Minor blues chords and progressions

The step between major and minor in blues are little and sometimes flowing. For a simple 12 bar blues with three chords all that have be done is to change the I and IV chords from major and minor and keep the V chord as it's.

Blues in E minor

The E minor is probably the most common minor key in blues and the following diagrams shows the main chords to learn:


  • Em chord diagram


  • Am chord diagram


  • B7 chord diagram

Substitutions such as Am7 and B9 are options.

12 Bar Blues in Em

On way to play the chords in a 12-bar progression. Start from top left and play four beats per measure.

Em Em Em Em
Am Am Em Em
B7 Am Em Em

Notice that you can add a turnaround in the last bar by replace the Em by B7. This will add tension that is resolved when the progression starts over again with Em.

You could play the E Pentatonic minor blues scale in 1st position for soloing over the chords.

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More 12 Bar Blues in Em examples - with substitutions

The standard progression presented above can be variated in numerous ways. Here are some examples of that:

Em Em Em Em
Am Am Em Em
Bm Am Em Em

Following the natural minor scale, resulting in no dominant chord.


Em Am Em Em
Am Am Em Em
B7 Am Em B7

Including a quick change (in the 2nd bar).


Em A7 Em Em
Am Am Em Em
B7 Am Em B7

Replacing the minor with a dominant (in the 2nd bar).


Em A7 Em Em
A7 A7 Em Em
B7 Am Em B7

Changing quality of the IV chord in whole structure, matching the melodic minor scale.


Em Em Em Em
Am Am Em Em
C7 / B7 Am Em B7

Including a new chord (C7), resulting in a chromatic sequence in the 9th bar.


Em7 Am7 Em7 Em7
Am7 Am7 Em7 Em7
G7 / C7 F#m7b5 / B11 Em7 B7

Extended chords are used instead of triads for the i and iv chords. Besides that, faster changes are utilized in bar 9th and 10th. F#m7b5 can be fingered as 2X221X, B11 as X21200 . This example can be seen a 12-bar jazz-blues progression in minor.

8 Bar Blues in Em

In this example the structure is reduced to eight bars:

Em Em Am Am
Em Bm Em Em

A common approach is to change quality from minor to dominant for the V and/or IV chords.

16 Bar Blues in Em

This example include some additional chords:

Em A7 Em Em
Am7 Am7 Em Em
C#m7b5 F#7 B7 Am
Em Am C7 B7

The last measures are a turnaround and the idea is to repeat the full progression and finally end with an Em chord. Short notation for C#7b5 is X4545X.

Blues in A minor

Next to E minor, A minor is the most common key for minor blues considering the guitar.


  • Am7 chord diagram


  • Dm7 chord diagram


  • E7 chord diagram


12 Bar Blues in Am

A simple 12 bar blues approach with a quick change (2nd bar) and a turnaround (12th bar):

Am Dm Am Am
Dm Dm Am Am
E7 Dm Am E7

The last E7 is a turnaround to a second chorus. Finally, Am should be used as the ending chord instead (in the last chorus).

More 12 Bar Blues in Am examples - with substitutions

Another progression, but with extended chords and more changes:

Am7 E7 Am7 A7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Bm7b5 / E7 Dm7 Am7 Am7

Short notation for Bm7b5 is X2323X.


Am7 Am7 Am7 Am7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
E7#9 Dm7 Am7 E7

E7#9 is substituted for E7. A suggestion is to play this progression with bar chords, fingering for E7#9 is X7678X.


Am E7 Am E7
F F C7 C7
G7 G7 C / C7 C / G7

This progression is partly based on the tune "Hesitation Blues".

Blues in B minor

Another common key for blues in minor is the B minor. Barre shapes is often used in these progressions.


  • Bm7 chord diagram 797777


  • Bm barre chord diagram 799777


  • F#7 chord diagram X9897X


12 Bar Blues in Bm

A simple 12 bar blues approach:

Bm Bm Bm Bm
Em Em Bm Bm
F#7 Em Bm F#7

More 12 Bar Blues in Bm examples - with substitutions

Here are some other examples with variations:

Bm7 E9 Bm7 Bm7
Em7 Em7 Bm7 Bm7
F#7 Em7 Bm7 F#7

Involving extended chords and including a quick change (in the 2nd bar) with E9 substitution for Em. Short notation for E9 is X76777. There is also an option for an B9 substitution in the 9th bar.


Bm7 Bm7 Bm7 Bm7
Em7 Em7 Bm7 Bm7
G7 F#7 Bm7 F#7

G7 is included and creates a chromatic sequence with F#7. A suggestion is to play G7 as X 10 9 10 8 X.

Tips for more in-depth readings:

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The Guitar Blues beginner to intermediate ebook

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