How To Massively Improve Your Blues Guitar Technique With Exercises That You Can Immediately Use In Your Guitar Solos

by Antony Reynaert

Finger exercises on guitar can be very helpful to improve your overall technique. However, most of the technique exercises that can be found don’t always consist of things that can be used in your blues guitar playing. As a result, you may have noticed it becomes very frustrating to practice these sorts of exercises after a while.

To get the most out of your time, it is very important to practice exercises that focus on specific licks or phrasings techniques that are challenging to play and can be used in your blues or rock guitar playing right away. In this article we are going to look at some high-efficiency examples to improve your blues guitar playing technique.

The Most Important Techniques In Great Blues Guitar Solos

Great blues guitar solos are often a combination of slow and fast runs in various positions of the scale(s) that you are soloing in. While slow blues phrasings require expression techniques like string bending and vibrato, fast runs often require good two-hand coordination and clean picking. Building up your guitar technique the right way is very important, as it’s harder to relearn something, than to learn it. That’s why it’s very useful to learn these techniques the right way from the start.

Playing relaxed is also an often underestimated aspect of guitar playing. That’s why we will always try to get things done with a minimum effort. This will prevent you from getting your fingers fatigued, and gives you the possibility to play faster. I won’t go in to depth about finger pressure efficiency and minimizing excess tension here, but keep these things in the back of your mind while practicing exercises such as the ones you will see in this article.

Mind-blowing Runs Using The Whole Length Of Your Guitar Neck

While practicing techniques on guitar, it is useful to combine the exercises with scale practice, instead of playing mindless chromatic runs. That way you can use these exercises in real-life situations, such as when you are improvising guitar solos. If you take a diagonal pentatonic blues scale for example, you have the ability to make diagonal phrases all over the fretboard, instead of vertical when playing in a single scale position. This diagonal shape below has many possibilities to practice two-hand coordination technique. 

blues scale diagonale shape

Diagonal Blues Scale

In addition to the blues scale, some notes of the major pentatonic scale can be added to give more color to your phrase. In the scale diagram below you’ll see that these notes are added in red.

diagonal blues scale with added major pentatonic notes

Diagonal Blues Scale With Added Notes From The Major Pentatonic Scale

Blues Guitar Runs That Will Improve Your Guitar Technique Right Away

It is useful to make up your own licks and runs, because you can give them your own feeling and emotion, since particular notes in the scale can give your lick quite some color. Trying to create a nice descending or ascending run in the diagonal pentatonic shape with maybe some extra blues or major notes in it is a great exercise.

Below is an example of a blues and country inspired run in the key of A. There are a few chromatic runs in the lick that use notes from the major pentatonic scale that were added to the diagonal blues scale. While practicing technique with runs like this, it is useful to analyzing the notes you are playing; which of the notes are minor, which are major? This will give you a sense of how these notes relate to one another, so while you practice your technique you’ll also improve your knowledge of the notes on the guitar neck and how everything relates together. Over time, you’ll become better at recognizing what notes of the scale are used.

blues guitar technique exercise

 Blues/Country Inspired Example Lick

It is important to play the lick very slowly from the start. Get the timing right and pick all notes clean, using a metronome. Also try to use strict alternate picking when playing the lick, this will also help to get the timing right.

Start the lick with your ring finger on the 12th fret of the high e-string, and descend using your middle finger and index finger on the 11th and 10th fret respectively. Next is an open string followed by the 8th fret with your index finger and the 9th fret with your middle finger. Continue on the b-string with your ring finger on the 10th fret, and descend with your index finger on the 8th fret. Then make the jump to the 9th fret of the g-string starting again with your ring finger.

From this point, we will play the same notes again, only an octave lower. When the 7th fret on the A string is played, we are 2 octaves lower. The lick is ended with the root note on the low E string 5th fret, played with a subtle vibrato.

When you first practice this, try to get it clean and in time, so play the lick very slow! A metronome is very useful to get things clean and will also help you with your rhythmic awareness. Also mind using alternate picking and minimum movement of your fingers. When you move on practicing, try to play the lick increasingly faster, but when it’s getting sloppy, slow down again. You will see that after a while, it becomes much easier to play the lick, and your overall two-hand coordination improves.

Transferring Exercises To Your Improvised Guitar Solos

When exercises like this are learned you’d want to move on and start using them in your own improvisations. This will make sure that you start thinking like a musician, instead of playing mindless exercises. The more you focus on making music when you are practicing, the better you will become. That’s why it’s really important to practice with the right exercises that you can immediately use in your own solos.


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