Is learning the blues a means to a different end?

Is learning blues technique a bit like learning your ABC’s so that you have a toolset to be able to then branch out to other styles of music?

At the moment I’m plodding along in Grade 2 trying to put in place solid foundations. Yesterday I started watching Justin’s live practical music theory class. It left me in equal parts nervous and excited realising how much I don’t understand and have ahead of me.

I totally get that we need to just keep chipping away at where we are so that we slowly make progress. Beyond this I’m trying to make sense of what the different paths would be so that there’s a goal to be motivated by. At the moment I’m learning songs in the app. Even though they may not be my taste I can totally see the benefit to practice rhythm and technical skill that could be used elsewhere. It’s a means to an end.

As this year has progressed I’m finding the most fun in playing improv melody in jamming sessions. It’s very slow tempo stuff but I’m loving the freedom of it even if I’m not grasping the theory that is behind it all. So I guess I enjoy playing emotionally in the moment and seeing what might appear out of the wash.

Are there others that find themselves wanting to jump in and play by ear or feel before having processed the theory? Does anyone else play chords but you’ve no idea what they are, only that the notes just sound good together. Or you enjoy picking out notes and melody without being able to deconstruct what it is? I’m totally onboard with the value in learning these things but guess I’m reluctant to wait until then before trying to create something or express myself.

TL;DR - beginner guitarist realising there’s an enormous side pack adventure with the label of blues that may need to be added to the future arsenal even if my goal is not to be a blues player?


Don`t be reluctant … :sunglasses:


I believe the richness of the Blues makes it a highly valuable genre for developing various skills, and experiences, in harmony, melody, and rhythm. Plus, people can ‘feel’ the blues I think like no other music.

How you learn and develop, I think is a combination of structured learning and simply getting your hands, ( and your ears) on the guitar and experiencing it.
I learn much more from blues songs than any other type of music.

For those like me who love the blues; rather than a means to an end, its an infinite field of musical possibilties.

Cheers, Shane


My 2 cents … You should do what makes you happy. You certainly don’t need to study blues to excel at other styles of music, although there’s a lot of important skills you will learn studying blues that will transfer to other music. It’s a very deep rabbit hole!
There are a lot of great musicians who didn’t have much theory but they knew what sounded good and built amazing careers. You absolutely don’t need to learn theory before you start improvising and playing by ear - at the end of the day making music it what this guitar thing is all about. Knowing some theory might speed up the process a bit, and will certainly help you communicate with other musicians. It will help you understand why something sounds good or not, but I don’t think it’s essential.

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Yes, yes and yes. I feel I learn and enjoy the instrument doing that, but try to discipline myself to grind our the tedious repetition needed to really know the basic skills and techniques I have learned.

@roger_holland Noted ;0)

@sclay This makes good sense and would better explain why Justin seems to pair blues with improvisation? That’s a great way of putting it: “An infinite field of musical possibility.”

@mathsjunky - It does sound like blues has a lot to offer and keeping an open mind about it could benefit other types of playing. I guess previously I’d listen to music in terms of my personal taste whereas now I’m starting to consider technical skills and how they might be applied elsewhere. My ears are hearing different things now.

@MichaelPFeeney - 100% relate to how you describe that - it’s the space where I can turn my brain off. My progress on the linear modules has felt disconnected from the jamming sessions but it’s keeping the faith that the two will meet on the horizon at some point in the future.

I think improvisation is an integral part of blues music, I think any blues instruction will include learning how to improvise. I suppose this is the influence of jazz on the blues.

The more experienced players should correct me if I’m wrong, but I also think learning blues lead guitar is a gateway into lead guitar in general. Personally, when I wanted to start learning some lead guitar, I started with Justin’s blues lead module.

There really is no such thing as improvising. Playing lead guitar is like speaking. You don’t make up words as you go, you speak the words you already know to communicate a thought to other people. You also need to know how these works go together so that they make sense.
This is what separates Great musicians (not just guitarist) from everyone else.
They use what they know very well to communicate what they want to play. They don’t make it up as they go.


@stitch I think I see where you’re coming from with this analogy. By saying there is no such thing as improvisiation we’re putting the emphasis on learning a language and then building the confidence in how to express that language. That point of expression may be in a live environment where you get to have a musical conversation with other musicians. (This is I guess what I was thinking of as improvisation - where there is no expectation of what is going to come.)

I like what you’re saying though so maybe it is that blues helps provide some of the ABCs of lead guitar?

I’m in a similar place @Sound_Bound , I’m at the end of Grade2 and should be consolidating but I find myself much more motivated to learn the Blues.
The Blues has influenced a lot of music that has come after it so learning the ABC’s of the Blues should help you with wherever you want to take your playing.
I haven’t learned string bending or any licks yet so I’m sticking to Blues rhythm for now, thinking it will help consolidate everything I’ve learned so far.

Have you done the Blues module in Grade2?

Music is a language (not just the blues) It has 12 notes that make up everything and it’s how you put those note together that make music. This is why we cringe when someone or ourselves plays a wrong note. Once you know how these notes fit to sound good we can put them together.
Improvising implies that the player is just throwing licks and phases out there with nothing holding them together. That would be like saying Cat Tomato Sky Yesterday. It means nothing to the listener. Or you could say Yesterday I saw a Tomato colored Cat in the Sky.
Still makes no sense but sounds like it should.

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I think its normal.

Its expressive and emotive and fundamentally linked to almost all modern guitar music.

Through the Kings etc to Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Sabbath directly to metal and grunge etc.

^ That would make a good album name.

China Cat Sunflower?

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@jjw That’s more like the tricky followup second album, no?

@burnsrhythm You’re ahead of me in Grade 2 as I’ve not yet done the blues module. I had a turning moment in the last day or so, where I started to anticipate learning the blues differently. It’s not previously a genre of music I’d listen to as I’d been thinking about improvisation in much broader brush strokes than blues or jazz. I’m thinking electronic, hip hop, rap, spoken word or even non-westerm music. It’s all good though, I’m glad to have challenged my thinking.

I took a break beteen level 2 and 3 and did both the blues solo and rhythm course. Partially because I only really listen to blues and its the only style that I want to play. At the time I was in a slight rut with constantly learning. I diligently commited to.learning,did all my practice,learnt songs etc but was beginning to feel like a footballer contantly training and never stepping foot on the pitch.
It did me the world of good-it was a real rut buster. I found a few things technically difficult at first(prectice,practice , practice) and I found that incorporating licks into daily routine really improved my confidence as an intermediate player. I will just add that I wasnt a complete newbie-more an undisciplined will lots of bad habits(which level 1 and 2 straightened out).

Thanks Rob, good to know I’m normal! :smiley:
I’m not overly familiar with the old blues music and yet the rhythm and licks are very recognisable to me. It must be the blue’s influence on the music I like.

I suggest you keep going in Grade2 @Sound_Bound You’ll get to Rock and power chords in module 12, which also has pattern 1 of the minor pentatonic scale. Blues is module 13 and then you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do.

I’m sort of taking a break to focus on the blues a bit, although I’ll probably keep an eye on Grade3 as well.

Hole in one, blues is the roots of other genres like rock, grunge, metal etc. Once you’ve got a good foundation in it you will see how it applies itself to other genres. Go for it, you never know you might start enjoying it!

Don’t forget jazz too. That all came out of blues.

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