12 Bar Blues Beginner Guitar Tutorial

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Guitar Lessons

So you’re ready to start learning the blues. The 12 bar blues is the most basic of progressions but also the most important one for you to learn as a beginner. In this article I’ll explain how you can discover which chords you should be playing in each key, what pattern to play those chords in and also in the video at the end give you some style pointers, so let’s get started.

The first step is understanding what notes to plug into the 12 bar blues pattern. Thankfully it’s not very difficult to figure out. The 12 bar blues breaks the notes in a particular major scale (other scales as well, but for our example we’ll only consider major scales) into numbers.

What do I mean by numbers? Well each note in a given scale is given a number starting with the first note being #1 and the second note being #2 and so on to the end of the scale.

Here’s an example of what I mean using the A Major scale. For those that may not know the scale here it is:

A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A

So the first note would be A, the second note B the third note C and so on down the line til we reach A again.

Once you know what notes are which number you’re ready to plug those notes into the 12 bar blues ‚Äúformula‚Äù. So here’s what the 12 bar blues pattern looks like:

1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 – 5 – 4 – 1 – 5.

So continuing on with our example using the A major scale we can come up with a 12 bar blues progression in the Key of A. What notes do we need? Well from the progression we see above we need the first, fourth and fifth notes from that scale which are A, D and E respectively.

So plugging the notes into the progression leaves us with a 12 measure blues progression that looks like this:

A – A – A – A – D – D – A – A – E – D – A – E

If we were playing 4 beats per measure then we’d start with 16 beats of A (4 measures x 4 beat per measure), followed by 8 beats of D and 8 more beats of A and so on.

Now you need to learn what chords are you playing for these notes and what style are you strumming. For that I’ve created a video lesson below for you to watch. Watching a video is better then me typing a thousand words when attempting to explain how something should sound. So take ten minutes and watch the video below and then go give it a try for yourself.

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