Learning the 12 bar blues progression is basic to understanding the roots of American popular music.
When you see a group of musicians getting together to play everyone seems to know what to do almost magically.
This is because at one time or another they learned the 12 bar blues progression.
While there are lots of variations of this timeless progression the most common is a three chord 12 measure version explained in this lesson.
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The term "12 bars" does not refer to the numbers of taverns you need to visit before you get the "blues".
It is actually the amount of measures that are played before the chord progression is repeated.
So for the sake or our discussion a "bar" and a "measure" are the same musical term. Since most blues songs are in 4/4 time each bar or measure will receive 4 "counts" or "beats" or foot taps for that matter.
The term "chord progression" refers to the way the chords move or "progress" from one to another.
The basic 12 bar blues progression can be played in any key and will use the I, IV, and V chords from that key.
In the key of C the chords would be C major F major and G major. For a review of the roman numerals system see the lesson on diatonic chords.
What makes the chords "bluesy" is the use of 7th chords rather than the basic triads. In a 7th chords the flatted 7th note of the scale is added to the chord.
So we now have C7, F7 and G7. See the lesson on chord formulas.
The chords and measures are played in this repeating pattern.
In the example below you will see that the second measure can be the IV7 chord as a substitute. This is sometimes called a "quick four" as the IV chord is only played one quick measure in the beginning.
The diagram below is another way of notating the 12 bar blues piano progression using the roman numeral method of notation. Remember the formula stays the same for any key! Just plug in the I, IV, and V chords from that key.
Notice the "spiced up" turn around in the last two "measures" or "bars".
If you would like to see and hear an example of the 12 bar blues progression, be sure to check out the short video clip below and also register for the lessons alerts at the top right of the page! Contact me!
So your finally jammin' with the boys in the band!
You are on your 4th chorus of the 12 bar blues progression when someone points at you and says take a solo.... To find out what to do click on the link below to begin the lesson on the blues scale.
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