A Guide To The Simple Twelve Bar Blues
What Are the Blues?The twelve bar blues is a very common chord progression found in a lot of songs. The progression, whilst less popular now, is very common in early blues music around the '60s era, with it being common in many Elvis singles. Even today, many songs sample parts from or even predominantly use the twelve bar blues. Important - be careful with time signatures. This can alter when you play in the bar.
How Do They Work?The concept is simple - once you get your head around it! Songs composed using the twelve bar blues typically have just three chords - all being major. The most common way to describe the progression is with this chart below: I I I I IV IV I I V V I I This works quite simply. Choose any major scale. For the purposes of this, I'll choose E major. The first chord in E major is - of course - E major. You can list the chords in the scale, but you only really need three. I E Major II F# Minor III G# Minor IV A Major V B Major VI C# Minor VII D# Diminished Pay attention to chords one, four and five - E, A and B. Those are your chords for the simple twelve bar blues - nothing else! Here's the playing order:
Bar 1 2 3 4 Chord I I I I|I I I I|I I I I|I I I I|
Bar 5 6 7 8 Chord IV IV IV IV|IV IV IV IV|I I I I|I I I I|Bar 9 10 11 12 Chord V V V V|V* V* V* V*|I I I I|I I I I|