Can You Play Acoustic Blues Like Muddy Waters? • Acoustic Tuesday 279

Muddy Waters is one of the most, if not the most, influential blues guitarist. But what acoustic guitar lessons can we learn from his approach to music?

In this episode, we’ll cover 10 aspects of Muddy Waters’ playing. Each lesson focuses on a different technique, approach, or stylistic choice. From minimalism to alternating octaves, there’s something to learn no matter your skill level.

So much of the blues is rooted in history, and there are plenty of blues musicians prior to Muddy Waters that informed his playing style. Much of this lesson is informed by “Can’t Be Satisfied” by Robert Gordon. If you want to learn more about Muddy Waters and his influences, be sure to check out this book!

Besides learning guitar-specific techniques, you’ll also see specific examples of Muddy Waters’ approach to music. Some of these are a little philosophical and heady, but they’re super important. From learning the meaning perseverance to finding your musical family, I hope you resonate with one of these Muddy Waters’ lessons. 

Featured in this episode…
– Active Melody  
– Play Country Blues  
– Mule Resonator Guitars  
– Thompson Guitars
– Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
– Mighty Poplar  
– Joseph The Band
– Free Dirt Records  
– Compass Records  
– Nickel Creek  
– Candy Rat Records  
– Caitlin Canty  
– Pisgah Banjo Company  

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  1. I liked the background on Muddy and his style(s).
    A CD you might like is one I came across 15-20 years ago. It’s called Paul Rodgers Tribute to Muddy Waters.
    It is loaded with Muddy songs with some great guitar players taking turns playing. Off the top of my head, players include Neal Schon, David Gilmore, Trevor Rabin, Jeff Beck, etc. One of my favorites is Born Under A Bad sign with Neal Schon on guitar and Jason Bonham on drums. Followed by Standing Round Cryin’ with David Gilmore.

  2. Wow! This episode was full to the brim with informative, interesting content! Thanks for putting together such an enjoyable show. I just love Acoustic Tuesday! Thanks, Ton! (Thanks also for telling us what guitars you were playing.)


  3. Hey Tony, Another great show today! Need to give new artist Kelley Smith another shoutout hopefully you can get her on next week’s episode. The world needs to hear her voice! She’s a local artist from Brainerd MN who is absolutely killing it!! Check out her new album Moon Child!

    Thanks for everything you do for us!

  4. Thank you Tony! I’ve been a TAC member for just 2 months. Don’t write responses much but do like reading everyone else’s. I love the daily challenges and go back to the skill courses over and over! Find myself in my basement music room playing sometimes for 2 hours or more. My husband can hear me through the walls, good and bad. I listen to Acoustic Tuesday albeit Wednesday, Thursday or whenever. Todays info on Muddy Waters was great! I am a fan. Taught myself Walkin’ Blues a long time ago. Love the blues. I’ll try to play anything TAC throws at me. Some will stick and some won’t but that’s the beauty of the course. No pressure. Just learning and having a good time! Thanks again! I’ll be a TAC member for a long time!

  5. Thank you Tony and TAC member Mike. Still figuring out where I want to go. Its ok to having lows with it all. I will figure out where I want to go in my acoustic journey and stay with the Daily challenge even though this week has been tough. Feels good to learn licks. Do the Daily challenge, some skill course learning, and keep after learning a few songs at a time. Learn a small part of the songs every day or when I can. Just keep the routine rolling.

  6. Great show today highlighting Muddy Waters, probably my favorite tune is Hoochie Coochie Man! Also, the 1960 Newport Folk Festival footage you showed was part of a seminal moment in American music when the Blues was introduced to the mainstream!

  7. a great overview of Muddy Waters, an “inspirational” blues player. Reminded of an old DVD with Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones, shot live at the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago in 1981, including Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, etc. – glad I kept it!

  8. Being a long-time TAC member has taught me several things:
    – what genres of music I do and do not like. This includes types of music I have heard my whole life that I have learned to like (some bluegrass) and some I had never heard but simply don’t like (percussive guitar.) That being said, I don’t skip the lessons that feature techniques I will never use – there is always something to be learned.
    – I have narrowed down my focus to what I really want to learn, ie, fingerpicking. Again, nothing wrong with learning and practicing a little flatpicking and some songs just need to be strummed.
    – You don’t have to learn or “master” everything. TAC exposes you to all kinds of techniques and genres of music (depending on Tony’s current interest!) It’s not going to hurt to practice something even if it doesn’t fit your “style” – practice it, file it away and move on to the next challenge.
    – If I never hear the phrase “guitar routine” again, it will be too soon

  9. Your mention of minimalism in reference to muddy Waters. In another area Ed Gerhard is a master. Listen to The Handing Down or his version of The Water is Wide. Even speed king Tommy Emanuel uses this well on his slower songs. Good point Tony.