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Is blues guitar dead?

Calhoun Tubbs

I think this was predicted back in the '90s.

There was a show called In Living Color that ran for 5 years from 1990 to 1994. In the first season the character of blues great Calhoun Tubbs was introduced. His whole shtick was that he'd been a blues player for over 75 years, and every song he ever wrote sounded the same.

Does all blues guitar music basically sound the same?


5 reasons nobody wants to hear you play the blues

1. Blues is depressing

Blues is by its very definition is a depressing form of music. Last I knew, nobody likes being depressed.

2. You are not Stevie Ray Vaughan and nobody wants to hear a clone

There's the Stevie Ray Vaughan curse where a guitar player pours a bunch of time and money into becoming the perfect SRV clone. One who does this says it is for his own personal enjoyment, but that's a lie. He does it to impress other guitar players. As I've said before and will say again, never play guitar to impress other guitar players. Do. Not. Do. That.

Here's a good reason never to bother with learning SRV songs and styles: Have you ever noticed SRV himself ran out of material real early?

Look at Little Sister and Pride and Joy. SAME SONG. The only difference is one is played at a different speed than the other and THAT'S IT. Otherwise it's the same riff and same chords.

You'll also notice SRV had little variety in his soloing style. Not only did he keep playing the same riffs in the same key over and over, he also played the same solo lines over and over as well.

If SRV ran out of things to write with blues on electric guitar, what makes you think you can do any better?

3. People hate guitar solos

Blues guitar music is full of solos. Tons of them. Even more so than metal, and that's saying something. Not something necessarily good, but saying something.

Take out the solo for any blues guitar song and see what you're left with. Not much.

Even worse is the fact that blues guitar solos, much like blues guitar riffs, pretty much all sound the same. "Pentatonic hell", if you will.

4. Every single thing that could be done with blues guitar music has been done

There is absolutely nothing you can play with blues that has not been done before by other people at least 100,000 times.

And this leads to...

5. The internet peanut gallery will always accuse you of sounding like someone else

You've bought the guitar gear. You've learned the riffs. You've learned the solos. And after months if not years of practicing, you've finally become good. You put a song together, record it, and it's the most awesome blues song ever...

...but when you publish it, it's absolutely guaranteed some idiot will say, "Nice song. Sounds just like [insert famous blues guitarist here]." But you know it doesn't. It sounds totally original, right?


In reality, the idiot who posted the comment was right. See #4 above.

So is blues dead?

Some parts of America will most likely always feature blues music. Chicago, Austin, Memphis and so on will by tradition have their blues scenes for a long time to come.

Unless you physically live somewhere that has an established blues scene, then yes, blues is totally dead.

For example, Tampa Florida where I live has no blues scene that I know of. When you think "blues", the city of Tampa is obviously not the first place that comes to mind. Maybe that will change in the future, but I seriously doubt it. Tampa, much like just about every other major city in America, will never see any kind of blues scene.

Should you stop playing blues?

You can play whatever you want because I'm not the boss of you. But don't ever plan on making a career out of it unless you live in one of those towns with an established blues scene.

On a final note, I'll just say that if your goal is to make a living playing guitar, stop playing blues right now and start playing country music instead. Country sells. Blues doesn't.

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