The 12 bar blues progression consist of 12 repeated bars. Musicians use this progressions as a common standard reference frame.
A 12 bar blues form is most often in 44
. This means that there is 4 counts in each bar.
The 12 bar blues progression use step 1, 4 and 5 in the key in which you play. If you play in the key of E, the chords are E, A and B, as this is step 1, 4 and 5 in the E-major scale.
We use roman numbers (I, IV, V) to identify the chords in a chord progression.
Basically, we can play a minor seventh on all the chords in the blues form.
A 12 bar blues progression in it's simplest form looks like this
This form is eg. used in the song Johnny B. Goode af Chuck Berry.
In the form below V7
in bar 10 is changed to a IV7
which is often used.
This form is eg. used in the songs Blue suede shoes, og Hound dog by Elvis.
Let's now change the last chord to a V7
chord, to head back to the beginning. This is called a turn-around chord, because it makes the song start over again. You can not end the song on this chord, so you will now play the song again or end the song in bar 1.
Try to play the progression in the key of E and A, by changing the roman numerals with the correct chord names based on the root.
Below we play a IV7
chord in bar 2, which also is very commonly used.
Try to play the progression in the key of E, A and D.
Lysten to others playing the blues and try to identify wether they use I7
in bar 2 and 10, and wether they play V7
in bar 12 to head back to the beginning.
You will soon discover that not all blues songs fit into the forms that we have gone through. You should remember that this 12 bar blues form is a template, which is often used as a starting point in the blues genre.
1. Practice each hand separately
2. Practice each bar separately. Repeat until it feels natural.
3. Start slowly, and increase the pace gradually.
4. Play the progressions with straight eights and in shuffle.
The blues progression
Progression variation 1
Progression variation 2