If you play the blues there are some tunes you gotta know. A short very short list:
- Sweet Home Chicago
- Thrill is Gone
- Messin’ with the Kid
- Red House
- Born Under a Bad Sign
- Pride and Joy
…and the list goes on.
If you play the blues you better know “Stormy Monday” the slow blues classic by none other than the seminal blues guitarist T-Bone Walker. I don’t think I have ever been to a jam night where “Stormy Monday” wasn’t played.
Just in case you don’t know the song, here is T-Bone himself takin’ us to school:
The Stormy Monday Chord Progression
Of course it’s the chord progression that makes the tune so cool. It’s a slow blues, but not your standard I IV V variety. It almost sounds like jazz, doesn’t it? And it is so darn pretty it makes you want to fall on your knees and pray, does it not?
Here’s how it goes, in the key of G:
|G7 |C7 |G7 G#7 | G7 | |C7 | |G7 Am7 |Bm7 b♭m7| |D7 D#7 |D7 |G7 C7 |G7 D7 |
What really makes The Stormy Monday Blues different is bars 7 & 8. Yes we have that 1/2 step slide in bar 3 and in bar 9, but the really distinctive feature of this tune is when we go up to the ii (Am7), then the iii (Bm7), and then down a 1/2 step to the flat iii (b♭m7), which is completely out of the key, which adds a cool tension and is supremely cool.
Every once in a while the singer will not want all that fancy chord work. Albert King for example played it like a straight slow blues:
But 99% of the time it is played with the original chord progression. Here is a great live video of Eric Clapton playing Stormy Monday. Notice that while he solos they play the straight I IV V blues progression, but once he starts actually singing the song they go into the signature T-Bone Walker Stormy Monday Blues chord progression:
That’s some damn fine playing, ain’t it?
Playing Stormy Monday Chords
So what I want to talk about here are some good ways to play this awesome chord progression to keep it interesting.
First of all I’m going to say something that might surprise you:
DON’T PLAY BARRE CHORDS.
Yes I know that Eric Clapton is playing them in the video, and he may be “god,” but I still say you should not play them. In fact, when you play the electric blues guitar in a band situation you should hardly ever hit that big barre chord that you have been playing since your first year playing guitar.
If you haven’t already, you should check out these posts:
The thing about those big barre chords is that they are too big. They create this wall of sound that gets in the way of what everyone else is doing. They are unsophisticated and clunky.
Think of it like this: when someone is singing or soloing and you are playing rhythm you are there to support them. The soloist, or singer, should be the top note of the chord, while you play the middle area, and the bass player handles the bottom. Big barre chords just make it noisy.
Also, if you are playing with another guitar player, which is most likely the case at a jam blues session, the other guy will probably play those big nasty things. It’s bad enough that one guitar is doing it, two guitars stepping all over everything else that is going on just makes it suck worse.
Of course this is the way it often goes at jam nights. I could go on but then this will turn into a rant and we don’t want that. This is supposed to be a blues guitar lesson, not another post where I force my (correct) opinions on you.
So how do you play a m7 chord with the root on the 6th string? Try this:
Its not hard to hold down those 3 middle strings with your 3rd finger. And it is easy to slide this shape up and down on the guitar neck.
And the best thing about it is that it sounds great. This chord shape contains all 4 notes that make up the m7 chord, and none of them are doubled. It’s balanced and sweet.
Here is a video lesson where I demonstrate how to play the Stormy Monday Blues Chords:
So put on a good backing track and start working on those Stormy Monday Blues chords.
Coming Next: I will show you some great blues licks to use when you play Stormy Monday, and give you a few tips to make it sound more sophisticated than just playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale.