12 and 8 Bar Blues

In this post we'll take a quick look at two common blues patterns. The most common is certainly the 12 bar blues. It's a standard that has crossed from blues into other genres such as rock and pop quite effectively. The 8 bar blues doesn't show up as often but it's a great, tight progression to use.

I'm pretty sure that this colourful picture caught your attention. So, feel free. Save it if you wish. Let's break it down to get you playing some great blues. The patterns are not instrument specific, in other words they work on whichever instrument you play.

In the diagram the white numbers represent the bars - read from left to right. The top on has 12 bars and the bottom one 8 bars. The black roman numerals represent which chord from the major progression to use. I is the first chord, 'IV' is the fourth chord, 'V' is the fifth chord.

If you don't know how to work out the 1st, 4th and 5th chords of a progression you can watch our short video. This video chord lesson is in the key of 'D' but the theory works for any key.

In our examples above the 12 bar blues is in the key of A Major. The 8 bar blues is in the key of E Major. Those are sample keys only. They are guitar and bass friendly keys. On a piano C Major and G Major are easy keys to use. You'll also notice in our 8 bar blues progression we used a lot of 7th chords. You can use the basic Major chords without a problem.

That's a quick summary of the 12 bar blues and the 8 bar blues. Happy Jamming!

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