One of my favorite music styles I enjoy teaching my students is blues. Blues can be incredibly fun to play on guitar, but many beginners start out unsure whether blues is too hard to learn.
Blues guitar is not hard to learn, but it is hard to master. A beginner can learn a simple blues shuffle within a few weeks while playing a blues song with soul and passion can take years to develop.
The reason blues is a great style to learn on guitar as a beginner is that it is a simple style of music to learn.
Many great blues guitar songs are incredibly simple to learn. But blues is a style of music that is easy to learn, but hard to master.
Great blues guitarists are always trying to improve. A great blues guitarist may still play simple licks that a beginner could learn, but they are able to add so much passion into every note.
In this short guide, I’ll answer common questions you might have about how hard blues is to learn.
If you’re ready to start learning blues guitar, check out this guide on Getting Started With Blues Guitar.
The guide contains advice on what guitars, pedals, and amps to use for blues, along with blues techniques and songs to learn.
How Long It Takes to Learn Blues Guitar
As I mentioned above, blues guitar is an easy style of music to start learning.
But how long does it take to learn blues guitar?
A beginner can learn to play some simple blues guitar shuffles within a few weeks. Learning some simple blues guitar licks can take a beginner a few months and within your first year, a beginner can learn to play many basic blues songs.
If you already know the basics of playing guitar, it will take you less time to start playing blues guitar licks and songs.
Blues is a style of music where it doesn’t take long to learn the basic techniques.
This means you can start learning blues as a beginner and it won’t take long before you’re able to play some simple blues shuffles and licks.
But once you learn the basics of blues guitar, it does take a lot of time and practice before you can start expressing yourself and playing with passion.
Blues is a style of music you can continue to work on and improve over your entire life.
You can learn simple licks and shuffles today and continue to find ways to play them with more passion well into the future.
How long it takes you to learn blues guitar depends completely on your dedication to practice.
If you practice every day on the right things, you can go from complete beginner to intermediate guitarist within a year. If you don’t practice regularly or waste time on the wrong areas, it can take you many years before you start to feel confident in your abilities.
If you’re just getting started playing guitar, find out how long it takes to learn other styles of music and other guitar techniques here.
The above guide includes real examples from my students so you can get a realistic picture of how long it takes to learn different things on guitar.
Why Blues Guitar Is Easy to Learn and Hard to Master
As I mentioned at the start of this guide, blues guitar is easy to learn. A beginner picking up a guitar for the first time can immediately start learning to play a simple blues shuffle.
But blues is also a style of music that is hard to master. Blues guitarists can spend their entire lives working on their style and trying to improve.
To understand how a technically simple style of music can also be hard to master, take a look at this part from the B.B. King song The Thrill is Gone.
Note: If you don’t know how to read the below example, find out how to read Guitar TAB here (or Standard Notation here).
The above lead guitar part from the song is incredibly easy to learn from a technical point of view.
It’s a slow-paced song and the only techniques you need to learn are bends and vibrato.
While it may take a beginner some time to learn to play the different bends used in the above part (the curved arrows are the symbols used for bends), it isn’t hard.
But if you hear a beginner play this part, it will sound worlds-apart from hearing B.B. King play it.
If you hear an experienced blues guitarist play the above part, they will be able to play it with passion and add so much feeling into every note.
This is why blues is a style of music that is easy to learn, but hard to master.
The licks and riffs used in blues may be technically easy to play, but playing the right notes is only the beginning.
Being able to get those notes to speak and convey a feeling is why blues is such a powerful style of music.
The key point I would like any beginners to take away from this is that you shouldn’t worry if you don’t immediately sound like B.B. King or any other great blues guitarist straight away.
It takes time and practice to develop the feeling and control needed to properly play blues.
The Best Way to Learn Blues Guitar
Anybody can learn to play blues guitar and you can get started right now regardless of your current skill level.
These steps give you an idea of the best way to start learning blues guitar:
- Learn a basic blues shuffle
- Practice playing the shuffle along with a drum machine or backing track
- Learn some simple blues guitar licks
- Practice playing those licks over a backing track
- Pick an easy blues song and start learning it from start to finish
- Learn the Pentatonic scale and Blues scale
- Learn to improvise over backing tracks
The goal is to start by learning some basic rhythms and licks, then gradually work your way towards being able to improvise.
While it’s a great idea to learn a lot of blues songs so you can learn from great blues guitarists, keep your focus on learning to improvise.
With my blues students, the students who focused on learning to improvise learned faster and developed their own unique voice earlier.
How Do I Get Good at Blues Guitar?
The key to getting good at blues guitar is to take your time and put effort into each note you play. Getting good at blues guitar isn’t about technical ability, it’s about putting your feeling and soul into what you play.
This is something that is hard to do. Everybody wants to learn a lot of licks and songs. There are many advanced guitarists who have memorized countless blues guitar licks but can’t play any of them with feeling.
Taking your time is the key to getting good as a blues guitarist.
Instead of trying to learn hundreds of blues licks and rushing through those licks, focus on mastering one lick.
If you can truly master one lick, you can master anything.
If you constantly try to improve what you have already learned, you’ll get better as a blues guitarist. If you try to cram in as many blues licks and songs as you can, you’ll struggle to improve.
Blues guitar is a style of music where being able to play one note with passion is better than playing 100 notes without any feeling.
In the above photo, do you think he’s trying to impress everybody by showing off the number of licks he has memorized? Or is he enjoying every note and putting his entire soul into each one?
Take your time and focus on improving every note you play and you’ll get good at blues.
To learn how to get into this mindset of focusing on each note, I recommend reading through my notes and lessons learned from the book Zen Guitar.
If you’re able to apply the principles and mindset covered in that book to your practice, you’ll become a better blues guitarist.
Get Started Learning Blues Guitar
Now that you know how long it takes to learn blues and what to expect, you can get started.
Check out this guide to Get Started Learning Blues Guitar.
The guide covers:
- Types of guitars for blues
- Best amps for blues
- Pedals for blues
- How to get a blues sound
- Easy blues songs to learn
If you’re interested in learning blues guitar, it’s a great style of music to play. Whether you’re a complete beginner or experienced guitarist, blues can be fun to learn.