The 12 Bar - Freshman Year Blues Lesson 4

Now we look at how blues is put together. We will see that blues has a simple structure, called a 12 bar, which repeats over and over. You will soon be able to pick it. Once you can, then listen to some blues recordings. You will hear this pattern in all of them. This will be an exciting discovery, and is the secret key to the world of blues.

Start by listening to this track


from a previous lesson. Notice that the count in at the start has two slow beats, then four faster ones. The faster beats give the timing for the music. Now count in time with these faster beats when the music starts, counting the numbers 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 over and over. You should count the numbers 1,2,3,4 eight times during the track (count with your fingers if you need to!). This means that there are 8 bars of music in the track.

Listen again to the track. It starts on a G chord, which plays for 4 bars. Then a C chord for two bars. Then back to the G chord for the last two bars. Another way to think of this is 4 bars on the I chord, 2 bars on the IV chord, then two more bars on the I chord.

Now listen to another backing track from the previous lesson


This track has 12 bars. Listen to it a few times, counting the bars. Be sure that your total is 12!

This 12 bar blues track has four bars of the G chord, two bars of the C chord, another two bars of G, then one bar with a D chord, a bar of C, then two bars of G to finish. Another way to look at this is 4 bars of the I chord, two bars of the IV, two bars of I, a bar of V, a bar of IV and two bars of I to finish.

Enough talking. Lets play some more blues. This track uses the 2D on the I chord (G), 4B on the IV chord (C), and 4D on the V chord (D).It sounds like this


Try it with the accompanyment only


Listen to blues recordings as much as you can. The 12 bar structure will become obvious after a while. Blues players don't worry about counting bars, they just know how the music goes. Soon you will too. It is not clear why this 12 bar form is so satisfying to listen to, and to play, but it is. When musicians meet, they often start by playing blues. For many great players, this is all they want to play. You may feel the same way.

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