Emerging from the heart of the United States’ deep south, the blues has consistently shifted the popular musical landscape as it has undergone its own transformations. From its origins in the late 1800s in post-Emancipation America to its psychedelic rock fusion in the 60s and 70s, the blues has always attracted talented musicians and left memorable guitarists, riffs, and progressions for us to study today.
Country blues is a good launching point for any guitarist hoping to gain an idea of the origins of the blues guitar tradition. Though rather general, the term “country blues” generally refers to early blues artists performing slower, driving rhythms on acoustic guitar. With very rough-around-the-edges and generally fingerpicked guitar playing, country blues represented more of an emotional embodiment than virtuoso guitar playing. This tradition of embodying and echoing a mood through song would stick in blues forever, and the earliest musical patterns of the genre can be traced back to country blues.
Country Blues Guitar Basics provides a great introduction and layout for the beginning guitarist who wants to learn fingerpicking, walking bass lines, and turnarounds. Mel Bay’s Complete Country Blues Guitar Book is a larger guitar sheet music catalogue with a comprehensive solo collection and two compact discs included. However, the Country Blues Guitar 3-Volume DVD Set is the ultimate learning tool for experienced or beginner alike, chock full of visual tutorials, play-along accessibility, and exhaustive analysis of country blues.
Mississippi Delta Blues
Most guitarists agree that the origins of modern lead guitar in the blues traces back to the Mississippi Delta blues that emerged outward from Memphis, Tennessee. Slide and steel guitar heavy, Delta blues is a great sub-genre for guitarists looking to establish a foundational understanding of modern blues music’s various formats. Robert Johnson, Skip James, Willie Brown, and Charlie Patton are all legends of Delta blues.
For great analysis and extensive lessons of Robert Johnson’s work, there’s no guitar sheet music option better than Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues. With 26 detailed song transcriptions and analysis, you’ll not only understand the blues’ most legendary guitarist, but you will also sound like him. A fun option to consider if you enjoy playing with other guitarists is Delta Blues Guitar Duets. Bob Brozman and Woody Mann teach the fundamentals of complimentary guitar duets-no small task in the world of the blues. If you’re looking to jam with other musicians and practice your improvisational skills, this book, which includes a DVD, is a great starting point.
Chicago and Texas Blues
Chicago and Texas blues both represent more obvious breaks with the past and injected amplified guitars and clear guitar solos and “licks” into the mix. Best understood as the result of field music moving into overcrowded, tough cities, Chicago blues struck internationally; many European guitarists to this day cite Chicago blues legends as inspiration. And Texas blues wasn’t far behind, either; Texas blues is often seen as the precursor to blues rock. For the emerging lead guitarist, there are many exciting books that teach the theory and patterns of Chicago and Texas blues.
Deep Texas Blues: The Early Blues Of Lightnin’ Hopkins can easily be considered the bible of Texas blues, if there was such a thing. This guitar sheet music and DVD pairing uses his early songs to teach players the depth of Texas blues. And if it’s that wild Chicago sound you’re after, Jam Trax: Chicago Blues offers instructional sheet music paired with a full-band back-up audio CD intended for jamming sessions.
Blues Guitar Sheet Music
Perhaps the most sought-after guitar sheet music is for blues rock. This is a list where today’s larger-than-life legends shine. Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin are just the tip of the iceberg of blues rock greats. Known for taking Chicago and Texas blues, injecting it with rock and roll attitude and the fresh perspective of the liberal 1960s and 70s, blues rock is the ultimate realization of those early country blues greats.