acoustic guitar. Your thumb will be primarily acting as the bass part picking the lower strings, while your fingers will be playing the chords and melodies higher up.


I’m in a Phone Booth by Robert Cray

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This track has a great funky feel to it and puts a bigger emphasis on the rhythm rather than working leads in between phrases on the verse. But it does have a fantastic dedicated lead section that uses some great techniques such as raking. This is from Robert’s second studio album titled ‘Bad Influence’ which was released in 1983.

For this song, you’ll want a nice clean tone with no breakup. There’s a great deal of emphasis on the strumming pattern so be sure to keep your wrist nice and loose here to get that funky feel. For the solo there’s a lot of ‘spank’ to the tone, so be sure to pick quite hard to emulate that percussive slapping element of the sound.


Alberta by Eric Clapton

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There are a lot of songs that use the song title Alberta, it was originally recorded by the American folk/blues singer Lead Belly to average success, but it became an extremely popular track during the ‘American folk music revival period’  that was prominent during the ’60s. Eric’s version came a little bit later from his 1977 album ‘Slowhand’ where it was included as a bonus track on the deluxe edition.

This is another acoustic blues track, it’s a bit more of a laid-back song where you’ll be strumming the chords at a nice slow pace. There are no ripping blues solos in here which makes it great if you’re a beginner and still working on that part of your technique.


Baby What You Want Me To Do by By Elvis Presley

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Next, we have a classic blues track that was written by Jimmy Reed back in 1959, it follows an extremely simple 12 bar blues format (with some minor tweaks we’ll cover in a bit). It was a successful hit song, and as such was covered by many other artists, most notably by rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley who performed it during his ‘69 Comeback Special’.

As mentioned this follows your general blues progression but on the 9th and 10th bars that V chord is substituted for a II chord. Because it’s mostly chord-based one of the tricks to getting this song to sound good is using enough distortion to really grit up the sound, but still keep it clean enough to where you can hear each note ringing out.


All Your Love by John Mayall & The Blues Breakers

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Eric Clapton was really able to carve out his own unique sound within the blues genre, and few songs showcase that as well as this with its expressive blues riffs and that incorporate slides and singing vibrato into them. This was originally a blues standard recorded by Otish Rush back in 1958, but it was covered by the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton 8 years later.

John Mayall and The Blues Breakers played a big part in popularising the more guitar-dominated blues rock and roll, so the riffs are a little bit more involved requiring some additional control. The main motif of the song keeps returning to a strike across the 5th fret on the top 3 strings which you will need to control and slide down from in time with the song.


Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers

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A more laid-back blues track that uses softer fingerpicking with a more soulful lyrical style. Bill was inspired to write this after watching the movie ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ and has mentioned that the song specifically references 2 characters from the movie. The song became a chart-topping hit, reaching the number 6 spot on the US R&B charts.

As this is a finger-picked song your thumb will be acting as the bass section outlining the root notes of our standard blues chord progression. Then in addition to that, we’ll be using our fingers to play the chords on the upper strings.


Matchbox by Carl Perkins

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You may have seen Carl’s incredible performance of this song with both Eric Clapton and Ringo star already. But this was originally released back in the late 50s as a promotional single for Carl’s album ‘Dance Album of Carl Perkins’. It’s a classic rockabilly tune with tons of attitude and that classic blues lead playing. It’s known that the popular British band ‘The Beatles’ were big fans of Carl so they decided to record their own rendition of Matchbox.

The song is played at a fair tempo and is sure to give your rhythm skills a good test. Primarily staying around Am and using lots of cool bluesy phrases around that lower side of the guitar.


Lucille by BB King

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Lucille is actually the name B.B. King would give to his guitars, which were usually Gibson 355 models in a black finish. The name comes from a fight that had broken out between two men during one of his concerts, and he later found out the fight was started over a woman called ‘Lucille’, he named his guitars after her as a reminder of the events.

If you weren’t very good at bending before, you sure will be after learning this song! There’s a huge emphasis put on the phrasing with many quarter, half and full step bends giving you probably the best workout you could want for improving your technique!


Life By The Drop by Stevie Ray Vaughan

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Stevie had a high-school friend called Doyle Bramhall, and they played together in various bands during their younger years as he was a singer and drummer. Over time their paths separated as Stevie’s success grew while Doyle remained relatively unsuccessful. But they were still close and Doyle wrote this song about their friendship, which in 1998 Stevie decided to finish the song off and record it himself.

The opening passage to this song has a bunch of cool hammer ons and pull offs which will need a little practice to get in time with the original, as they are technically played as triplets. After that, we just have some simple grooving in A minor.


Kind Hearted Woman Blues by Robert Johnson

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With a nice slow groove to it, this is the perfect song for a solo singer/guitarist to jam to and learn some old-school blues riffing. This is part of the very first style of blues playing which people commonly refer to as the ‘delta blues’. It was recorded in 1937 as a single, but since then it’s been re-released many times on various compilation albums that pay tribute to those classic blues foundation tracks.

At a nice and slow bpm of 82, this is a fantastic track for beginners to learn as you can get ample time to change chords and move your hands around the neck. There’s nothing crazy going on and this will really help cement those blues fundamentals into your repertoire.


Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry

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Chuck Berry pushed the blues genre forward by marrying it together with country and fast-paced electric guitar playing to create what we now refer to as ‘rock and roll’. This is a classic track that’s achieved lasting fame due to its use in the hit movie ‘Back to The Future’. It tells the story of a country boy who has dreams of becoming a famous guitarist.

This is going to be a busy song for your left hand as it goes straight into a single-note guitar solo which is played predominantly with downstrokes. It does a lot of twisting within that Bb minor pentatonic shape and is really going to show you how to get a lot of note value out of very little hand movement.


It Hurts Me Too by Elmore James 

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This is a great blues ballad that is also known as one of the more heavily interpreted blues standards around. There’s no credited songwriter, but it was first recorded in 1940 by Tampa Red. Although it’s been recorded by a large number of musicians, the Elmore James version is one of the most widely known, particularly for the new lyrics he added to the song.

One important thing to note about Elmore James is that he played an acoustic guitar that had a pickup installed, which was then run through an amplifier. This was a large part of his signature sound and particularly helped when playing with the slide


I Put a Spell On You by  Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

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You may have seen this song already as it’s been used in numerous popular pieces of media including the classic Disney movie ‘Hocus Pocus’. It’s a classic rhythm and blues tune that was intended to be a simple love blues ballad, but after the producer brought everyone ribs, chicken and alcohol they all got drunk and came out with this, as they call it,  ‘weird version’.

But it’s still a fantastically well-written song, it gets has a bit of a quirky vibe to it with the very staccato string section and extremely lively vocal performance. There are no guitar solos in here so you can treat this as a rhythmic exercise and follow the groove and classic blues chord progression.


I Can’t Quit You Baby by Led Zeppelin

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While this song was originally written by Willie Dixon, it was adapted by the progressive band Rush who changed the arrangement of it a bit. This was then further adapted by Led Zeppelin and released on their debut album. We’ve gone with this version as it’s a little bit more modern and is a little bit more frantic in the guitar playing which is a lot of fun to learn.

Led Zeppelin was able to capture that blues feel from the original song while adding a lot of their own personality to it. You’ll encounter all the cool blues stuff you’d expect such as bends and some nice pentatonic lead work, but there’s also some nice use of chromatics and that all-important b5 note which is great to be exposed to as a beginner.


Wishing Well by Free

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This song definitely sits a little more towards the blues-rock genre, but it’s also a good one to learn as it doesn’t follow that traditional 12 bar blues structure yet still includes much of the phrasing you might associate with the style. This was released in 1972 as part of the ‘Heartbreaker’ album and was their large charting single before the group disbanded.

You’ll be using a mixture of more rock-style guitar rhythms, such as heavy use of power chords. While also still doing a lot of cool, bluesy lead work that includes things such as your classic pentatonic licks and bends.


What’d I Say by Ray Charles

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The original arrangement for this track is very piano-driven, which makes it a really great song to transfer over and try to emulate the style of a piano player on guitar. It was released in 1959 as part of his ‘What’d I say’ album, and it was the song that really allowed Ray Charles to break through to a wider audience. Rolling Stone’s even ranked it as the 10th greatest song of all time in 2003.

This is a pretty fast one where you’ll be taking on the role of both bassist and lead player as you jump between chords on the upper strings while squeezing lower notes in between the breaks. The good thing is those riffs can be held with a simple power chord shape, so it’s not as hard as it sounds.


Waitin’ For The Bus by ZZ Top

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Another song that marries blues and rock elements seamlessly in a catchy and easy to play way that makes it a great song for beginners to learn. This song is interlinked with ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ (surprise surprise, not a traditional worship tune) which are both from their 1973 album ‘Tres Hombres’ as they segue into each other. So when they were played on the radio they were commonly played together.

We’ll be pedaling off the A string for a lot of this song while double up with higher notes from that minor pentatonic/blues box shape. There’s very good use of dynamics here so try to listen to and emulate when they are palm muting and when they are leaving notes open.


I’m Tore Down by Freddie King

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I’m Tore Down has a ton of attitude and grit to it, particularly with the aggressive guitar tone which really accents the pick attack and makes those bends scream! The track was recorded by Freddie in 1961 and was released as a single. It was also famously covered by Eric Clapton for his blues tribute album ‘From the Cradle’.

While there’s nothing too challenging from a technical perspective here, the thing to really focus on is that you’re using enough distortion to facilitate the style, and also that you’re picking the notes hard and with confidence, that’s what’s going to make them really pop out.


Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan

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The title track from Stevie’s Debut album of the same name, which was originally recorded by Larry David back in 1958, and after Stevie was introduced to the song he has been noted as saying it has ‘intriguing guitar work’.

So Stevie’s lead playing in Texas Flood can hardly be considered easy to play, he’s one of the first guitarists to really start bringing speed into the equation when it came to blues guitar. However, there is also a fantastic rhythm section to this song that really dials in that single-coil Stratocaster sound which is fantastic for beginners to learn.


Sweet Little Angel by B.B. King

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This song also goes by the names ‘Black Angel Blues’ and ‘Sweet  Black Angel’. It’s a blues standard that’s been played by a huge number of artists. But in 1956 B.B. recorded his version citing Robert Nighthawk’s version as his main influence. But B.B.’s version gave the song a great boost in popularity, prompting even more artists to cover it.

The absolute standout about this song is by far B.B.’s impeccable bending skills. These are not easy to replicate but a helpful exercise is to try and identify when he’s going a full bend, a half bend, or a quarter bend and try to make sure your pitch matches his.  This song will really level up your phrasing skill!


Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream

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More of a psychedelic rock song with heavy blues influence, but this has to be included for that incredible opening and iconic riff. This was released in 1967 from their album ‘Disraeli guitars’. While Cream was previously known for essentially updating classic blues and pop songs for their debut, with this they got a little bit more experimental with their style and sound.

There are some quite unusual and very cool sounding note/chord choices in this song on the 5th and 7th measures which do a great job of pulling you out of the box and acclimatizing you to stranger chordal sounds. A great one for beginners to learn as it’s easy to play and will also expand your vocabulary.


Statesboro Blues by The Allman Brothers Band

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We haven’t had too many opportunities to make use of slide guitar yet, so if you have one to hand (or an empty bottle you can use) this is your chance! The track was originally written by Blind Willie McTell way back in the late 1920s. However, the Allman brothers recorded the song in 1971 and blew people away with the unique sound and it ended up becoming a staple of their live performances.

Most of the note choice is what you’d expect from a great blues song, but playing it all with a slide is no small feat. The key is really to make sure the slide is directly over the fret wire rather than where you would place your finger to play a note, as that point of contact is exactly what note you’re going to hear from the instrument.


Blues Power by Eric Clapton

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Another great example of a blues song that has just a little rock injected into it, bringing the energy and life up a notch. This is Eric’s second solo single from his self-titled debut album. Since its initial release in 1970, it’s made its way onto a plethora of other compilation albums and has been released a whopping 15 times in total.

Although there’s a good amount of lead work, for a beginner this is also a great opportunity to work on your rhythm skills. It follows that classic blues progression but is fairly fast, so it’s going to keep your hands busy and get that picking up to speed.


Love In Vain by Robert Johnson

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Stripping things down at the end here with the classic from Robert Johnson, this is performed just as a solo singer/guitarist piece. Released as a single in 1939, it contains lots of elements of delta blues and has been covered by a huge number of artists. It was also recorded by the Rolling Stones but due to not giving credit to Robert it led to a lawsuit which they lost.

This is played using Robert Johnson’s signature fingerpicking style which is quite challenging to both perform and sing to at the same time. If you are a beginner it’s a good idea to perhaps ignore the upper chordal part of the guitar work and instead focus on that bassline and keeping the rhythm of the song down.

Liam Engl

UK born gear nerd that happens to play guitar. Began playing properly at the age of 12 after hearing Soilwork's Natural Born Chaos and deciding trying to sound like Peter Wichers was a respectable life goal. Full time guitar teacher and over the last decade has become involved in the audio/production side of things.

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