What Instruments Are Used in Blues Music?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The instruments used in blues music include the guitar, bass, drums, and harmonica.

The Guitar

The acoustic guitar is the most common instrument found in blues music. It is often played with a pick, or plectrum, and has steel strings. Electric guitars were first used in blues in the late 1930s and became widely used in the 1950s. The electric guitar is usually played with a pick, but some players use their fingers to pluck the strings.

The harmonica is another common instrument found in blues music. It is a small, handheld instrument that has metal reeds that vibrate when air is blown through them. The harmonica is held in one hand and played by blowing air into it and pressing on the reeds with the other hand.

Pianos and keyboards are also sometimes used in blues music. The piano was first used in blues in the early 1900s, but was less common than the guitar until the 1950s when it became more widely used. Keyboards such as organs and electric pianos were also first used in blues in the 1950s and 1960s.

Other instruments that are sometimes used in blues music include drums, bass guitars, and saxophones.

The Harmonica

The harmonica is a reed instrument that is played by blowing air into it and pressing the reeds with your lips. It is a very popular instrument in blues music, and it is also used in many other genres of music such as rock, jazz, and country.

The Piano

The piano is one of the most popular instruments used in blues music. It has a wide range of tones and can be used for both solo and accompaniment. The piano is also relatively easy to play, making it a popular choice for beginners.

The Bass

The string bass is used in all types of blues music, from the early string bands to contemporary electric groups. Upright basses (also called “standup basses”) are usually made of wood, with metal strings. The body of the instrument is held between the legs while the player uses a bow or plucks the strings with his or her fingers. Electric bass guitars are also used in blues bands. These instruments have solid or semi-hollow bodies and are played with picks or fingers.

The Drums

The drums are the heartbeat of any blues band and they lay down the groove that the other instruments play over. This groove is typically a 4/4 beat with a heavy accent on the 2 and 4 beats. The snare drum is played on these beats while the Hi-hat is played on all of the beats, including the off-beats in between. The bass drum is usually only played on the 1 and 3 beats.

The kick drum provides a lot of the power and drive in a blues band, so it’s important to have a good drummer who can lay down a solid groove. The other instruments in the band will often follow whatever the drummer is doing, so if he or she speeds up or slows down, the rest of the band will usually do the same.

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