Fingerstyle Blues

Genre and Style Guitar Course from Orville Johnson

The blues is a distinctly American style of music. Many popular genres such as jazz, rock, and country music draw upon basic blues concepts. Consequently, it is advantageous for any guitarist to study the blues.

29 Lessons

Complete course with step-by-step lessons and practice examples.


Course filmed with 6 cameras for the perfect angles.

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Full Course Breakdown

Orville Johnson combines his amazing fingerstyle abilities with classic blues music. Orville will introduce you to the necessary concepts of fingerstyle and move on to teach classic blues tunes.


Alternating Bass

In this lesson, Orville introduces one of the basic fingerstyle techniques - the alternating bass technique.

14:49 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Winin' Boy Blues

Orville Johnson teaches his interpretation of the piano-based song "Winin' Boy Blues" by Jelly Roll Morton.

29:33 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Blues Turnarounds

Orville Johnson introduces turnarounds and provides great ideas and techniques.

16:30 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty

View this Lesson

Payday Blues

Orville Johnson teaches the fingerstyle blues song "Payday Blues."

19:04 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Walking Bassline with Chords

Orville Johnson demonstrates how to play a walking bass line in conjunction with chordal accompaniment.

18:33 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


One Dime Blues

Orville Johnson teaches his take on a blues standard entitled "One Dime Blues."

13:46 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


I'll Fly Away - Piedmont Style

Orville Johnson teaches the classic gospel tune "I'll Fly Away" in the Piedmont style.

18:40 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Beulah Land

Orville Johnson teaches the classic gospel song "Beulah Land."

12:40 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Make Me a Pallet on the Floor

Orville Johnson teaches "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" in the Piedmont style.

17:58 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


How Long, How Long Blues

Orville teaches the a fingerstyle version of the classic blues number "How Long, How Long."

23:31 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Common Blues Melody

Orville Johnson teaches a common blues melody that has been used in several classic songs including "Louis Collins."

15:09 Runtime

0.0 Difficulty


St. Johnny

Orville Johnson reviews an original tune he calls "St. Johnny" in this lesson.

44:09 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Blind Blake Style

In this lesson, Orville Johnson takes a look at the style of Blind Blake with some fun tips and tricks.

12:50 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Chord Substitutions: Major

In this Fingerstyle Blues lesson, Orville Johnson uses the 12 bar blues in C to talk about chord substitutions.

35:34 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling

To demonstrate the relationship between gospel and blues, Orville Johnson teaches an arrangement of an old gospel tune called "Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling".

20:22 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Chord Substitutions: Minor

Orville Johnson is back with another fantastic lesson on chord substitutions, this time in a minor key.

19:03 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Mississippi John Hurt Style

Orville Johnson demonstrates Mississippi John Hurt's style using an old spiritual song called "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder".

10:18 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Skip James Style Part 1

Orville Johnson explores the style of Skip James in open G tuning.

19:28 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Skip James Style Part 2

Orville Johnson takes another look at the style of Skip James, this time in cross-note (D Minor) tuning.

25:08 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Bo Carter Style

Orville Johnson takes a look at the style of blues artist Bo Carter in this lesson.

15:35 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Jelly Jelly

Orville Johnson walks through "Jelly Jelly," an original piano blues style song.

22:14 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Travis Picking Pt. 1

Welcome to part one of a two part lesson bundle where Orville breaks down Travis Picking, a fingerstyle pattern made famous by the great Merle Travis.

21:51 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Travis Picking Pt. 2

This is part two in Orville's Travis Picking demonstration. Orville now teaches how to increase speed with the picking hand. Then, he explains how to improve synchronization between the picking and fretting hands.

23:10 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Scrapper Blackwell Part 1

Welcome to part one of a two part mini series on the great guitarist known as Scrapper Blackwell! Orville tackles the unique techniques Scrapper utilized.

28:15 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Scrapper Blackwell Part 2

Now that Orville has introduced Scrapper's style, he covers some more difficult techniques that he used.

17:56 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Mississippi John Hurt Style 2

Orville Johnson delves into the style of Mississippi once more. This time around he takes a look at a song that is inspired by "Frankie and Albert".

16:17 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


The Style of Elizabeth Cotten Part 1

Orville talks all about the style of Elizabeth Cotten, an acoustic fingerpicking legend. He uses a song called "I'm Going Downtown" to showcase her way of playing.

38:01 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


The Style of Elizabeth Cotten Part 2

Orville dives back into the world of Elizabeth Cotten. This time around he teaches a newsong called "Sugar" and introduces other common musical themes she was known for.

18:20 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Heavy-Time Bass

Orville Johnson likes to use a technique called "Heavy-time bass" when playing the bass notes on his guitar. In this lesson he teaches you how adding this trick to your arsenal can make you a more versatile player.

25:29 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty

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  • Seattle, Washington
  • Playing since 1970
  • 128 lessons at JamPlay

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.
Reviews & Feedback 93/100 with 231 ratings

All of the above


All of the above.


Challenging, but interesting. I need more experience building chords.


First lesson that encouraged me to try out a different tuning. A great lesson in a great series! Orville Johnsons teaching style is really outstanding.


Good instructional video, l was able to get different voicing's of the G7 chord.


I liked the advice to get away from the tabs and get the song in my head


I love it


I need to check all three.


Love this version of that song.


Orville is a GREAT teacher. Takes it slow and easy so students can understand. Classes are FUN too!!


This is something that I can aspire to. The teacher is very good at explaining exactly what to do. I just need to work on it a lot in order to do it.