The 12 Bar Blues Progression (or also known as the Blues Shuffle Rhythm) is the most commonly used chord progression in blues genre.
In this video lesson, the tutor (from the prestigious Berklee School) uses the Key of G or the G Major Scale to play the bass line of the song – which is nothing but the typical blues progression,
The chords used in the 12 Bar Blues Chord Progression are made up of the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees (or notes) of the given scale (in this case the Key of G).
They are popularly denoted as I-IV-V by Blues musicians and are theoretically, the Tonic, Sub-Dominant and Dominant chords of a Diatonic Scale – if you are familiar with the music theory.
12 Bar Blues Chord Progression – Explained!
The blues shuffle rhythm or the SWING rhythm or the 12 bar blues is divided into 12 bars using the I-IV-V chords of the corresponding scale (in this case the Key of G)
The progression is as follows and is played in such a way that it gives that SWING feel to the listener. So for each bar the chord is strummed in in 1-And-2-And fashion instead of that plain 1-2-3-4 kind of strumming pattern.
So here is the chord progression,
I-I-I-I (The first chord or G7 is strummed for 4 bars)
IV-IV-I-I (the fourth chord or C7 for 2 bars and again the 1st chord for 2 bars)
V-IV-I-V (5th Chord or D7 for 1 bar, 4th chord for 1 bar, 1st chord for one bar and again the 5th chord for 1 bar and back and repeat from the beginning)
Count all the bars together and it is 12, that’s why it is called the 12 bar blues.
Or I can elaborate this progression in an easier fashion,
G7 / / / | G7 / / / | G7 / / / | G7 / / / | the first 4 bars
C7 / / / | C7 / / / | G7 / / / | G7 / / / | the second 4 bars
D7 / / / | C7 / / / | G7 / / / | D7 / / / | the third 4 bars
Doesn’t it all add up to 12 bars?
How to get that signature ‘bluesy’ feel to your 12 Bar Blues chord progression?
The chords that are generally played in a 12 Bar Blues Progression are the Dominant 7th chords, for bringing out that Bluesy sound, but you can use Minor or Major chords also, which is entirely up to you, but, if you love that bluesy feel, 7th chords are the way to go.
So let’s first derive G Major Scale by applying the Major Scale formula – W-W-H-W-W-W-H
Here are the notes of the G Major scale – along with the Tab.
NOTE: But In this video lesson, the tutor is playing out the notes of scales built from the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees of the Key of G Major, instead of strumming the chords (G7, C7, and D7).
Read on to know how you can derive the other two scales required for this video lesson…
The other scales that you need to learn in order to fully understand this lesson are C Major Scale and D Major Scale – that corresponds to the 4th and 5th scale degrees(or notes) of the G Major Scale.
By applying the Major Scale formula we can easily derive the corresponding scales for the 4th and 5th degrees of Key of G Major. And they are,
- C Major Scale whose notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C AND
- The D Major Scale has 2 sharps (F# and C#) and whose notes are D E F# G A B C#
The scales along with the TABS are as follows,