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Blues Improvisation
Blues Improv

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Blues For Peace

Albert King, Blues Guitar

Blues Chords

Blues Progressions

Learn these blues chords and basic blues progressions to play with any blues band in the world... practice 12 bar blues, "quick' change, blues turn arounds, 8 bar blues, minor blues, bridge, etc. until you can play them in your sleep... For example, "Sweet Home Chicago", the 2nd song below... good luck and funky blues... learn a five minute blues guitar solo and rhythm guitar

The 12 Bar Blues

The name 12 Bar Blues comes from the number of measures or bars in most blues songs - twelve. Here's the basic 12 bar blues (Chicago blues) in the key of A.

Further On Up the Road - basic 12 bar blues

/ A7 /A7  /A7  /A7 / D7 / D7 /A7 / A7 / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

The 'Quick Change'

A quick change is just that, changing chords in the 2nd measure and then back the the first chord.

Sweet Home Chicago Chords

/ A7 / D7  /A7  /A7 / D7 / D7 /A7 / A7 / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

Chord - Number Systesm

Blues musicians often refer to chord changes by Roman numerals after the steps of the scale. Below are the scale steps in the key of A and the chords associated with them.

I     A (the key of the song)
II    Bmi
III   C#mi
IV    D
V      E
VI     F#mi
VII   G#dim

Blues and the I, IV, V Chords

Many blues songs have just three chords, the I, IV and V chords. In the key of A, that's A, D and E. Here's Further On Up the Road by chord name and Roman numerals.

/ A7 / A7  /A7  /A7 / D7 / D7 /A7 / A7 / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

/  I   /  I   /  I   /  I   / IV / IV /  I   /  I   / V   / IV   /  I   /  V  /

And the quick change in Sweet Home Chicago It's to the .... IV chord .... Right!

/ A7 / D7  /A7  /A7 / D7 / D7 /A7 / A7 / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

/  I   /  IV  /  I   /  I   / IV / IV /  I   /  I   / V   / IV   /  I   /  V  /

The Turnaround

1) The last 2 bars of the song are called the turnaround. The basic turnaround is

... / A7 / E7 /

2) There are many varations of the turn around. Here's a common one

... / A7 D7 / A7 E7 /

Eight Bar Blues

Key to the Highway - uses the turnaround variation (#2 above)

/ A7 / E7  / D7 / D7 / A7 /  E7 / A7 D7 / A7 E7 /

/  I   /  V   / IV / IV  /  I   /  V   /  I  IV   /   I   V  /

Minor Blues

/ Am / Am / Am / Am / Dm / Dm / Am / Am / Em / Dm / Am /  -  /

/  I    /   I   /   I   /   I   /  IV  /  IV  /   I   /   I   /  V  /  IV /   I   /   -  /

A minor 12 bar blues usually has a repeated rhythm pattern and no chord in the 12 measure.

Take It Down From The Fifth

The chord number system comes in handy on a gig. If the band leader says "take it down from the fifth", that means start the song from V chord in the 9th measure.

... / E7 / D7 / A7 / E7 /

... /  V / IV  /   I   /  V  /

And if someone points at you and holds up 4 fingers, it means play the IV chord now!

Bridge (B part of song)
Some blues songs have a "B" part or bridge. You'll find this one in many songs.

/ D7 / A7  / D7 / A7 / D7 / A7 / B7 / E7 /

/  IV /  I   /  IV /  I   /  IV  /  I   /  II  /  V  /

The 'unexpected' "IV" chord (instead of the I chord) creates tension and interest. Usual format - AABA.

Stormy Monday

Allman Bros. style layed back triplets
G9 / C9 / G9 G#9 / G9 /
C9 / C9 / G9 Ami7 / Bmi7 A#mi7 /
Ami7 / Cmi7 / G9 C9 / G9 D+ /

Rock - Blues Compared!

The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock N Roll. A comparison of the two styles that may open up your ears and improve your playing.

#1 Tempo / 8th Notes

Blues is usually slower - medium shuffle - played with dotted eight notes
Rock is usually uptempo - played with even eight notes.

 #2 Changing Chords / Beat

Blues chords ususally change on the 1st beat of a measure
Rock chords change on the ‘&’ of the 4th beat in the previousmeasure- gives rock incredible drive.

#1 Rhythm Guitar / 1 Note or 2?

Blues- the rhythm guitar usually plays two notes together.
Rock- the rhythm guitar alternates between playing two notes together and a single ‘bass’ note

Ok, now for somes examples:

Here's Chicago Bound, a medium blues shuffle and
Roller Coaster, an up tempo rock n roll song..

Blues improvisation... it's all in the wrist?

By Johnny Mayer

© 1998-2009 Blues for Peace Corporation. All rights reserved.

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton

Artists & Bands

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B.B. King

Albert King

Freddie King

John Mayer

Bonnie Raitt


Lynyrd Skynyrd

Johnny winter