Guitar Player

Blues Comping 101

IN A GUITARIST’S life, few things are as fun and gratifying as jamming out on a 12-bar blues progression with a friend, a band or even by yourself. And sure, the soloing part is a blast, but as with many different musical styles, your primary role in blues is in most cases to accompany a singer or other featured instrumentalist who is playing a melody. So if you’re feeling limited by your blues comping (chord, or rhythm guitar, playing) ability and vocabulary and are searching for inspiration in those areas, this lesson presents a variety of tried-and-true chords, riff patterns and fills that will help fortify your blues comping arsenal. All of these can be applied to various tempos, grooves and playing scenarios, so grab your favorite axe and let’s get started!


Let’s begin by getting acquainted with a collection of short, standard blues chord-playing patterns that can be mixed and matched in any variety of ways. Before we get into the examples, let’s consider a few notes about them:

• For the purpose of economizing page space, the first five examples are presented back to back, or side by side on one line, and in 2/4 meter with repeat brackets. Each of these two-beat patterns would typically be played twice across a bar of 44 meter.


• The pick-hand palm muting instructions (P.M.) and staccato markings (those little black dots below some of the notes heads, which tell you to reduce the note’s duration by 50 percent) are articulation suggestions that offer a starting point. Feel free to use little or no palm muting at all,

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