Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

How to Play Sweet Home Chicago

How to Play Sweet Home Chicago

In this blues lesson I will be teaching you how to play ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ on guitar. Any blues guitar fan will have heard ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ at some point either from the original recording by Robert Johnson or one of the other countless renditions of the classic tune.

Because there are so many versions of this song, I will be teaching two different ways you can play the opening riff. The first version of the riff the Magic Sam way and the second version is the Buddy Guy version.

Both of these riffs happen at the same part of the intro and through the verse, so you can use either one or even exchange them if you want to.

If you want to learn how to play sweet home chicago as a solo guitar piece like I do at the beginning of the video, check out this article.


Sweet Home Chicago Video Lesson





Magic Sam Way


In the key of E there are lots of 2 note diad (2 notes played together) riffs on the top 2 strings that blues guitarists use. In this example Magic Sam uses a few of these popular shapes to play the riff as seen in the example below. On the original recording Robert Johnson played this riff using a bottleneck so sliding into each of these diads from a half step below gives a similar feel. Check out the video below to see Magic Sam playing this riff.


sweet home chicago


Buddy Guy Way


The second riff uses the same rhythm figures and is actually originally a BB king riff! Listen to ‘Please Love Me’ on the Live at the Regal album. Buddy Guy actually admits to learning this shape from BB himself in his hotlicks DVD.

Check out this great energetic performance of Buddy Guy playing it.


sweet home chicago


Sweet Home Chicago Riff Structure


Now that we have the riff under our fingers, let’s check out where in the form we need to play it. Sweet Home Chicago is a 12 bar blues in the key of E. When playing the riff in the intro, play it in bars 1, 3 and 5 of the progression as seen on the chart below. If you are playing this without any guitarist you can always play some cool chords in between the riff to expand your chordal chops. When the lyrics come in and the verse starts only play the riff between the vocals in bars 3, and 7.


Sweet Home Structure


I hope this lesson has helped you learn one of my favorite electric blues guitar riffs. What’s your favorite version of Sweet Home Chicago? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Hi Jamie.
This riff sounds spctacular!
Can you say me please what´s the difference between the Chicago and delta blues?
Warm regards,

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks Raulz. The delta blues is an older acoustic blues style that started much earlier. Chicago blues is an electric blues that happend much later and uses electric guitars. Cheers.

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Thank you for posting this. It really helps. I've been throwing blues licks at things for years, and never really studied the style of some of these players. Looks like I have a lot to learn from finger style, I learned Hybrid with a pick.

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Mike Anders

Most excellent!

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John C. Boukis

Jamie, thanks for the cool lesson. This brings back great memories of seeing the late Robert Lockwood Jr. play live. He learned from Robert Johnson himself and preserved Johnson's style, playing such in clubs for many years close to his death in 2006. Everyone knows Johnson's name, but they should also know the name Lockwood. There are modern recordings of Lockwood available for listening and study.

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