Blues Guitar Lessons - 12-Bar Blues
As we have already learned, every major scale has seven degrees. Again, they are: I (the root), ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii. In your blues guitar lessons, you will see that typical Blues chord progression includes the I, IV, and V and will be arranged in stanzas of twelve measures each, rather than the typical eight or sixteen. For this reason, the Blues is often referred to as “12-Bar Blues.” Those three chords will be played in the twelve bars like this:
As with everything in music, there are, of course, variations to this, but this is the most basic 12-bar blues arrangement. To make things a little more interesting, for example, you might play the first line like this:
And you might play the last line like this:
This progression of blues guitar chords will work with any key, but since we have already looked at the A blues scale, we’ll see what this progression looks like in the key of A:
While the rhythm section, the piano, bass, rhythm guitar, etc, plays this chord progression, the lead soloist, which in this case is guitar, but could also be saxophone, piano, harmonica, or even violin, plays their solo by playing the notes of the blues scale.
Not all introductory blues guitar lessons will show you, but those who really know how to play electric guitar will agree, that a particularly emotional blues song can be played using a minor key. Blues guitar chords in a minor key might look like this:
Notice that the E chord is not minor, but is a “7th” chord. This produces a particularly sharp contrast during the turnaround. A soloist who knows how to play blues guitar could still play an A blues scale or pentatonic scale over a minor blues, or he might consider playing a straight minor scale.
Now let’s take a look at a fun blues technique that you can use. This is a type of left-hand fingering that you will certainly recognize. It works well with a “shuffle” rhythm, which can be in 4/4, 12/8, or, as in this case, 6/8 time.
During blues guitar lessons, I normally try to avoid suggesting which fingers to use with tab or with blues guitar chords, but I will tell you that this technique is best achieved by keeping your index finger on the 2nd fret and lowing and lifting your ring finger on the 4th fret. Although, once you get to the E, you should keep your index finger and your ring finger stationary on the 2nd and 4th frets respectively, while lowing and lifting your pinky finger on the 6th fret. This will take a bit of stretching and will feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. And, as you will see, stretching your reach is a valuable skill to develop as you learn how to play electric guitar.