Blues Guitar Institute

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Baby, Please Don’t Go – Beginner/Intermediate Fingerstyle Blues Lesson

Lesson ID: TB436

Learning fingerstyle blues guitar can seem impossible at first.

But with the right training, every guitarist can master the fundamentals. In this lesson, we’ll break down the key steps and techniques to help you get started with fingerstyle blues. Plus we’ll put these skills into action using the main part of one of the most iconic blues songs:

Baby, Please Don’t Go.

Let’s get started.

Start with the Bass Line

In Baby, Please Don’t Go, we’ll play the melody with our fingers and the steady bass line with the thumb.

Many beginners get stuck because they jump in and try to tackle everything at once. Instead, let’s focus on the bass and melody separately, starting with the thumb.

The thumbs role in fingerstyle blues is crucial. Not only does it provide the bass line, but it’s largely responsible for keeping the beat. You can develop this skill by drilling targeted exercises.

First, try playing the open 6th string along with a metronome. Set the metronome to a comfortable tempo. Then, pluck the open 6th string with each click. As you do, focus on these two things:

  1. Rest Stroke – use downward strokes with your thumb and rest on the next string.
  2. Palm Mute – place your hand lightly on the strings just in front of the bridge for a bluesy thump.

Master this fundamental steady bass exercise before adding melody.

Add the Melody with Your Other Fingers

Once you have the steady bass line down, add the melody notes with the other fingers on your picking hand.

While there are plenty of picking styles, if you’re brand new to fingerpicking try this:

  • Play 3rd string notes with the index finger
  • Play 2nd string notes with the middle finger
  • Play 1st string notes with the ring finger

You will break this picking framework at times, but it helps to dedicate a finger to a string in the beginning. This helps eliminate a thousand tiny decisions of which finger should pick which string. Early on as a fingerpicker, consistency wins.

To play the main melody, you’ll need the ability to play the top strings along with the bass thump. Plus, you’ll need to play notes between the bass.

It takes purposeful practice to master even the simplest fingerpicking movements. Go slowly in the beginning and focus on staying in time and getting clear sounding notes.

Putting it All Together

Once you get the main melody down, move on to the other chords in the 12 bar blues progression. You’ll use many of the same movements as the main melody but the thumb bass moves to the 5th string for the A and B7 chords.

Here’s a sample from the video of what you can play over the A chord part of the progression:

Fingerpicking can feel awkward at first for most players. But, regularly practicing core exercises has a huge payoff. It makes cool tunes like Baby, Please Don’t Go possible. So, practice the exercises and when you’re ready, dive into the video tutorial.

Good luck and Play On!

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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