How-To

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18 Famous Blues Songs To Learn on Guitar

From Buddy Guy to Muddy Waters, you can learn how to play some famous blues classics with these simple lessons from Fender Play.

Blues music is about tradition and emotion, and countless classics have endured decades, with artists imbuing their own take on each new recording through lyrical and musical improvisation.

Whether played on an acoustic or electric guitar, these three-chord standards that gained popularity from the likes of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Elmore James have evolved into more contemporary blues through legends such as Muddy Waters and Robert Cray.

Learning to play these classics not only can give you a greater appreciation for the enduring legacy of the blues, but track its evolution and understand how different players put their own spin on time-tested classics. It’s not just treating these songs with reverence, it’s acknowledging that emotion is at the heart of blues and letting it spill out into your playing makes it that much more real.

If you're just starting out your guitar journey – or even if you want to brush up on your blues chops – Fender Play has a slew of classic bluesy songs you can pick up in minutes from a group of top-notch instructors. Learn the essential blues riffs, techniques, and classic songs by legends like Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more with the Blues Form Basics: I IV V Collection in Fender Play! In addition to learning blues songs at your own pace with Fender Play lessons, you can also check out our weekly Fender Play Live series on YouTube. Listen and learn from some of the new generation of blues guitarists like Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Phillip Sayce, and Charlie Bereal. You’ll hear how different guitarists put their own spin on time-honored classics.

Blues is all about making music personal and transforming the old into something new and fresh. Once you learn the fundamentals, you can take a classic song and try making it your own.

Here is a list of 18 easy blues songs to learn:


“Boom Boom” - John Lee Hooker

Riding the line between classic and modern blues, “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker was once dubbed “"the greatest pop song he ever wrote" by music critics. The song exemplifies the blues great’s strumming prowess and rhythmic riffing. Hooker pioneered playing Delta blues on an electric guitar, revolutionizing the sound of blues and paving the way for guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan to further evolve the sound of blues and marry it to hard rock.

Check out the Fender Play Live performances of “Boom Boom” with Larkin Poe and Charlie Bereal. Listen to how these artists put their own twist on the classic.

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://youtu.be/8abqjGofkmI?t=160?rel=0

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&t=855s?rel=0

Learn how to play “Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker


“Mannish Boy” - Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters recorded “Mannish Boy” in 1955, and it reached No. 5 on the Billboard R&B chart (staying there for six weeks) with its great bluesy riff that threads through the whole song. You’ll know the riff when you hear it and can recognize Muddy Waters’ influence on later blues rock artists as Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top.

Learn how to play “Mannish Boy” from Fender Play:

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzRB7YcmAvo?rel=0

While the riff is a crucial part of beginner blues guitarists’ education, intermediate and advanced players can use it as a springboard to create improvisational riffs -- like Charlie Bereal did with his spin on the classic.

Learn how to play “Mannish Boy.”

Hear Charlie Bereal play “Mannish Boy.”

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&feature=youtu.be&t=1045?rel=0


"The Thrill is Gone" - B.B. King

If you’re new to the blues, a great place to start learning is with the songs of B.B. King. King’s iconic style was tone-rich and used techniques such as string-bending to twist notes in expressive ways. Yeah. The thrill is most definitely NOT gone.

Listen and learn from Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s take on “The Thrill Is Gone.”

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://youtu.be/Cl5490LE_rs?t=696?rel=0

Learn how to play the B Minor Chord” used in this song.


“Ain’t No Sunshine” - Bill Withers

Moody and soulful, Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” takes on the traditional blues structure with 16 bars playing A minor, E minor, G and D minor. Withers’ repetitive lyric – not to mention his dynamic voice – helps drive the rhythmic pulse of his 1971 breakout hit.

Learn how to play “Ain’t No Sunshine.”


“Lucille” - B.B. King

Named for the legendary B.B. King’s guitar, “Lucille” is played in the key of E flat. A prime example of 12 bar blues, “Lucille” gives beginner blues guitarists the chance to play through chord progressions and experiment with 12/8 time signatures. Learn how to play a 12-bar blues shuffle before trying your hand at “Lucille” with this video lesson:

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONl0u0qGQVk?rel=0

Learn how to play "Lucille.”

Check out Charlie Bereal’s true-to-form take on King’s classic before trying it yourself.

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&t=149s?rel=0



“I Put a Spell On You” - Screamin' Jay Hawkins

From the legend of Robert Johnson’s crossroads pact to “Screamin’” Jay Hawkins’ macabre-tinged stage shows, the blues has a long history with the supernatural. Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You” works its witchy ways on blues fans and is an easy song for beginners to learn. The song incorporates such subtle techniques as string muting and 8th note strumming to create an otherworldly take on the blues.

Listen to Christone “Kingfish” Ingram play “I Put a Spell On You.”

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://youtu.be/Cl5490LE_rs?t=1182?rel=0

Learn how to play “I Put a Spell On You.”


B. B. King: “Rock Me Baby”

Helping to cement your blues patterns, “Rock Me Baby” is one of many Willie Dixon-penned classics covered by BB King. It’s a perfect way to brush up on the 12-bar blues form with the chords G, C and D.

Learn how to play “Rock Me Baby” here.”


“Smokestack Lightning” - Howlin' Wolf

Tried-and-true blues guitar techniques like pull-offs and alternate picking give “Smokestack Lightning” its distinctive punch. The memorable riff that permeates “Smokestack Lightning” was dreamed up by guitarist Hubert Sumlin, a member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band. Sumlin’s distinctive blues guitar style wove together expressive blurs of “lightning”-fast notes alongside strong rhythm and meaningful pauses. Learn alternate picking skills on guitar before trying out “Smokestack Lightning” on your own:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_UDxUrru0w ?rel=0

Listen to Charlie Bereal play “Smokestack Lightning,” Then, check out Larkin Poe’s take on Howlin’ Wolf’s classic.

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&t=149s?rel=0

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://youtu.be/8abqjGofkmI?t=493?rel=0

Learn how to play "Smokestack Lightning.”


“Mary Had a Little Lamb” - Stevie Ray Vaughan

The late great Stevie Ray Vaughan covered Buddy Guy’s bluesy, irreverent rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” giving the nursery rhyme a whole new lease on life with a hard rock edge. Techniques such as hammer ons and pull offs sit within the realm of rock, while the picking style is pure blues.

Hear how modern guitarist Charlie Bereal reinterprets “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in his own style.

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&t=442s?rel=0

Learn how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”


“Who Do You Love” - Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley brought blues to the mainstream with his unique mix of rockabilly rhythms and pop flavor. “Who Do You Love” combines bass note strumming with slide guitar, essential skills for blues guitarists to crib. Don’t know ‘em? Then you don’t know Diddley.

Check out Larkin Poe playing Bo Diddley’s classic, “Who Do You Love” and watch for techniques like string muting and strum patterns.

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB7-N8Bd-2s&t=442s?rel=0

Learn how to play “Who Do You Love.”


“Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” - Buddy Guy

After limited recording for about 10 years through the 1980s, Buddy Guy roared back with “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,” the title track off his 1991 worldwide hit album. With this modern classic featuring three chords (A minor, D minor and E minor), you can learn about playing hammer-ons, a crucial lead guitar technique.


“Boogie Chillen” - John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker helped define blues rhythm guitar work in the timeless “Boogie Chillen,” which has a killer one-note riff that goes throughout the entire song. Play along with Fender Play instructor Jen Trani in this brief lesson.

Learn how to play “Boogie Chillen.”


“Matchbox” - Carl Perkins

It only takes three chords (A, D and E) to master Carl Perkins’ rockabilly-tinged “Matchbox,” as it’s a great song to practice alternate strumming while solidifying your rhythm playing. Originally recorded in 1956, it has lived on over the years – even the Beatles recorded a version!

Learn how to play “Matchbox.”


"Damn Right I've Got the Blues" - Buddy Guy

It only takes three chords (A, D and E) to master Carl Perkins’ rockabilly-tinged “Matchbox,” as it’s a great song to practice alternate strumming while solidifying your rhythm playing. Originally recorded in 1956, it has lived on over the years – even the Beatles recorded a version!

Learn how to play “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.”


“It Hurts Me Too” - Elmore James

“It Hurts Me Too” is a blues standard that was first recorded in 1940 by musician Tampa Red, but Elmore James supplied some of the lyrics that are most familiar today. James didn’t initially chart with the song in 1957, but he re-recorded it in the early ‘60s and soon had a hit on his hands. This version boasts only three chords, with two types for each chord (A5, A6, D5, D6, E5 and E6), making it a terrific entry point to the blues.

Learn how to play “It Hurts Me Too.”


“Things That I Used to Do” - GUitar Slim

Guitar Slim’s “Things That I Used to Do” has a single chord progression that allows you to play the entire song with just three chords (E, A and B7). The New Orleans bluesman nabbed a bestselling single when it was released in 1953, staying at No. 1 on the R&B charts for six weeks. Fender Play instructor Scott Goldbaum shows you how to get this standard chord progression down.

Learn how to play “Things That I Used to Do.”


"I'm Tore Down" - Freddie King

When it comes to the blues, there are three Kings every beginner should know: B.B. King, Albert King, and Freddie King. Freddie King’s unique style of playing was a departure from the southern, Delta Blues style of many of his contemporaries. Instead, King married Chicago and Texas blues styles for a completely different tone and feel. “I’m Tore Down” is a rollicking, up-tempo screamer that combines crisp riffs with syncopated strumming.

Listen to blues guitarist Phillip Sayce playing in the style of Freddie King:

Watch Now: Embedded content: https://youtu.be/j5TtGDVG9Ok?t=1025rel=0

Learn how to play “Im Tore Down."


Robert Cray: “Phone Booth”

Stratocaster master Robert Cray employed his soulful vocals and considerable guitar chops to craft tunes that meld blues, soul, gospel and jazz. “Phone Booth” put him on the map with contemporary Blues fans, as it offers a modern take on the genre.

Learn how to play “Phone Booth.”


“I Can’t Quit You Baby” - Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon originally wrote the blues classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and it was first recorded by Chicago artist Otis Rush in 1956. You also might remember this track when Led Zeppelin included a cover on their 1969 self-titled debut album. In this tutorial, Fender Play instructor Barrett Wilson runs you through its three basic chords (G, C and D), perfect for beginner blues guitar players.

Learn how to play “I Can’t Quit You Baby.”


If you want to unlock hundreds more songs and skills, sign up for a free trial of Fender Play trial.

Check out our list of easy songs and beginner chords by genre and instrument: Pop Songs l Folk Songs l Rock Songs l Blues Songs l Country Songs l Songs for Electric Guitar l Songs for Acoustic Guitar l Songs for Ukulele l Songs for Bass

In addition to learning blues songs at your own pace with Fender Play lessons, you can also check out our weekly Fender Play Live series on YouTube. Listen and learn from some of the new generation of blues guitarists like Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Phillip Sayce, and Charlie Bereal. You’ll hear how different guitarists put their own spin on time-honored classics.