The 12 bar blues is one of the most popular chord progressions in popular music. Also referred to as the Blues, or blues changes, it is based on the I-IV-V chords of a key.
In its most basic form, here's how it is set up:
... and it repeats over, and over again. There are MANY slight variations to this basic pattern. The most common variation starts with:
1 bar - I chord, 1 bar IV chord, 2 bars - I chord
It would be set up like this:
Hundreds of songs have been written using this chord pattern:
IN THE MOOD, ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, JOHNNY B GOODE, HOUND DOG, GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY, to name a few.
Here are a couple of examples of the 12 bar blues in the key of C. 1st is the most basic pattern with a simple walking bass line.
The next one has the slight variation in the chord pattern (also with a walking bass line.) This begins with 1 bar of C, then 1 bar of F, then continues through the pattern.
Now let's "SPICE THESE UP" and make them sound a little more "BLUESY"! An easy way is to use sevenths (dominant 7ths) for all the chords (not triads.)
Also, this next example is 24 bars long - it goes through the blues pattern twice. There are examples of TURNAROUNDS in bars 11-12 and bars 23-24.
The turnaround chords are in red.
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