Playing On The Porch – How To Play Blues Guitar On Your Own

Lesson by Andi Saitenhieb. Taken from Playing On The Porch – How To Play Blues Guitar On Your Own

Whether you want to play on your back porch on a sunny afternoon, or you don’t want to play yet another Bob Dylan song at the camp fire, or you simply want to impress a prospective partner – there are many situations where you need to be able to play on your own and still sound great.

Of course it’s nice to jam with a complete band (or a jam track), but sometimes it’s just not available or appropriate. Instead of looking like a total novice by mumbling something like “I can’t play anything on my own…” you could let off some cool simple self contained blues licks while accompanying yourself and look like a pro (even if you are more or less a novice). This article shows you how to do it.

One possibility to accompany yourself is to simply alternate between licks and accompaniment.

Ex. 1 shows a  very common accompaniment that is very easy to play (all the bass notes should be played with the thumb).

Now you can add any short blues lick that fits in the rest. If this lick is too difficult at first, you can make it easier by leaving out the slide and the hammer-on and add them later. To make things clearer the stems of the lick point in a different direction than the accompaniment with the thumb.

Of course you can play licks in the lower register also:

Improvising Blues Guitar

The next step is to add your own licks, play around with them, improvise! Just be careful to keep the beat steady and to make the licks exactly as long as they are supposed to be. Maybe a short drum loop is helpful in the beginning, but try to play on your own as soon as possible.

When you feel comfortable with this very short phrases you can try phrases that are two bars long. Here is an accompaniment:

And here is a cool lick in the style of John Lee Hooker:

For extra authenticity you can stomp your foot with the beat.

There are many examples of this playing style. One of the best-known recordings using this technique is “BOOM BOOM” by John  Lee Hooker.

Another way of accompanying yourself is playing a melody or improvisation while accompanying yourself. We’ll take a closer look at this technique in the next article. Have fun playing self contained bluesand stay tuned!