If you want to take some blues guitar instruction, you can do so on either electric or acoustic
guitar. You can also play with a pick or with finger style. What you will want to master in your
blues guitar instruction is the twelve bar blues chord progression, dominant seventh type chords
that are a big part of the blues sound, and the blues scales that go with these chords for creating
solos. In this article we will cover the basics of the twelve-bar blues chord progression.
Within the blues guitar instruction there are many different sub-genres. We often categorize
these different styles into five basic groups: Delta Blues, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, Rock Blues,
and Jazz Blues. At the heart of all these styles, however is the twelve bar blues progression. The
basic progression is shown below in the key of G, an extremely guitar friendly key.
G | G | G |
| C | G |
D7 | D7 |
G | G
The twelve-bar blues as presented here is distilled to its essence. Three four-bar phrases in
four-four time, using major chords only, with a dominant seven chord in the third phrase. You can
use this progression for pretty much any style of blues guitar instruction, including Country
Blues. Measures nine and ten, however, might raise a few eyebrows. Just think of this progression
as a template to use for creating more interesting variations. Let's adjust the third phrase to
give it a more traditional blues feel.
D7 | C |
G | G
That sounds a little better! Staying in the third phrase, if you are playing more than one
chorus use a D7 chord in the last measure. This will help lead into subsequent choruses.
C | G | D7 :||
← choruses 1, 2 ...
D7 | C | G |
G || ← last
We can also make a simple adjustment in our blues guitar instruction to the second measure of
the first phrase to make the progression a little more interesting. Here are the complete twelve
measures again with our adjustments:
G | C
| G | G
C | G | G
D7 | C | G |
We have now built up our original progression to what most musicians would consider a standard
twelve-bar blues. Although its good as it is, if we want to bluesy up the sound a little more, we
can use dominant seventh chords throughout, G7 for G, and C7 for C.
Once you have a thorough understanding of this chord progression with our blues guitar
instruction, you should learn a few basic variations. We are again going to play with the third
phrase, turning it into a basic jazz version of the blues with a II7-V7 pattern. In G this
translates into the chords Am7 and D7:
G7 | C7 |
C7 | C 7
| G7 | G7 |
Am7 | D7
| G7 | D7 :||
This is still the blues, but now it has a slightly different feel. To jazz it up even more,
change the C7 and D7 chords to C9 and D9 chords. Now we're swinging like the masters!
I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction blues guitar instruction and the
twelve-bar blues. Take the time to transpose the above progressions to other keys, especially C, E
and A and play around with the chords a bit. For you jazz players, don't forget the keys of B-flat