3 Classic Blues Riffs

3 Classic Blues Riffs

Fancy yourself a blues guitarist? If so there are some blues riffs you just gotta know.

Let’s say you’re at a blues jam session and the singer calls Wang Dang Doodle.

“What did he say about my wang?” you ask the bass player.

“Oh man,” the bass player says to to singer, “this guy don’t know Wang Dang Doodle! I guess we gotta play another slow blues.”

For shame! How can you say that you’re a bluesman when you don’t even know Wang Dang Doodle? Son, you gotta pay yer dues!

So here are 3 gotta know classic blues riffs if you wanna call yourself a blues guitarist.

(Of course there are lots more than 3, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?)

1. Wang Dang Doodle

I know you are aware that Koko Taylor was the Queen of the Blues. And Wang Dang Doodle was a signature song for her. Now you can hear it, and play it, in blues clubs around the world. This riff is as fun to play as it is to hear, all night long…

On that recording they are tuned down a whole step, so it is is the key of D. If you want to sound just like that you will have to tune every string down also. Of course if you play it in standard tuning, which is fine, it will be in the key of E.

Here’s the tab:

|----------------------------|
|----------------------------|
|----------------------------|
|-----0---2-0----------------|
|-0h2---2-----2-----5--------|
|---------------3-3---3p0----|

The next time someone says something about yer wang, you will know what to do, won’t you?

And the next classic blues riff is…

2. Messin’ With The Kid

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells were a power team of bluesmen who gave us this gem of a blues standard. And later the Blues Brothers helped the white folks get hip to it too. This riff is burned into my brain, as I have played it so many times at oh so many blues jam sessions. Just don’t play it too fast…that kills the soul.

And here is how you play it, in the key of C:

|-8--6---------------------|
|-------8--6---------------|
|-------------8-7-5---5----|
|-------------------8------|
|--------------------------|
|--------------------------|

If you don’t know that slick blues riff, you don’t know nothin’!

And finally, the 3rd gotta know if yer gonna call yourself a blues guitarist blues riff is…

3. Mannish Boy

It doesn’t get more classic, or any cooler than this. Muddy Waters was the suavest son of gun that ever graced the bandstand. Hell, I’m glad he wasn’t around when I was wooin’ my wife…I never would have stood a chance.

Simple to play and steaming hot, you gotta know this riff. If you don’t you’d better to get your sorry behind into that woodshed and don’t come out ’til you got it!

Oh yeah!

It doesn’t get any easier than playing this one. Hell, you could do it after a few too many whiskeys at 4 in the mornin’. And by the way, it’s in the key of A.

|--------------|
|--------------|
|---7---5------|
|-7---7---7----|
|--------------|
|--------------|

Everything is going to be alright this morning. Especially if you got these riffs in your bag of blues tricks.

So go on now…learn em!

About the Author

Marc GreenwaldI've been playing guitar for over 35 years, everything from Punk Rock to Jazz, but I love the blues. Due to my firm belief that a musician who can't play the blues is no musician at all, I built this website to help other people find their voice as a blues guitarist.View all posts by Marc Greenwald →

2 Comments

  1. JimmyZJimmyZ09-24-2010

    OMG I love that muddy waters tune! Thanks for a fun and educational post.

  2. Blues Licks MasterBlues Licks Master09-24-2010

    Yeah, that tune is one of the greats!

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"Of course there are a lot of ways you can treat the blues, but it will still be the blues." - Count Basie

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