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Where to Go from Here
Playing blues in a solo fingerstyle context is a lot of fun and very rewarding. I hope this brief survey of a few sub-styles of the blues has inspired you to dig deeper into the music. I can’t stress it enough: Listen to and study the masters. Learn their songs and licks, but more importantly, absorb the feel of the music. If you can find a knowledgeable teacher to study with—whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting—take advantage of it. This will have a tremendous effect on your rate of growth. Today there are plenty of guitar camps and workshops available that provide an opportunity to study with some of the living legends of this music. Have fun and good luck!
Here are a few recommended recordings. Many of these are compilations or “Best of” albums, so they’ll be especially helpful to those of you who may be new to this music or the artists we’ve discussed in this lesson. I have also created a Spotify playlist with selections from many of the albums listed below.
The Tradition Masters
Spend some time with this recording and you’re bound to pick up a few classic blues licks. Check out Hopkins’ monotone bass accompaniment on “Long Time.”
Big Bill Broonzy
Warm, Witty, and Wise
Here’s a nice collection of songs showcasing Broonzy's solid fingerstyle technique. Listen to “Long Tall Mama” and “Worrying You Off My Mind Part 1” as they creatively employ the monotone bass thumb technique we’ve discussed.
Mississippi John Hurt
1928 Sessions and Best of
These classic albums showcase great examples of alternate thumb technique along with Hurt's overall beautiful playing style. Check out “Stack O Lee” and “Got the Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied” from the 1928 Sessions, and “My Creole Belle” and “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” from the Best of recording.
The Best of
Great feel and drive is found in Blake’s music. You’d swear there’s more than one guitarist here. A few of my favorite tracks are “West Coast Blues” and “Blind Arthur’s Breakdown.”
Reverend Gary Davis
Blues & Ragtime
As the title suggests, there are wonderful blues and ragtime tunes found here. Check out “Buck Rag” for the cool counterpoint. Included in the liner notes are transcriptions (written in standard notation and TAB) of “Walkin’ Dog Blues,” “Buck Rag,” “Cocaine Blues,” “Hesitation Blues,” and “Baby, Let Me Lay It on You.”
The Complete Recordings
These are classics that all aspiring blues guitarists should spend time with. Johnson’s performance of “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” is a great example of the monotone bass accompaniment.
Original Delta Blues
This is a great compilation showcasing the raw and powerful playing of one of the great bluesmen. Take a listen to “Pearline” to hear it for yourself.
John Lee Hooker
20th Century Masters: The Best of John Lee Hooker (Millennium Collection)
If you need to add some boogie-woogie into your day, listen to “Shake It Baby” and “Lonely Boy Boogie.” These tracks are great examples of raw boogie-woogie.