1. Home

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:

http://guitar.about.com/library/weekly/aa112100c.htm

was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Learning Guitar - Lesson Five
Part 3: 12 Bar Blues
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: overview
• Part 2: sharps and flats
• Part 4: B minor chord
• Part 5: scale review
• Part 6: learning songs
• Part 7: practice schedule
 
 Related Content
• Index of Guitar Lessons
• Buying Your First Guitar
• How to Read Guitar Tab
• Learn a Blues Shuffle
• Guitar Chord Library
 
Learning the blues is an essential step in becoming a well-rounded guitarist. Since the basic blues is so simple, many guitarists will use it as a common ground - a means of playing with others who they've never played with before. Consider this: a 50 year old man, and a 14 year old teenager are trying to play guitar together. Chances are, they're not going to know many of the same songs. This is when knowing a simple blues will come in handy... one guitarist can play the chords, and the other can either sing, or play guitar solos over those chords. And then, they can trade off, to let them both have a turn playing lead guitar.
The following provides instructions for learning a 12-bar blues in the key of A. There is a very simple intro and outro which have been included, which might take a little practice to play quickly, but shouldn't be too difficult. For the sake of simplicity, the following is presented in a very basic, almost "hokey" style. Learn it as is, and we'll vary the style in upcoming lessons, to make the blues sound a little more interesting.

NOTE: The following lesson uses tablature. If you are unfamiliar with this term, take a moment to learn how to read guitar tablature.

The Intro:

This is a blues intro at it's most basic.. just a few chords, and a few single notes, which will lead nicely into the main part of the song.

Hear this intro (mp3)

The Outro:

This is a basic guitar part that will wrap up the song, the last time you play it. It's not very long, and shouldn't be too tough to learn.

Hear this outro (mp3)

The 12-Bar Blues:

This is the main part of the song. The song starts with a simple intro (not shown below), then continues for 12 bars, then repeats (without repeating the intro). The last time the song is played, the last two bars are replaced by the outro.

Hear this 12 bar blues played twice, with intro and outro (mp3)

The above gives the general breakdown of the twelve bar blues, and you'll need to memorize it. Chances are, though, when you hear it played, it will sound logical, and shouldn't be at all hard to memorize.
Although the above diagram shows us generally which chords we will play in each bar, we are going to play something a little more complex than just A5 for four bars, D5 for two bars, etc. To see exactly what you'll play for each bar, study the following:

For each bar of A5, you'll play the above tablature. Play the note on the second fret with your first finger, and the note on the fourth fret with your third finger.

For each bar of D5, you'll play the above tablature. Play the note on the second fret with your first finger, and the note on the fourth fret with your third finger.

For each bar of E5, you'll play the above tablature. Play the note on the second fret with your first finger, and the note on the fourth fret with your third finger.

If you listen to the recording, you'll notice there's one small variation not included so far. It is this: the first time through the 12 bar blues, on the 12th bar, we play a different pattern on the E5 chord. This is often done at the end of each 12 bars, because it gives the listener and the band a solid way of knowing that we're at the end of the song form, and we're going back to the beginning again. Here is how you play this very simple pattern:

And, that's it! Looking at all the above instructions, you're probably going to feel overwhelmed. Pick up your guitar, and try playing through it all... it's actually quite simple, and rather easy to memorize.

THINGS TO TRY:
  • Loop the 12 bar blues without an intro, and without the outro. Keep repeating the 12 bar form, until you've memorized it.
  • Try playing the intro and outro, along with the song, WITHOUT losing the timing.
  • Play along to the recorded examples.
  • Try playing an A blues scale over the recorded example. This is something we're going to examine further in the future.
  • Be sure you're not hitting open strings that you shouldn't be playing.

Next page > B minor chord > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.