The 12 Bar Blues Progression - Guitar Lesson from Jimmy Rutkowski

The 12 Bar Blues Progression

BY: Jimmy Rutkowski

In this lesson we will also dive into some basic fretboard visualization and 12 bar blues progression theory so you can apply this information to any key any where on the fretboard.

12 Bar Theory

Let’s first discuss the basic theory behind the form. The 12 bar progression commonly uses a I – IV – V progression. This is because a common 12 bar blues progression usually utilizes only the I, IV, and V chords of a given key. To determine which chords they are let’s look at the notes of a one octave C Major Scale.

C Major Scale – C D E F G A B C
Example #1

Now let’s add numeric degrees to the scale:

C Major Scale – C D  E  F  G  A   B    C
                           I  II III IV V VI VII VIII
Example #2

If you look at Example 2 above you will notice that the C is I, F is the IV, and G is the V. Commonly in blues we would take these three degrees and form Dominant 7th chords from them which would give us a C7 chord, a F7 chord, and a G7 Chord.

Example 3 is a chart of open and bar forms for the dominant 7th chords. Here you will also see the moveable bar forms. I have named them by the corresponding open dominant 7th chord they are related too.

Example #3

In Example 4a and 4b I will show you to moveable patterns that you can use to find the I, IV, and V root note locations anywhere on the fretboard. These two diagrams will allow you to play a I – IV – V progression in any key on the fretboard.

Example #4a Example 43b

Now look at Example 5. In this diagram I have given you a chart of all of the notes on the fretboard.

Example #5

If you look at the 5th string 3rd fret, the 6th string 1st fret and the 6th string 3rd fret, you will see the C, F, and G notes laid out as in Example 4b. Now if you look at the 6th string 8th fret, the 5th string 8th fret, and the 5th string 10th fret you will see the C, F, and G notes laid out as in example 4a. You can apply this to any key you want to. This is an easy visualization technique that I strongly recommend that you master. I would suggest that you use the key legend in Example 6 to practice this visualization in all keys so you can instantly play a 12 bar blues instantly at your next jam session.

Example #6

Now let’s look at two common forms of the 12 bar blues progression. One is called “Slow Changes” and the other is called “Fast Changes.” The difference between slow and fast changes is the second measure. Slow changes is when the I chord is played for the first four measures. Fast changes is when the IV chord is played in place of the I chord in the second measure. Both of these have a distinct sound that is heard commonly in both Blues and Rock music. See Example 7a & 7b for both of these song structures.

Slow Changes Structure

                                 Example #7a

Fast Changes Structure

                              Example #7

Jimmy Rutkowski is a Rock House Method Artist/Instructor. You can find more great free lessons from Professor Jim at http://www.rockhousemethod.com/interact/professorjim.aspx Jimmy also has a cd project in the mix with his band Audio Vamp that you can check out at http://www.myspace.com/zaubihomepage


Pete said...

Thank you for the time and effort you put into explaining all this; it really clarifies my thinking and my playing!

sarge1875 said...

I'm glad it was useful, thanks for stoping by!