Blues - getting to know the 12 bar blues

Review the video above for a reminder of the sequence for the Blues chords. You can use the 12 bar sequences and the backing tracks below in a number of ways:

  1. Use the major chords shapes, and aim to get to the next chord for beat one. Do one downstroke on the first beat of the bar. Getting this far is great.
  2. If you can do that, you can add some strumming into each chord change. Pick from any strumming pattern you have looked at.
  3. You can as an alternative, play open strings – open bass notes. This will sound cool.
  4. Later you, you’ll learn boogie-woogie styles and you can play those.
  5. You can play Green Onions – the lower part or the higher part.
  6. You can improvise using A minor pentatonic.
  7. You can use the structure as a guide to playing a minor blues (just make all the chords minor, but don’t try to play that over the audios for the major blues as it will clash).
  8. You can use the structure as a guide to play all dominant 7 chords – and that will sound fine over the major chord audios.

Here are some different blues tracks for you to jam along to. A plain, guitar and counting only track is here – you can strum the chords or play the Green Onions riffs to this:

start with this one if you aren’t sure about the structure, as it can be hard to hear exactly where the chord is changing in the backing tracks that have lots of instruments in them (although they sound more exciting and longer term might be more fun to play along with). When this feels easy/manageable, check out the other blues backing tracks below. They all have the same chord progression, (which means you can play the same chords, and the same Blues bass line as Green Onions has) but they are at different speeds and with different instruments. You may be pretty surprised by how varied the effect is with the exact same musical material expressed with different sounds, rhythms and instruments.

Focus on the different rhythmic feel between the rock and the shuffle and enjoy getting right into the groove. This is how you will develop great time and play ‘tight’ rhythm guitar. All of these audios use the blues chords and just cycle round and around them.

Bluegrass style blues chord progression

Celtic style blues chord progression (will sound more folky)

Texas style blues chord progression

Blues in A, 66bpm, Shuffle feel

Blues 66pbm shuffle

Blues in A, 90bpm Shuffle feel

Blues 90pbm shuffle

Blues in A, Rock feel

Blues 90bpm rock feel