Basic Blues Guitar Rhythm Lesson

The following is a basic blues riff in the key of “A”. This riff is made up of two note chords commonly called open power chords. The chord names above the staff are there as a reference while you play along.


This riff should sound very familiar, it's used more than any other blues progression. A lot of rock and blues classics are played entirely with this one riff repeated over and over.

Blues is played with a shuffle feel, also called a triplet or swing feel. This example was written in eighth notes and the second eighth note of each beat should lag a little bit. This is refered to as a triplet feel because the beat is actually divided by thirds, counted as if there were threee eighth notes per beat instead of two. The first part of the beat gets 2/3 of a beat, the second part gets 1/3.

This 12-bar blues riff is also an example of a I – IV – V (one-four-five) chord progression. The roman numerals refer to the steps of the scale, relative to what key the music is in. So, the A chord  is the I chord. The D chord is the IV chord because in the key of A, D is the forth step in the scale. Finally, the V chord is the E chord, because E is the fifth step of the scale in the key of A.


The I – IV – V chord progression is the most common progression used in rock or blues. It's the foundation that all rock and blues was built on and has evolved from. There are many variations, but songs such as “Johnny B. Goode,” “You Really Got Me,” and “Rock and Roll,” are all bases on the I – IV – V.


Have fun with the bassic blues progression and learn to play it in other keys as well.

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