How To Play Blues Rhythm Guitar Chords

Posted by Mike Schuck

A rhythm guitar chord is any note that does not have a third, fifth or seventh degree above it in the scale. The notes surrounding the root are referred to as the harmonic components of the chord.

The easiest way to think about this is like how most people learn bass chords. You take your first bass string (the one with no frets) and drop a major second next to it. That is the index finger bass string of the E minor chord. Then you play the middle three strings (A, B, and C), which are all octave-scale equivalents of each other. They double in frequency as they go up. This creates the effect of the music rising and falling.

On the fretboard, these chords would look something like this:

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Index finger bass - E minor second

Third finger treble - G

Ring finger barre - A

Second finger pinch - D

That equals an easy E minor chord!

There are several reasons why knowing blues rhythm chords will help you. First, there are many songs where the guitarist uses either a I–V–vi–IV pattern or a II–VI–vioce–I–VII–II pattern for their verse/chorus structure.

By learning some basic rhythm patterns, you can begin to pick up what those songs sound like.

Practice making the different chords

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

After you learn how to play your first chord, it is time to move onto more difficult chords! The next step in developing your guitar playing skills is learning how to play some of the most common blues rhythm guitarsongs.

Many people start by trying to figure out how to play the intro to Taylor Swift’s song Shake It Off. While this is definitely a great place to begin, it is not the best way to develop your bass guitar technique.

There are many other songs with similar intros that use these same chords effectively. By practicing each one several times, you will be able to apply what you have learned to new songs.

Some of the hardest parts about playing blues rhythm guitar are being able to play multiple notes at a time and knowing when to rest your hand while performing. This article will go over all of the necessary chords and their corresponding finger positions.

Learn the different positions of the guitar

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

Position your hand as shown here for half-step, whole step, and quarter note chords. For example, for a A chord, put your index finger in position one (position two is not used for this string) for a half-A chord, place your middle finger in position two for a whole A chord, and then move up with your ring or third finger for a lower tone of the chord (a bass string).

For rhythm guitar playing, knowing these chord shapes by position is very important! You will be using them frequently when practicing blues music. When you play a blues song, it may go quickly from one chord shape to another, sometimes even within the same measure!

Knowing how to play some basic chords can make your playing more efficient and easier to perform.

Learn to read chord charts

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

Even if you can play some chords already, it is still important to learn how to analyze music and determine what notes are being used in which chords. This is called reading or analyzing chord structures.

It is very common for guitarists to be familiar with only one style of playing. Whether it is rhythm or lead guitar, there are usually not many variations of those styles; however, there are lots of different chord structure types!

Reading chord diagrams means determining which tones (or notes) are contained within each bar, as well as figuring out the order they appear in. For example, when looking at the first chord of a song, you would know that the root note is always the lowest tone, the third is the next highest, and then the second. The fifth is higher than the third.

This applies to songs that use major, minor, or natural harmonic progressions. It also depends on the key the song is in! Learning how to identify these chord types is an easy way to expand your guitar skills.

Learn to sing along with the guitar

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

The second way to play blues rhythm chords is by singing them! This can be done easily if you are familiar with the major scale, which we discussed earlier. By using the notes of the major scale in order, your voice will naturally harmonize with the chord.

By adding some extra flavor to the song, this technique makes for great listening! And since the music does all the work for you, you do not need to pay too much attention to what fingers go where.

You may want to try practicing both methods at first before choosing one over the other. Both take practice, but one may be easier to pick up than the other.

Use a metronome

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

A great way to learn how to play blues rhythm guitar chords is by using a metronome! A metronome works like a clock that gives you timing feedback.

A beginner can start with a simple one where it only marks off time in quarter notes (Quarters) or eighth notes (Eights). As you practice, you could increase the speed until you get perfect timing!

Using a tempo trainer will also help you learn how to play blues music faster as it keeps track of natural rhythms.

Learn to play using a drum beat

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

The next part of blues guitar rhythm is playing along with a steady, metronome-like bass pattern or pulse. This bass line typically uses the same chord structure as before, only without the major second (A natural) in the first measure.

The easiest way to learn this bass line is by learning how to play some basic licks. By now, you have probably already learned one or more blues scale patterns, which are very common beginner guitar licks that use the minor pentatonic scale.

By adding your own personal touches to these scales, you can create some amazing music! If you want to learn how to play using a drum beat, then there are two easy ways to do it. You can either practice copying existing songs or you can write your own material.

Mix your own blues rythym guitar chords

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

There are many ways to mix up your rhythm guitars chords. You do not have to stick to using major or minor chord shapes in this case! Some of the most common types of blues rhythm guitar chords use slash, natural second, half step, and tritone (or devil) interval patterns.

Using different shaped roots for each note helps create more interesting music. For example, the first root is A, next B, then C, and so on. Using different roots creates an array of sounds that can be mixed and matched depending on the song.

You can also add passing tones after the third scale degree (A in our example). These are like dominants — they hang around longer than the parent tone. The one in our example is E. They help give some weight to the notes that follow it.

Challenge yourself

how to play blues rhythm guitar chords

At this level, you can start trying out some blues guitar chords. These are typically A major (or sometimes A minor), G blues, and either D# or Em flat.

The first chord we will look at is the A major chord. To play the A major chord, place your third finger in position as if holding down the bass note of the A natural scale (the second string of the guitar). Then move up the index finger one fret to cover the root note of the A major chord (the first string of the guitar). Your middle fingers should be touching each other for a strong tone.

Next, add the lower part of the chord by moving the ring finger up an additional two frets so that it covers the fifth string of the guitar — the B string. Finally, drop the pinky toe onto the floor to create a low-pitched drone sound called the pedal. If you only have one foot able to press down on the pedal, then drag your leg forward until you get enough push to make a difference!

Practice using these chords with our new trick song material below.

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