Blog Archives

Twelve-Bar Blues for the 3-String Guitar: Explanations, Chords Charts, Video, and More…

If you have ever heard of the term, “Twelve-bar Blues,” there is a good reason… it is not only the most popular chord progression in Blues music, but it is the most popular chord progression in popular music in general.  The term “twelve-bar” refers to the length of chord progression; it is 12 bars (or measures) long.

Simple Twelve-Bar Blues
While there are many variations to this simple concept, all of the variations stem from a simple, three-chord progression that is 12 measures long.  The three chords in this example in the key of G are: G, C, and D.  On the 3-String guitar in Open G tuning, the G is played simply by strumming all three strings in the open position, the C is played by barring all three strings at the 5th fret, and the D is played by barring all three strings at the 7th fret.

In this example, there are 4 beats per measure, and I’ve broken the 12 bars into 3 sets of four measures.  To hear a musical example of this progression, and play along, you can watch and refer to the accompanying video with this article.

Simple 12 bar Blues in G for 3 string cigar box Guitar

“Stormy Monday” Progression
While the simple, three chord progression above is the backbone of countless classic songs like “Crossroads,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Dust My Broom,” there eventually comes a time when you want to add a little more harmonic complexity to the twelve-bar progression.  To me, the best example of a more complex, and “Jazzy” arrangement of a twelve-bar Blues progression is the T-Bone Walker original, “Stormy Monday.”  You can look closely at the chord changes in this song, and see close similarities to the simple twelve-bar progression… in fact, other than the addition of the “7th” voicing for the chords, the first 6 measures are exactly the same.  The characteristic difference starts in measure 7, adding a very distinct and tasteful variation on the original chord progression.

Again, to hear musical examples of this progression on the 3-string guitar, just watch the accompanying video with this lesson.  Below the chord progression for “Stormy Monday,” is a collection of chord voicings that will work well together in the context of this arrangement.

Stormy Monday 12 bar Blues in G for 3 string cigar box Guitar

Once you learn the progressions on these charts, make sure you watch the accompanying video with this lesson.  It will dive deeper into how you can add more complex rhythms, fingerpicking techniques, and balking bass lines to make the “Stormy Monday,” progression come to life.  …and don’t stop there, look around RootsMusicSchool.org, and check out some of the other lessons, many of them are walkthroughs of other twelve-bar Blues songs like “Dust My Broom,” and a variation of the twelve-bar progression with “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

Please click “FOLLOW” on this blog if you want new lessons sent straight to your email inbox.
Keep Pickin’!
~Justin Johnson
VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html
SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive

 

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRINGSLIDE

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRING

Classic Melodies on the Godfather of American Roots Instruments – The One-String Diddley Bow

Diddley Bow SSB and Amazing Grace Blog Banner

The One-String Diddley Bow is an American Roots instrument with only one string, and is usually played with some form of a guitar slide.  It is the simplest form of a guitar, with some examples consisting of little more than a string and a stick.  However, the significance of these instruments on Roots and Rock & Roll music cannot be understated.  Because the diddley bow is so easy to make, it was often the first musical instrument performed on, by the legends of Blues and Rock music such as B.B. King, Lightning Hopkins, Blind Willie Johnson, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Elmore James, and Bo Diddley (who took his stage name from the diddley bow).  Because the diddley bow is so rudimentary, it is the perfect guitar teacher… forcing you to make a lot of music with one single string.  This eventually teaches you how to make more with less, and create more distinct and captivating music.

I was recently asked if I could create some tablature for the one-string diddley bow for two classic melodies, “Amazing Grace,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  These two melodies are perfect introductions for both learning to play the diddley bow, and learning to read tablature.  The melodies are so recognizable, that most people could easily sing them note-for-note from memory, and the range of each song fits nicely on a diddley bow (which has about a two octave range).  Most importantly, though, is the power that these melodies have to move people, cause them to reflect, and bring them together… and that is the true power of a deeply moving melody!

In case you are not familiar with the concept of tablature (tabs), let me give you a quick explanation…  Tablature is a type of written musical notation that indicates the position of each note on the instrument, rather than giving a specific pitch for each note in the melody.  It is perfect for an instrument like the one-string diddley bow, because it can be hard to tune the open string of a rudimentary diddley bow to a specific, determined pitch, therefore, making it hard to hit a defined set of notes.  Instead, the tablature gives you the number of the fret, or fret marker, to indicate the pitches.  This enables you to learn the melody once, and it will automatically be transposed into whatever key your diddley bow is tuned to.

In the tablature below, the melody is indicated by the chromatic fret position of each.  Above each note are the corresponding lyrics.  These tabs are arranged this way in case you are not familiar with reading rhythmic notation.  The notes correspond to the specific lyrics associated with them, giving the notes a rhythmic context.

Okay, now that the academic stuff is over with, it’s time to learn some music!  Below, I have a simple arrangement of each song, written out in tab form.  Then, I have a video of me performing the song based on that original arrangement.

I would like to thank Peter Murphy of Blind Kiwi Blues (www.BlindKiwiBlues.com) who built the one-string diddley bow that I use in these videos, and Rocky Mountain Slide Company (www.RockyMountainSlides.com) who designed and crafted the ceramic tonebar that I use in the “Amazing Grace” video.

Thanks for reading, and click the “FOLLOW” button on this blog to get the newest articles sent straight to’ya!
~Justin Johnson
VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html
SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive



AMAZING GRACE TABS



SSB TABS


If you are interested in diving deeper into the playing techniques, songs, and Roots music techniques that are associated with the one-string diddley bow, check out my Instructional Video Series on the diddley bow, available on DVD or via Digital Download HERE!

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner DIDDLEYBOW

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRINGSLIDE


“Dust My Broom” 3-String & 4-String Lesson ~ Slide and Fretted Arrangements

In this lesson, I teach a beginner arrangement of Elmore James’s, “Dust My Broom,” for the 3-string and 4-string guitar.  While this song was originally recorded by Robert Johnson on solo acoustic guitar, it was the Elmore James version on the electric guitar that really emblazoned it onto every Blues band’s set list till the end of time!  The slide guitar riff that opens the song, and is repeated throughout James’ version, has become one of the most significant and influential slide guitar riffs in history, forever assuring his status as a true legend of the Blues.

 

To receive notifications of future Roots Music School articles and lessons,  click “FOLLOW” to keep in touch!
~Justin Johnson
VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html
SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive

 

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRINGSLIDE

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 4STRINGSLIDE

What is the Best Way to Learn Guitar?

What the best way to learn guitar

One of the questions I get asked the most in my guitar workshops is, “What is the best way to learn how to play guitar?”  It is such a simple question, but it is one that has so many possible answers, each one being just as true as the other.  So.. how do I answer?  I tell them that the best way to learn the 6-string guitar is by learning the 3-string guitar.

There are countless guitar legends that started out on homemade guitars, most of them only had a few strings and were built out of found objects, or pieces of old, broken instruments.  Jimi Hendrix started out on a one-string Ukulele, Bo Diddley started out on a Cigar Box Guitar… so did Lightning Hopkins, B.B. King, Elmore James… the list goes on and on.  Not only do you not have to learn guitar on a 6-string, but it can be liberating, inspiring, and more fun to start on a Roots Instrument like the 3-string guitar.  Plus, it is a much more affordable investment for a beginner.

Learning to play 3-string guitar is just as valuable, whether you are a total beginner or have been playing for years.  Let me tell you why…

Total Beginner?

1) It is easier to begin to learn guitar on 3 strings!  I find that the #1 reason beginners stop playing is because is it hard to have fun on the 6-string guitar the first day you pick it up.  The 3-string guitar, tuned to an open tuning, can make music without the guitarist even fretting a note.  Every time I put a 3-string guitar in a kid’s hands, and they hit that first chord, it puts a smile on their face, because they have already made their first “music!”

2) The 3-string guitar teaches you the muscle memory that you need to play the 6-string.  When a beginner learns to play on a 3-String, they are still learning the proper left and right hand technique they will need to play the 6-string.  They still build callouses on their fretting fingers, they still develop proper strumming and picking techniques, and they still build the musculature in their fretting hand that will help them push the strings down.  The benefit with a 3-string is that these challenges are less frustrating, and allow the player to have more fun and get more instant gratification than they would if they were trying to juggle 6 strings throughout this developmental stage.

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRING justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 4STRINGSLIDE

3) You can still play all of the same songs on the 3-string, it’s just simpler.  It is possible to play the same songs on the 3-string, but the arrangements are generally simpler and less intimidating.  Most chord changes can be simplified and broken down into one-finger chords.  These chords may not be as lush as a 6-note chord, but they will give the player the enjoyment of being able to strum their favorite chord changes, while building up their fretting hand muscles.  Learning barre chords (chords where you lay your index finger down across multiple stings) can be the most frustrating stage in a beginner guitarist’s development… But the 3-string makes this process fun and much less painful!

4) You learn music, not patterns.  This is the one I love the most!  If you learn on an instrument like the 3-string guitar, you will be learning how to develop your own sound, style, voice, and patterns much more so than if you learn on a traditional 6-string.  You will have to learn how to use the entire fretboard, not just the first 5 frets.  You will have to learn open tunings, not just standard tuning.  You will have to learn how to make your own arrangements of songs instead of learning songs and riffs note-by-note.  In a sense, you will be learning how to play like yourself instead of learning to play like someone else. Moving on to play 6 strings will be a very easy transition from the 3-string.  All you will have to do is learn some new patterns and chord shapes, but your fingers will be stronger, they will have more stamina, they will be know how to strum and pick, they will know how to run up and down the fretboard… and you will have had more fun along the way!

Already a Proficient Guitarist?

When I got my first guitar, I devoured every lesson book, tab book, DVD, concert video, and dexterity exercise I could find!  I studied the classic riffs and tones that were accepted as traditional, acceptable, and cool.  I learned the right bends for the right Rock song, the right pickup setting for the right Country twang, and the right vibrato for the right Blues moan… but I missed something else completely…  I wasn’t listening to myself enough.  I had learned so many traditional ways of playing that I wasn’t breaking outside of my comfort zone and creating sounds that had never been made before.

The day I picked up my first Cigar Box Guitar, I had no idea how to play it.. I didn’t know how it was tuned, it wasn’t properly intonated so it could only be played with a slide, and I had never heard anything with that kind of tone before.  It ripped me out of my comfort zone and took me straight to the edge of my ability.  It made be rethink the way I approached guitar and the fretboard patterns I was used to.  It took away all of my safety nets, and made me have to become a musician, not just a guitarist… and it was the best lesson I ever got!

In Other Words…

From one guitar player to another, roots instruments such as the 1-string diddley bow and the 3-string or 4-string guitar are the best personal trainer I have ever found for 6-string guitar.  If you try one, buy one, build one, or have one hanging on a wall, tune it up, and watch these videos.  You’ll be happy you did!

Keep on Pickin’, and don’t forget to click “Follow” on this blog to catch future articles!
~Justin Johnson

VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html
SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive

 

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRING

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 6STRINGSLIDE

Blues Guitar Soloing is Easier Than You Think

Blues Guitar Soloin Is Easier THan You Think Thumbnail

When you listen to Blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Johnny Winter, you can’t help but appreciate the way they can blaze through a series of notes while somehow still retaining that Bluesy, Soulful feeling in their tone, phrasing, and articulation.  But, when you are first learning how to solo over a Blues song, it can be really tricky to break into those quick runs, and not lose that feel.

To me, the secret to developing your own voice when soloing is by breaking your scales, patterns, and riffs into smaller, easily digestible sections.  This way, you can apply and develop your own voice, inflections, and favorite techniques over small sections of the scale, and then learn to connect those sections once they are comfortable.  Then, before you know it, you will be able to quickly nail those fast musical lines, not by practicing the whole scale or riff, but by mastering the sections and then linking them together.

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner BOOK justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRINGSLIDE

In the following videos I explain how you can start with a scale diagram, break it down into playable patterns, and then break those patterns down into riffs and solos.  In other words, I’ll show you how to turn scales into your own unique Blues solos on the 3-String and 4-String!

Keep pickin’ and don’t forget to click “Follow” on this blog to stay in touch!
~Justin Johnson
VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html
SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive

I’ve also created backing tracks for you to practice these techniques over on MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL.  Check it out, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE to keep up with the latest!

 

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner BOOK