How to Play a Blues Guitar Riff

by Simon Joseph James

There are literally hundreds of tunes that all use a blues guitar riff around the 12 bar blues form. In the following lesson we are going to try out a few ideas using the form and also a Minor 7th Arpeggio. Here it is in the key of A, and we will be moving it around a lot so make sure you have it really mastered before you continue!

This arpeggio is constructed as follows:

R, b3, P5, b7, R

You may be reasonably familiar with the notes that overlap between the Minor Pentatonic and the Dominant 7th scale and begin to recognize them in the Minor 7th Arpeggio. Another useful aspect of the Arpeggio is it helps you to recognize the keynotes (1, 3, 5, 7) of each chord.

Here is a blues guitar riff using the A Minor 7th Arpeggio:

And here is another:

As you may have recognized, it is quite simple to build a riff out of the Minor 7 Arpeggio.

Try making a few of your own now to get used to the idea.

Now let us try playing the following blues guitar riff and moving it along with the 12 Bar Blues chord progression:

In this exercise we have played everything as a Minor Blues, all of the chords are Minor 7 chords. In a Minor Blues we have to stick to using the only Minor 3rds. The Minor to Major 3rd change works in a Major Blues but not the other way round. We will be looking at more Minor Blues Progressions later on.

Don’t forget to check out more Blues lessons in my ebook 30 Days to Better Blues Guitar.