One of the defining characteristics of the blues in a major key is the use of the Dominant 7 chord rather than Major 7 chords. When the root of the chord is on the 6th string of the guitar, (for example in a G7 chord the G note is on the 3rd fret of the 6th string) it is very common to play it this way:
And when the root of the chord is on the 5th string, for example a C7, it is often played like this:
To be honest, I don’t really like the 6th string version of the dominant 7 chord. It is too big, too clunky. It gets in the way. If you are playing with a singer, or singing yourself, or someone is taking a solo it will step all over them.
Think of it this way: when you are playing rhythm guitar you are the accompaniment. Your job is to support the lead line whether it be a singer or another instrument. Think of the singer, or lead instrument as the top note in your chord. Every sound has its place an, and they all fit together to make a heavenly blues sound.
The 5th string root version of the dominant 7 is great. No complaints.
But for basic blues guitar chords I like to rely on three note chords. In this case less really is more. Actually, less usually is more. Especially at a blues jam night after a couple of beers. But that’s another post…
So rather than using that big ole’ clunky G7 chord, I would play this:
You can also finger this chord like this:
Not only will it sound better, but it’s an easy transition on the guitar fretboard to my preferred version of the 5th string root C7 chord:
These basic blues chords are also the basis for a few really nice advanced blues chords that I will cover in Part Two of this lesson. Check out the video lesson where I demonstrate these great voicings of basic blues guitar chords.
Check out part 2 of this lesson: Blues Guitar Chords – Part Two