Updated by Sadie
Recently updated on December 28th, 2021
Updated table of contents and logos for all three brands mentioned. Also made minor improvements to copy and page structure.
Best Blues Guitar Lessons (our top Pick)
The Blues I and II courses from Guitar Tricks are two of the best starting points available for learning blues guitar. They're straightforward, well-organized, and easy to follow from a beginner or intermediate skill level.
Parent article: Best Intermediate Guitar Lessons
This article will focus on the best blues guitar lessons available. Instead of recommending entire guitar programs, we're looking at specific courses within those programs that are particularly effective at addressing the blues guitar technique and topics relevant to that genre of music. Since blues is one of the most foundational aspects of the guitar, and of today's music, it's useful for any guitar player to learn, even if they aren't explicitly interested in blues from a playing perspective.
Modern rock, pop, and even metal guitar, all have their roots in the blues style.
These lessons and courses do a particularly good job of teaching blues guitar concepts. I've also tested them in-house, along with a handful of folks that help me review guitar lessons for these articles.
In terms of blues guitar lesson quality, we're looking for the following:
- Comprehensive coverage and explanation of blues topics
- Parsing of rhythm and lead technique
- Qualified instructors that are also effective communicators
- Easy to understand course navigation and flow of blues topics
These are things we'd want to see in any guitar course, though we can use them within the blues style to focus on the best available online courses. Here's a quick look at what we'll cover:
Blues Guitar Lessons Comparison Table
Guitar Tricks Blues I and II Courses
JamPlay's Electric Blues with Kenny Ray
Active Melody: Brian Sherrill's Program
Blues Masters & Disciples on JamPlay
Guitar Tricks Blues Song Lessons
1. Guitar Tricks Blues I and II
The two primary blues courses in Guitar Tricks are both part of the Core Learning System, as one of the three lanes available after the two beginner courses. They're taught by Anders Mouridsen and Andy Gurley, two of the company's best instructors.
Everything from basic 12-bar blues and power chords in blues, on up through artist studies and blues phrasing is covered between the two courses.
It includes six chapters per course with multiple lessons within each chapter and multiple videos within each lesson. As is often the case with Guitar Tricks, the course is extremely well-organized and developed to follow a logical progression of skill and ability.
In other words, you can follow it without getting hung up on something too difficult or that you haven't learned the foundational elements of yet.
It's an all-around great blues course and an easy top pick.
Read the full review: Guitar Tricks
IDEAL FOR: A broad and progressive overview of blues guitar
2. JamPlay's Electric Blues with Kenny
In JamPlay, blues courses are broken up into lessons with around one or two videos per lesson. Kenny Ray's blues course sits at 64 lessons and is one of the most thorough of the JamPlay library.
At the outset, he covers basic scales and soloing technique, while even touching on some Albert Collins artist studies.
This assumes the student is not an entirely raw beginner as you'll quickly get into things that are specific to blues guitar, requiring at least a passing knowledge of the instrument before you get started.
Over the course he breaks down complex blues rhythms, chord shapes, advanced lead technique and more. It's one of the most thorough blues courses I've ever seen, which would include my experience in the TrueFire library.
While organization doesn't feel quite as strong as Guitar Tricks, it wasn't messy enough to detract from the learning experience.
Read the full review: JamPlay
IDEAL FOR: Those who want a comprehensive and thorough blues course
3. Active Melody
Brian Sherrill's Active Melody is one of the best "diamond in the rough" guitar lesson resources we've ever come across. And since Sherrill does almost all of the videos (many of which are available free on YouTube), you get a heavy dose of his own stylistic expertise, which is honed in on blues and jazz guitar studies. His content is particularly strong in the areas of nuanced lead technique and improvising in the blues style.
He'll parse out each note of a scale and explain what it means and why it may or may not be useful when improvising.
For those interested in blues lead, his program houses some of best blues guitar lessons that we can recommend.
Read the full review: Active Melody
IDEAL FOR: Lead technique and improvisation
4. Blues Masters & Disciples on JamPlay
Stuart Ziff's blues JamPlay course is a lengthy artist study series focusing on the most influential and respected blues guitarists. While some of the content does address strict technique and even some scale review, most of it centers around the styles of B.B. King, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, and Duane Allman. It's not the most topically organized course and Ziff tends to jump around a bit based on what artist he's covering, but it's a fantastic blues series for those interested in any of the aforementioned guitarist's playing styles.
IDEAL FOR: Artist studies and classic blues enthusiasts
5. Blues Song Lesson Section of Guitar Tricks
The Guitar Tricks song lessons section is the single most comprehensive song video lesson resource for guitarists in existence. All of the music is licensed for them to use and 100 percent accurate, where each video lesson has the song being taught step-by-step by an instructor.
What's more, they have all their music broken up into sections where the blues library has a ton of great songs from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and tons of other noteworthy guitarists who made their name with that style of guitar.
Solos are tracked and taught note for note (not just chord sheets).
For those wanting to learn blues guitar and who get really excited about the song-learning side of the process (like I tend to), the Guitar Tricks program should have some appeal to you.
IDEAL FOR: Learning songs
How Blues Guitar Lessons Work
When we say blues guitar lesson we're talking about a guitar lesson focused entirely within the blues genre of music and style of playing. For example, material in a blues guitar course probably wouldn't teach you the Segovia scales, which are well known elements of classical music.
Instead, blues guitar lessons will teach you things like pentatonic minor scales and modes, which are commonly used in blues writing and melodies.
How do you define blues guitar?
Blues guitar can simply be defined as the resulting playing style of those who have learned blues in a formal context. In other words, someone who knows blues guitar is a blues guitarist, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, or Jonny Lang.
What topics do blues lessons cover?
Thus, a good blues guitar lesson needs to cover all of the topics and concepts that are most relevant to that playing style. They include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Technique-heavy lead guitar: Lots of bends, vibrato, and soulful lead concepts should be covered.
- Pentatonic scale patterns and modes: Blues scales and pentatonic shapes are the backbone of blues soloing.
- Rhythm and common chord progressions: Chord theory and rhythm are also a major piece of this particular style and should be well-represented in a blues guitar lesson series.
- Regional and artist studies: Delta blues, Texas, B.B. King, and Robert Johnson are just a few of the sub-blues niches that should come up in your studies.
- Chord voicings and strumming patterns: Some of the more nuanced aspects of blues rhythm should be covered in addition to specific chord progressions and timing concepts
- Tone and gear: A big part of getting a blues tone is getting your gear dialed in the right way. The most thorough blues guitar lessons cover this as well as the academic side.
Is blues guitar obsolete?
A lot of young guitar players view blues as more of a vintage musical style. To an extent, this is true and a fair characterization.
But we still recommend studying it because the blues style is so foundational to the music that we all still listen to. Modern rock, pop, and the sub-genres coming out of those styles have been built out of the blues genre.
Thus, pure blues guitar isn't necessarily mainstream anymore, but the styles it has gave way to are alive and well.
How to Choose Blues Guitar Lessons
Now that you know a little bit about blues guitar and what characterizes it, how do you choose a blues guitar lesson series or course that's right for you? This is a fairly straightforward process, particularly if you choose from our recommendations in this article. However, there are also some steps you can go by.
- Consider your own skill level: Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player? This is the first place to start when trying to decide which blues course to focus on.
- Do you want a teacher or online course? Are you more comfortable getting an actual teacher or working through an online course yourself?
- Is there a more specific style or sub-genre of blues you'd like to focus on? Do you want to learn the basics or maybe focus more on lead blues? Perhaps you're more interested in a specific artist study? These are good things to make note of before choosing a course.
Guitar Chalk typically focuses on the online lesson type, which is what we'll do from here going forward. In the next section, we'll talk about how to evaluate online blues guitar courses, like we did in our above suggestions, so you can repeat the process on your own.
Evaluating Lessons Online
What kind of content is covered?
If you're going with the online option, it's easy to evaluate courses ahead of time. One of the simplest ways is just to examine what kind of material and content is covered.
Most programs will allow you to browse course listings and lessons without making a purchase, so you can easily see what kind of material is covered.
Ideally, you'd see a lot of the following:
- Lead guitar basics
- Lots of scales
- Lots of technique
- How to improvise and how to solo
- How to build chord progressions
But, what if you want to find blues lessons for a particular skill level? Here are some topics that we'd expect to see in three skill level categories for blues guitar lessons:
- For beginners: Basic scales, rhythm, timing, 12-bar blues, simple melodies, pentatonic scales, and simple technique.
- For intermediate players: More advanced lead technique, more complex scale patterns, blues-specific chords (7th chords, for example), artist studies, and faster movement.
- For advanced players: Regional studies, more in-depth artist studies, complex lead technique, cover songs, speed development, more complex timing and chording concepts, and in-depth music theory.
This just gives you a basic idea of what type of material you can expect for the three main skill level categories. You can also evaluate a course by looking at the type of content it produces. In blues guitar lessons, these are largely the same as any other type of guitar lesson, and include the following:
- Video: Lessons are pre-recorded and streamed on a website or downloaded directly
- Text: Lessons are written out or outlined in a readable and/or downloadable document or web page
- Image: Graphics and images used to display content like tabs or sheet music
In most guitar courses, especially blues lessons, all three of these elements are used in varying capacities. The most consistent is usually going to be the pre-recorded video, which is a big part of why online education has become so successful. People like streaming their content these days, educational or otherwise.
Take blues or beginner course?
If you're a beginner, you might be wondering whether or not a blues guitar course is going to be too much or beyond your skill level. For those who are pure beginners, we probably wouldn't recommend jumping directly into a blues guitar course. However, those who have learned the basics, and are ready to focus on a particular style or musical pursuit, should be able to start studying blues guitar in some capacity.
To get you specifics, here are a few things you should know before going into a blues guitar course:
- Basic chords
- Fretboard notes
- Able to play simple melodies
- Able to change chords reasonably well (think simple songs)
- Knowledge of some elementary music theory that pertains to guitar (intervals, scales, chord construction, etc.)
Let's talk about the pros and cons of learning blues guitar, which might give you an idea of how much it would help you in your playing career.
Pros: Who would benefit from learning blues guitar?
Here are some of the pros or "outcomes" of studying blues guitar:
- Lead guitar abilities improve
- Lots of technique covered
- Improves your ability to improvise
- Good for those interested in more vintage or classic rock playing styles
- Covers lots of foundational concepts
Cons: Who is better off going a different direction?
To say there are "cons" to learning blues is a poor choice of words, because there really isn't anything bad about learning it. However, there are some situations where a specified study of blues guitar could be less ideal.
- Can sometimes get confused with basic or more strictly beginner's content
- Not always strong on rhythm concepts
- Some advanced players might not find it challenging
Making the Most of your Lessons
If you do decide to start taking blues guitar lessons, online or otherwise, how do you get the most out of the coursework? Here are a few things we recommend for those taking the plunge.
1. Use an electric guitar
While you can certainly learn blues on an acoustic guitar, it's far easier to do with an electric guitar. Since electric guitars are designed for melody and faster playing styles, it's much more accommodating of the lead technique and movements that blues courses will cover.
2. Try to focus on rhythm and lead
Blues can often lead you to focus more heavily on lead guitar, though we'd encourage you to try and divide your time evenly between lead and rhythm. The best blues courses will help you do that by presenting both types of material, but it's also something you have to be willing to practice intentionally. Improvising and soloing is fun, but learning blues guitar involves a lot of timing, chord progressions, and rhythmic focus.
3. Just play a lot
This could be a suggestion for learning any type of guitar, but for blues, it's helpful to just play your guitar a lot, and practice in whatever capacity you can. Getting truly good at this style means you'll just feel a lot of the notes and movements, and get away - somewhat - from basic pattern memory. It's hard to do that without logging a lot of miles with your guitar. So if you really want to nail down the vibe and emotion of the blues style, pick up your guitar as often as possible.
4. Don't avoid rhythmic repetition
Heavy guitar blues tends to have a lot of rhythmic repetition while variety comes from melodic runs and guitar solos. And while that might make the rhythm side seem boring, it's just as important to be able to keep a consistent chord progression - perhaps with a run of bluesy 7th chords - and not get bored or lose focus. Embrace the long, rhythmic repetitiveness.
Other Blues Guitar Lesson Sources
While the lessons above are our top recommendations, these are some other resources that deserve an honorable mention:
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to learn blues guitar is a combination of lessons (either online or in-person) and a lot of personal practice hours working lead technique, scale patterns, improvising, and rhythmic consistency. Blues guitar is something you need to both learn intellectually and feel emotionally. Thus, the best way to learn is to spend a ton of time with your instrument, working through the scale patterns and chord progressions.
While blues is a foundational style of music, applying it to the guitar isn't terribly difficult. In fact, many of the "memorization concepts" are quite simple. Concepts like the 12-bar blues, pentatonic scales, and common blues chord progressions are easy to pick up. It's understanding and "feeling" the emotional side, while developing the ability to improvise, that can be harder for some students.
While there isn't a de facto "best" guitar for playing blues, we'd recommend the Fender Stratocaster - perhaps the Players edition - or Fender Telecaster.
Assuming those that start focusing on blues guitar have already learned most beginner concepts, it will likely take two to three years - depending of course on natural talent, commitment, and practice time invested - to really get comfortable with the playing style and start to develop your own niche within it.
I would argue that the best blues guitar lessons should give you more than what you could get from a single teacher. Since you lose the benefit of a face-to-face interaction, it's important to make up for that in an online course by getting a wide range of concepts covered and/or a steady stream of new content and thorough coverage of ideas.
These courses and programs do a good job of getting you blues guitar lessons that aren't just voluminous, but actually have a lot of substance and are a lot of fun.
Any one of them could keep even a seasoned guitarist busy for a long time.
What's your experience?
Have you ever taken blues guitar lessons specifically, either online or offline?
If so, I want to hear about your story, what you liked, what you didn't like, and just how it went overall. You can leave it in the comments section below.
Additionally, questions about the five courses recommended here are also welcome.