Muddy Waters: Are You Confused About Blues Guitar

The blues is a beautiful genre of music with roots that run deep into the history of African American people. It is a rhythmic and melodic expression of emotion, of life, and of the troubles that we all face as human beings. There have been many famous blues musicians to grace this earth, like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and BB King, although too few of them are still with us now. However, we can keep the tradition and the spirit of the blues alive by learning more about how to play the different genres. With this in mind read on for some advice that can help you unmuddy the waters around playing the blues guitar.


12 Bar Blues

The twelve bar blues popularized by Muddy Waters, among others is one of the most well-known types of blues. In fact, it’s definitely the one that most people will have come across in one form or another. This is because it has heavily influenced lots other types of popular music including R&B and rock and roll.


According to Bold Music, you need a specific chord arrangement to play the 12 bar blues properly. This arrangement should contain a root chords and then two more, one 4 scale degrees away and the other 5 scales degrees. Something that makes it pretty simple to get the hang of it once you understand the basics.

16 bar Blues

The 16 bar blues is actually a musical development on the 12 bar variety. With the first fours bars being extended to eight. Often used in ragtime music, this is the arrangement that most listener were used to hearing until musician started to rearrange in favor of the twelve bar.

Learning the 16 and the 12 bar is essential because having them under your belt will allow you to have a go at more style of the Blues. Something that can help to keep the legacy of Blues alive for the next generation.

Memphis Blues

Memphis is a place famous for its music, and although most folks think of Elvis first, he is just one in a long line of professional and groundbreaking musicians that hail from this area.

In particular, B.B. King is well known for this style of Blues, and his Live At The Regal album is said to be one of the best albums of all time!


While Memphis blues is often a term for popularised 12 bar blues, in fact, some of the first songs include a piece titled The Memphis Blues or Mister Crump actually had a mix of 12 and 16 bars chords in it.  Something that demonstrates that the delineation between the different types of Blues is not always crystal clear.

Gospel Blues

Lastly, Gospel Blues is a particular genre of blues-inspired music that has a wide reach. Often containing traditional call and response elements found in church services, Gospel blues combines Christian worship with the melodies and rhythms of the blues music movement.

It differs to the other type of blues in that it often takes the 16 bar form. Through this musics, the performer’s main intention is to show their devotion to God, as well as affirm their personal beliefs. Making it well worth learning more about to keep the flame of the Blues alive.



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