Blues chord progressions

Blues if often played with a 12 bar structure, a so-called 12 Bar Blues. Here you will learn many 12 bar blues progressions, from the most basic ones to more complex. Scroll further down for blues progressions in minor.

12 bar blues progressions

How to read the tables

These tables present the 12 bar structure in 12 bars that you read from measure 1 to measure 12 and with typically four beats per bar.

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12

Standard 12 Bar Blues in E

This is one of the most common.

E7 E7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 E7

It isn't necessary to play E as a dominant chord, it's also possible to play regularly E majors.

Standard 12 Bar Blues in C

This is the same as above, but in another key.

C7 C7 C7 C7
F7 F7 C7 C7
G7 F7 C7 C7

You could of course change to any key. The roman numerals are I7, IV7 and V7 and here is how you can "translate" these in different keys:
E major: I7=E7, IV=A7, V7=B7
A major: I7=A7, IV=D7, V7=E7
D major: I7=D7, IV=G7, V7=A7
C major: I7=C7, IV=F7, V7=G7
G major: I7=G7, IV=C7, V7=A7
Bb major: I7=Bb7, IV=Eb7, V7=F7

Try to listen to the chord changes so that you are able to know which chord it was if you heard someone else play. The IV-shord shares tones with the I-chord and is somewhat alike. The V-chord sound like it want to resolve into another chord.

Variation of standard 12 Bar Blues in E

This structure includes an early chord change to create more variation.

E7 A7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 E7

12 Bar Blues progressions with turnaround

A turnaround includes in general the two last bars or measures.

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8
9 10 turnaround turnaround

The turnaround could consist of chords or a lick (the lick could also fit as an intro).

Standard 12 Bar Blues in E with turnaround

The two last bars are concerned by a so-called turnaround.

E7 E7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
B7 A7 E7 E7 B7 //

The slash symbols indicated beats. In the twelfth bar E7 are played for one beat and when B7 the remaining three beats. You could use this turnaround concept on most examples presented on this page.

12 Bar Blues with an altered ninth as V chord

Using an altered chord gives a different color.

A7 D7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 A7
E7(#9) D9 A7 A7

The E7(#9) chord with short notation: X7678X. A7 is here recommended to play as a barre chord.

Variation of 12 Bar Blues in E with a forth chord

So far we have only used three chords, but here is a fourth chord (ii7) is added in the ninth bar.

E7 A7 E7 E7
A7 A7 E7 E7
F#m7 B7 E7 E7

A turnaround could of coarse be used if wished.

Variation of 12 Bar Blues in A with a forth chord

As always, the same interval of chords could be used in another key.

A7 D7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 A7
Bm7 E7 A7 A7

12 bar blues progressions in minor

Standard 12 Bar Blues in Em

This is one of the most standard progressions of blues in minor.

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

You could also try to play E7 instead of Em in the last bar. Another possibility is to play Em7 and Am7 instead of Em and Am.

Standard 12 Bar Blues in Am

The same as above, but in another key.

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

12 Bar Blues in Em with a fourth chord

Here's an alteration of the progression above with an extra chord which makes the progression some more complex. Notice also that the iv is played in the second bar, not mandatory though.

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

The C7-B7 sequence creates an interesting movement into the final Em chord.

12 Bar Blues in Em with a chromatic chord sequence

This is a variation of the previous 12 Bar structure, but with an expanded, chromatic sequence.

Em Am Em Em
Am Am Em Em
C#9 C9 B9 Em

The C#9 chord with short notation: X434XX (use the same shape for C9 and B9).

12 Bar Blues with a touch of jazz

A m7b5 chord is used, which makes the progressions sound more jazzy.

Em7 Am7 Em7 Em7
Am7 Am7 Em7 Em7
F#m7b5 B7 Em7 Em7

The F#m7b5 chord with short notation: 2x2210.

The same progression in A minor:

Am7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Bm7b5 E7 Am7 Am7

The Bm7b5 chord with short notation: x2323X.

Tips for more in-depth readings:
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