Blues chord progressions

Guitar standing on the floorBlues 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 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 progressions.

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

It isn't necessary to play E as a dominant chord, it is 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 change to any key with roman numerals as reference:

I7 I7 I7 I7
IV7 IV7 I7 I7
V7 IV7 I7 I7

The roman numerals are I(7), IV(7) and V(7) and here is how you can transpose 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-chord 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. Notice also the D9 in the 10th bar.

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

The E7(#9) chord with short notation: X7678X. A7 and D7 is recommended to play as a barre chord.

Variation of 12 Bar Blues in E with a fourth 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 be used if wished.

Variation of 12 Bar Blues in A with a fourth 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 with a secondary dominant

The jump to A7 in the 8th bar starts a 5th intervals trip back to the tonic, which in general works well with dominant chords.

C7 F7 C7 C7
F7 F7 C7 A7
D7 G7 C7 G7

12 Bar Blues with expanded chords

Here 9th and 13th chords are used, mostly, which create a jazz feeling as well.

C9 F13 C9 C9
F13 F13 C9 C9
G13 F13 C9 G7#9

Suggestins with short notation: XX322X (C9), XX123X (F13), XX345X (G13) and XX436X (G7#9).

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 is 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: X4344X (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.

Go to next article in the course: Give your chords more blues feeling
Go back to the main section of Blues guitar.

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