12 Bar Blues

Ah, where would the world of modern music be without the 12 bar blues? It's a legacy created over a century ago and still as strong today as it ever was. Today's post is going to feature just a quick commentary on the 12 Bar Blues. We're not going to get into the theory of 'Tonics' and 'Sub-tonics' and so on. It would be worth mentioning at the outset that there are variations on the standard 12 bar blues pattern, and there are also other patterns, for example and 8 bar blues.

The 12 Bar Blues is a repeating pattern of chords that follow as certain format. The pattern (or progression) plays through 12 bars and then repeats. Quite often forever... And, that's why it is called the 12 bar blues. Only three chords are used in the 12 bar blues. 

Look at the diagrams below. In the top diagram you can see little numbers in circles which identify all of the 12 bars. The colour shading gives a guide as to which chord to play on each bar. Same colour = same chord.

12_bar_blues_A_Major

The second diagram gives and example in the key of A Major. Play an A Major chord for four bars. Then play D Major for two bars. After that return to A Major for another two bars. The last four bars follow a smooth cycle of chords that resolve the pattern and lead nicely into a repeat.

The great thing about this pattern is you can play it on any rock instrument - keys, drums, bass or guitar. In fact, you should be able to play it on any instrument. As you learn more about the music you will be able to play the 12 Bar Blues pattern in many different keys.

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