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12 Bar Blues Tabs

March 19th, 2011

Once you master guitar tab, you can learn many of your favourite blues classics from blues tabs. Learning the 12 bar blues progression is a vital part of learning to play the blues guitar. It underpins many of the classic songs we all know and love, not just in blues but in many other styles of popular music, such as soul, jazz, metal and rock.

There are many variations on the 12 bar blues form, but the most basic form is a I-IV-V chord pattern. As an example, let’s look at the key of A, which allows you to play a 12 bar progression just using simple open chords. We’ll use dominant 7th major chords, as they give a lovely bluesy sound, so the chords you’ll need for the I-IV-V pattern are A7-D7-E7.

I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I is the pattern of the 12 bar progression.

A7-A7-A7-A7-D7-D7-A7-A7-E7-D7-A7-A7 is the chord pattern in A.

This 12 bar progression can be played simply, with four beats to the bar. Use downstrokes at the start, then change this rhythm around as you get fluent with the pattern. Even if you’re not consciously aware of it, this 12 bar pattern is rolling along underneath, like a heartbeat, solid and repetitive, while the song unfolds above it.

Listen to any great blues guitarist play, and you can hear that they are soloing around the basic 12 bar blues. Once you’ve mastered the underlying 12 bar blues rhythm, then you can try creating your own solos by jamming around the basic chords, either with friends or over a recorded rhythm track. Blues tabs are a great way to learn riffs and licks to use in building your blues guitar solos. Click here to find out about getting blues guitar lessons from ‘Playing Through the Blues’.


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