Easy-Going Fingerstyle Blues: Step-by-Step Guide (Key of E)

Lesson #487 • May 3, 2023

In this week’s lesson, I’m excited to teach you a fingerstyle blues arrangement. We’ll be using familiar 12 bar blues, played in the Key of E. I’ll start things off as simply as possible — teaching you the chord shapes & progressions we’ll build upon. From there, I’ll add new concepts one step at a time, allowing you to get fully up to speed at a comfortable pace. If you’re able to hang until the end, we’ll arrive at an alternating bass note arrangement (using Travis Picking) that’s been a blast to play as I’ve prepared this lesson. I think you’ll dig this one… let’s get into it!

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 2:36 Step 1: 12 Bar Blues Chord Progression
  • 5:25 Step 2: Adding Basic Melody
  • 7:57 Step 3: Chords & Finger Placement
  • 12:35 Step 4: Full Melody w/ Basic Bass Notes
  • 16:58 Step 5: Full Melody w/ Advanced Bass Notes

Instructional PDF 4 pages

Follow along with the print-friendly PDF! It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

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Follow along with the print-friendly PDF!

It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

To download the PDF, upgrade to premium or log in.

Lesson Discussion

Jump in the conversation with other members of the Song Notes community! Post a comment about this lesson, ask a question, or even upload a video of your progress. All skill levels welcome!

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Extended Videos

Simple Melody, Played Over 120bpm Backing Track

This plays through the full Step 2 arrangement, with tabs on screen. This demonstrates how you can play the very simple melody (thinnest two strings) over the 12 bar blues backing track.

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Full Melody, Played with Single Bass Notes

This plays through the full Step 4 arrangement, slowly, with tabs on screen. Notice how I’m pulsing the bass notes on each quarter note. This is a great way to begin mixing your right thumb with your right index finger (without the alternating bass notes).

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Full Melody, Played with Alternating Bass Notes

This plays through the full Step 5 arrangement once, slowly, with tabs on screen. Then it plays through things again at full speed, using the 72bpm backing track in the background.

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Backing Tracks

I made two backing tracks for this lesson. Both move through the E Major 12 bar blues chord progression (which I show in Step 1 and also in my PDF)… though the tracks are played at different speed.

  • The Quick 12 Bar Blues (120bpm) track plays through things quite swiftly, and is ideal for experimenting with basic melody lines or lead guitar fills. This maps to the tabs I show in Step 2 of my video lesson.

  • The Slow 12 Bar Blues (72bpm) track is meant for the fingerpicked arrangements I show in Step 4 and Step 5. This one moves slower, but you’ll need to count using sixteenth notes (ONE-ee-and-uh-TWO-ee-and-uh, etc).

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Quick 12 Bar Blues (120bpm) (download):

Slow 12 Bar Blues (72bpm) (download):

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