Playing country blues music changed my life in many respects, even beyond the music itself. I wanted to share these basics to give the opportunity for it to do the same for you.
Once you learn the bass techniques, the rest will fall into place.
You may be wondering where you should take the music next— I would respond by asking what do you want out of this music?
- If you are interested in technical playing, I would recommend checking out the music of Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Blake. They were two of the finest guitarists that ever lived and whose style was rooted in the Ragtime tradition. If you want to stay in a more down home blues tradition, listen to Blind Lemon Jefferson.
- If the notion of playing on your front porch attracts you, check out the playing of Mississippi John Hurt or Bukka White. They had a casual approach that evokes an image of people gathering together listening to them play.
- If you want to learn the tools to bear your soul, check out Johnny Shines or Scrapper Blackwell. These players played and sang in a manner that will move you. What they played was semi-technical, but they had a very emotionally laden sound.
- If you’re interested in singer-songwriter, folk music sounds, check out Charley Patton or Lightnin’ Hopkins. These guys inspired generations of players and dabbled in a lot of styles outside of blues.
The only way to play this music is to first learn songs by ear or through tabulature. A lot of veteran country blues players insist that learning by ear is the best way to learn. I personally have found that starting with tabulature to help visualize the chords and progressions to be very helpful, and will allow learning by ear to be easier. In the busy and bustling world we live in, you may not have time to learn by ear, so tabulature makes this music more accessible.
Luckily, we live in an age where there is a lot of great teaching material and tabulature available online. The best materials out there are through John Miller or Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. Stefan learned directly from the original country blues artists like Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James.
Beyond playing the music itself, I hope you also look into the rich history that allowed this music to come into fruition. Sometimes reading into the stories of these individuals can resonate and help guide you down the path. A great resource for learning more is the online country blues community Weenie Campbell.
Best of luck, and feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions!