3 Essential Blues Techniques You Need to Know

3 Essential Blues Techniques You Need to Know

If you’re just getting to grips with your first bunch of blues licks and you want to start making your guitar really sing, you will definitely want to learn some techniques to embellish your playing.

In this lesson you are going to learn 3 essential techniques that you need to know. This will benefit your blues licks and help you create some great sounding guitar parts.

String Bending

String bending is when you play a note and push it upwards to change the pitch. In this lick we are going to explore 3 main types of string bends:

• Full Tone/Full Step – The distance of two frets
• Semi Tone/Half Step – The distance of one fret
• Quarter Tone/Quarter Step – A microtonal bend that exists between the frets

A big part of string bending is ear training. In the video there is a great exercise you can use to really nail your ear training to help your string bends sound great.

When working on full tone bends, play the note you want to bend. Let’s take the 7th fret of the G. This is your starting point. Now play the 9th fret on the same string. Listen to that note. This is your target note.

Bend the 7th fret upwards until it matches the pitch of the 9th. Listen carefully for over or under bending.

Do the same with a one fret distance for Semi Tone bends. Play the 8th fret on the G and listen to the pitch. Then bend the 7th fret up until it matches.

For quarter tone bends, you are applying a small downward curl of the hand to add a vocal element to your note.

Here is the lick from the video that utilizes all three bending types.

String Benging Frets Image


Vibrato is an expressive technique that is essential for all blues players to know. Your favourite guitar players will all have their own unique way of performing vibrato. This really makes the notes come alive.

Vibrato is a modulation of the pitch. You do this by moving the string in a series of rhythmic, mini bends.

Check out the lick below and the guide in the video for some vibrato best practises and don’t forget to work on it with a metronome to really nail the rhythmic aspect.

Vibrato Frets Image


Similar to string bending, slides are a technique that involve moving from one note to another in a single motion without re-picking the string. Instead of bending the string, we are maintaining the fretting pressure and sliding along the string to a new fret.

Careful not to apply too much pressure. This can cause your finger to drag across the note in the middle. You want to aim for a smooth transition between the notes.

Likewise, not applying enough pressure can make the note stop ringing before you reach your destination.

Check out this lick from the video on how to use slides effectively. There is a bend and some vibrato thrown in for good measure.

Slides Frets Image
About The Author

Leigh Fuge is a professional guitar player from Swansea in South Wales that has written and created content for many high-profile guitar brands and publications such as PMT, RSL Rockschool, Trinity College London, Guitar.com and more.

He works with mgrmusic.com to provide high quality guitar content for guitar players of all abilities from around the country. To date, mgrmusic.com has successfully generated over 32,000 student enquiries for their network of music teachers around the country. Find a local teacher in your area today.