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:
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.
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:
Following the natural minor scale, resulting in no dominant chord.
Including a quick change (in the 2nd bar).
Replacing the minor with a dominant (in the 2nd bar).
Changing quality of the IV chord in whole structure, matching the melodic minor scale.
|C7 / B7||Am||Em||B7|
Including a new chord (C7), resulting in a chromatic sequence in the 9th bar.
|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:
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:
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.
12 Bar Blues in Am
A simple 12 bar blues approach with a quick change (2nd bar) and a turnaround (12th bar):
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:
|Bm7b5 / E7||Dm7||Am7||Am7|
Short notation for Bm7b5 is X2323X.
E7#9 is substituted for E7. A suggestion is to play this progression with bar chords, fingering for E7#9 is X7678X.
|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.
12 Bar Blues in Bm
A simple 12 bar blues approach:
More 12 Bar Blues in Bm examples - with substitutions
Here are some other examples with variations:
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.
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:
The Guitar Blues beginner to intermediate ebook
Go back to the main section of Blues guitar.