12 Bar blues chords
The most fundamental way to play chords in the style in blues is to adopt a 12-bar structure. A 12-bar blues structure often consist of only three chords (I, IV and V). Examples of chords to use and other instructions are presented below.
See also: The 12 Bar Blues ebook (free ebook in pdf format)
12 Bar blues in E
The first package with typical blues chords.
The second package with alternative movable 3-strings chords.
1st package: These are very common chords for using together in blues in the key of E. The next step when you have become comfortable is try to hammer-on on the third string for the E chord plus shifting between A7 and XX2222.
2nd package: Here is a way to play blues with one movable shape. The journey goes from the 2nd via the 7th and 9th frets in which the bass and root note and is the same. These particular chords could be seen as voicings with the 5th omitted. Notice that the chords are based on a partial E7 shape (022130). So, it's also possible to play A7 as X7768X and B7 as X998 10 X, or with E as pedal note (07768X / 0998 10 X).
To avoid the long jump back to 1st position, you could choose to play the E7 (I) chord as XX675X.
12 Bar Blues in E example
Below is one way to play the chords in a 12-bar progression. Start from top left and play four beats per measure.
You could play the E Pentatonic minor blues scale in 1st position over the chords. This is how you count to avoid getting lost:
|1, 2, 3, 4||2, 2, 3, 4||3, 2, 3, 4||4, 2, 3, 4|
|5, 2, 3, 4||6, 2, 3, 4||7, 2, 3, 4||8, 2, 3, 4|
|9, 2, 3, 4||10, 2, 3, 4||11, 2, 3, 4||12, 2, 3, 4|
Here is a jam tracks to practice with. The track includes a 12 bar blues in E that involves only bass and drums. The 12-bar structure is played three times. Try to listen for the chord changes. For lead and solo playing see the blues scale.
12 Bar blues in A
For guitarists, A is together with E the most common keys for 12 bar blues.
12 Bar Blues in A example
On way to play the chords in a 12 bar progression.
You could play the A Pentatonic minor blues scale in 5th position over the chords.
Here is another jam tracks to practice with. The track includes a 12 bar blues in A that involves only bass and drums. The 12-bar structure is played three times.
12 Bar blues in C
A package with movable 3-strings chords.
The chords are based on a partial C7 shape (of course, the whole shape could also be used for I, IV and V). The chords have the 3rd omitted. You can choose to decrease the movement by play C7 as X X 10 9 11 X instead.
12 Bar Blues in C example
On way to play the chords in a 12-bar progression.
You could play the C Pentatonic minor blues scale in 3rd position over the chords.
12 Bar blues in D
A package with two different chord shapes.
The chords are based on C7 and D7 shapes. The root is the bass note in both cases.
12 Bar Blues in D example
On way to play the chords in a 12 Bar progression.
You could play the D Pentatonic minor blues scale in 3rd position over the chords.
See blues progressions for more 12 Bar Blues suggestions.
Go to next article in the course: Minor blues chords.
Go back to the main section of Blues guitar.