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Vertical Truth: Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar
Unit 2: The Blues

You've gotta start somewhere and the Blues is the best place to start!

It's impossible to overstate the importance of the Blues to popular music. The 12-bar Blues form is found in all genres. The Minor Pentatonic Scale (the most common scale used for soloing in the Blues) is found in every culture on the planet. Not to mention the Blues genre itself, which has worldwide appeal.

The Blues is the staple of jam sessions everywhere. Wanna sit in? Ya gots to know yer Blues!

In this lesson series you'll learn the ubiquitous shuffle feel. The Shuffle will be applied to the basic 12-Bar Blues, along with several common variations to the 12-bar form, and...


You'll be able to play it in any and every key!

Check out the Table of Contents:

Unit 2: The Blues is a PDF download that contains:

  • 39 pages

  • 12 lessons

  • explanatory text

  • 77 fretboard diagrams

  • 19 other graphics (song forms in different keys, rhythm notation/explanation, etc.)

  • 13 demonstration video links.

Here's what the PDF looks like:

Screenshot 2023-01-19 at 8.48.35 PM.png

Want a preview? How about the first lesson; how to play the Shuffle. 

Admittedly, playing a shuffle is fatiguing. Students have problems with the stretch, with pain in the wrist and cramping. In order to play a typical Blues tune you need to be able to consistently, without a mistake or breaking time, play a shuffle for 4 or 5 minutes at a time. I have several technique tips that greatly enhance strength and stamina:

Optimal Placement:  

Because the guitar is a fretted instrument there is a certain latitude for finger placement. However, there needs to be precision for optimal sound and efficiency. Fingers should be placed right behind the fret - as close as possible.

Minimal Force:  

When the fingers are placed as close to the fret as possible, very little force is necessary. All that's needed is to push the string down until it touches the fret wire. How much strength does that take? Almost none. The issue is never strength; the issue is fine motor control and efficiency.

Pinky Control:  

If your pinky is waving around and having to move a lot to play on beats 2 and 4 your hand will become fatigued very quickly. You must gain control of the pinky and keep it directly over the note it's going to play at all times.


"Staccato" means, "silence between notes." Playing beats 1 and 3 staccato helps create the shuffle feel. To produce staccato you must release the pressure on the strings. When you release the pressure there is a split second of relaxation. Twice a bar, on beats 1 and 3, you are relaxing for a split second. Those split seconds add up over time, increasing stamina.

Check out the video below for a demonstration of all these techniques!

Furthermore, when moving from one root to another, as in shuffling around the Key Circle, the added problem of switching chords without breaking time rears its ugly head. To address that issue, I teach a technique I call:

Sandbagging a Shuffle:  

Sandbagging a Shuffle entails hitting open strings on the "and" of beat 4 while you're moving to the next chord. You would think it would sound bad to do that but it usually doesn't. Most listeners don't realize it's happening. It can even enhance the rhythmic feel with a percussive drive to the next chord. It gives you more time to switch to the next chord thus reducing the potential of breaking time. Breaking time is the ultimate sin in music. When you break time the music goes away. So sandbag the shuffle and don't break time!

BTW: The "sandbagging" technique can be applied to anything; for instance, I use it all the time when switching from one chord to another. When applied generally we might call it, "sandbagging the 'and' of 4."


The 5-Lesson Foundational Series: I encourage all Site Members to go through this series; almost everything I teach presupposes it. It will give you the ability to find any note, anywhere on the fretboard. You can download it for free right here: 



The retail price for Unit 2: The Blues is $79: Anyone can purchase - if you want to pay full price without signing up for membership and with no other strings attached, just click on the button below:

If you are a Master Guitar School Site Member you can use your Members-Only Discount and purchase for $39!

If you are a Site Member: When you click on the button below you will be prompted to sign in if you are not already signed in. The page is a Members-Only page.

If you are NOT a Site Member: When you click on the button below you will be prompted to sign up as a Site Member. Membership is free and there are many other benefits to being a Site Member, but the Members-Only Discount is a big one (at least 50% or more)! After signing up you will be automatically redirected to the Members-Only Discount.

Wait - There's More!

You may have noticed that this lesson series deals with the rhythm part of the Blues. "Where's the soloing stuff?" you may ask. Well, that's a good question!

The soloing stuff is contained in a separate lesson series, Concepts for Basic Improvising. Everything in Concepts for Basic Improvising is related to the Minor Pentatonic Scale in a Blues context; no fancy chords or confusing modal theory - just easily applicable concepts to a scale you probably already know, the Minor Pentatonic.

Now, if you believe you have a handle on the rhythm stuff and just want some help with your soloing, just go to the Concepts for Basic Improvising page and check it out.

If you want both, the combined retail price would be $179. With the Site Member discount applied to each lesson series the price would be $88.

However, for Site Members only, I'm offering a Combo Pak consisting of both Unit 2: The Blues AND Concepts for Basic Improvising for only $78! That's $39 apiece! 

So if you want the Blues/Concepts Combo Pak for just $78 click on the button below. It will take you to a Members-Only download page.

Remember: You must be a Site Member and logged in to access the download page!

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