Hey! I’m Nate Savage and welcome to video
#2 of the Blues Guitar Quick-Start Series. In this lesson, we’re going to cover something
that’s really foundational to the blues and that’s the standard 12-bar blues progression.
We’re going to keep things really simple; we’re only going to be using power chords so
you can really focus on giving this progression down in kind of engrained in your brain. The
12-bar blues progression is really important because it’s kind of the starting point as
far as for when musician to get together. If you know the standard 12-bar blues progression,
you can come together to a blues jam or whatever. You’re going to have a starting point; everybody’s
going to know that progression. And if you want to change things up a little bit from
there, it’s going to be really easy if you have the 12-bar blues progression down really
well. Let’s talk about keys as far as the blues
goes. Now, often if you see a piece of music that’s a blues or something, there won’t
be a key signature written on it. It would just say “this song is in the key of E blues”
or “this song is in the key of A blues.” That’s because the blues is kind of a hybrid
tonality that’s somewhere in between major and minor.
With that in mind, we’re going to be in the key of E blues throughout this entire series.
Now, the standard 12-bar blues progression has three chords in it; the I chord, the IV
chord and the V chord. In the key of E blues, the I, IV and the V chord are the I chords
that’s going to be E, the IV chord is going to be an A, and the V chord is going to be
a B. Let’s talk about blues rhythm a little bit.
Now, all of the jam tracks that we’re going to be playing throughout the series are in
four-four time. And if you don’t know what that means, that’s fine. I’ll tell you right
here. Four-four time is when you have your pulse going and you have four pulses per measure.
So, if you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. Each measure is going to be made of four counts.
A lot of blues songs are in four-four time it doesn’t matter in fact all the jam tracks
we’re going to be using in this series are in four-four time. And let me just tell you
that the standard 12-bar blues progression is just a set progression of chords throughout
12-bars or 12 measures of music. Blues music in general usually has a shuffle
feel to it and this is a really important for you to get down to get the feel of the
blues right. So, if you’re in the four-four time, if you have eighth notes in four-four time, they’re usually straight like this 1, 2, 3, 4 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and
4. Now, those eighth notes right there were evenly spaced over each beat. A shuffle or swing
feel is going to have a long note and then a short note. So, it sounds more like this
dut da dut da dut da dut let me show you 1, 2, 3, 4 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and
4. So, you see how I had a long one and then a short one followed by long short long short
long short long. It gives you kind of a skipping or rolling feel.
Now, more technical way to think about a swing feel as if you have three triplets per each
beat. So, if you have 1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let. 1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let. What you would do to achieve a swing feel for a more technical aspect,
if you want to think about like this, is take the middle triplet out of each beat. So, instead
of having 1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let you have…don’t worry too much about
this technicalities of this right now. I’m sure you’ve heard this before in lots of blues
songs just worry about getting that triplet feel down. So, let’s get into the standard 12-bar blues progression. Like I said earlier, all it is
a set progression of chords throughout 12 bars of music. And it’s really important that
you memorize this forwards and backwards and just have a down cold. Let me just talk you
through this progression. First of all, you’re going to have 4 measures or 4 bars after the
I chord. In this case, it’s an E for us, so it’s going a key of E blues. So, 4 measures
of the E chord. Next, you’re going to have 2 measures of the IV chord. In this case,
it’s an A chord. From there you’re going to go back to the I chord for 2 measures. From
there you go to the V chord for 1 measure, which is a B in this case. Then you have 1
measure of the IV chord an A, 1 measure of the I chord and then 1 measure of the V chord again. So again, quickly, you have 4 measures of
the I chord, 2 measures of the IV chord, 2 measures of the I chord, 1 measure of the
IV chord, 1 measure of the IV chord, 1 measure of the I and then 1 measure of the V.
So that probably doesn’t mean much to you without having in context and playing through
it. But you’re going to need to memorize this, so what we’re going to do is apply that chord
progression to some power chords. Let me just show you the power chords we’re
going to be using. We’re going to be using an E power chord for our I chord. And then my
index finger is just beyond the 2nd fret of the A string right there. And you strum the
6th and 5th strings. For the IV cord I’m going to use A power chord, same kind of shape but
we’re going to play just the 5th and 4th strings. First finger is going to be on the 2nd fret
of the 4th string there. For the V chord, we’re going to use B power chord. Index finger
on the 2nd in front of the 5th string. Third finger on the 4th fret of the 4th string.
Just those 2 notes right there. So like I said, we’re going to start out with
4 measures of the I chord. So, get your E power chord down there. You’re going to have
1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4 From there we have 2 measures of the
4 chord, so we need to get our A power chord on there and play that for 2 measures 1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4. We go back to the I chord for 2 more measures
1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4. Go to the V chord for 1 measure so we’re going to have our
B power chord on there 1 2 3 4 . Back down to the IV chord for 1 measure 1 2 3 4 to the I chord for 1 more measure 1 2 3 4. And the last measure, the 12th measure
of the 12-bar blues is a V chord again, a B chord in this case. So, 1 2 3 4.
So walk yourself through this, try to memorize this chord progression and make sure for your
E power chord, you’re just hitting the 6th and 5th strings. And then for A and B power
chords, you’re just hitting the 5th and 4th strings. And you could play whole notes
like I was doing or you can switch to eighth notes with that shuffle rhythm that we’re talking
about like this. And if you want to do that, you may have to
go back and work on your aim just to be able to hit just the 6th and 5th strings. But that’s
fine if you need to take some time to do that. And when you’re playing your A and B power
chords, let me tell you I often just come back here and mute the low E string with the
palm of my hand just to make sure it doesn’t ring if I accidentally hit it.
And if you do the whole thing with eighth notes, so swung eighth notes, this is what the 12-bar blues progression sounds like with these power chords So, go through this as much as you need to to get really familiar with the standard 12-bar blues
progression. Once you’re pretty comfortable with it, pull up one of the jam tracks for this
lesson. I have 2 versions of this one for you; one’s at 70 beats per minute and one’s
at 100 beats per minute. So you can select the one that best matches your skill level.
And for now you can keep this strumming simple if you want to, you can use all whole notes
or you can use the swung eighth notes like I did in the example.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the standard 12-bar blues progression. It’s literally
the foundation for everything else we’re going to be covering here in this series. So, it’s
really important to get down really well. In the next lesson, we’re going to talk about
dominant 7th chords. We’re going to learn some shapes through down a 7th chords and
we’re going to apply them to the standard 12-bar blues progression. If you have any
questions, you can leave it here in the comments and I’ll get back to you there or e-mail me [email protected]
See you in the next lesson.