How to play the Blues Part 2 – Rhythm N’ Riffin’

One of the fun things about a 12 bar is how you can play riffs within the structure. In other words you dont have to just sturm chords. You can find them in dozens of songs from Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones to metal.
Lets pick a riff in E. Here is a simple riff that is similar to Mannish Boy.

I Chord Riff

E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
B|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
G|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
D|- – – – – -5 – 7- – – – – -|
A|- – – 7 – – – – – 5 – 7 – -|
E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|

The riff starts on an E note (7th fret 5th string) so I am considering it the ROOT note and key. Now you would play this over the E chord sections of the 12 bar.

IV Chord Riff

By moving the same riff up one string we change the root note to an A. So imagine this is your IV chord and the A section of our 12 bar blues .

E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
B|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
G|- – – – – – 5 – – 7 – – – -|
D|- – – 7 – – – – – – 5 – 7 -|
A|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|

V Chord Riff

Slide this riff forward 2 frets and your first note is a B, which would be the V chord of the 12 bar in E.

E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
B|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
G|- – – – – – 7 – – 9 – – – -|
D|- – – 9 – – – – – – 7 – 9 -|
A|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|
E|- – – – – – – – – – – – – -|

 

 So following the structure and playing the riff 2x each bar you are playing a riff based blues.

12 BAR
E (I) E (I) E (I) E (I)
A (IV) A (IV) E (I) E (I)
B (V) A (IV) E (I) B (V)

Here are some riff based blues and blues rock tunes to check out.

Howlin Wolf – Shake For Me

Cream – Crossroads

Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

Otis Rush – All Your Love (I Miss Loving ) covered by everyone from SRV to Steve Miller.

Midnight Blues – Gary Moore