How to play the Blues Part 1 – Basic Structure


How to play the blues-

In my first lesson I want to show you how the basic structure of a blues made so you can start playing along in no time! A 12 bar is simply that. Twelve bars or measures repeated over and over for as long as you wish the song to be. In the table below reading left to right you see each of the 12 boxes has a chord name and roman numeral. That would mean you strum that chord for one bar and change to the next chord for the next measure. If you do not understand how to read the chart please check this page out for a quick instruction.

As for the roman numerals next to the chord tell you the scale degree to make up the progression. Blues is usually a I IV V progression and it builds off the major scale. A major scale is 7 notes and each note is given a number. In this case we are using the Key of A and the scale is :

A B C# D E F# G#

And putting a number underneath each one gives you this:

A B C# D E F# G#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

So you can see a 1 4 5 progression is an A D and E.

12 BAR
A (I) A (I) A (I) A (I)
D (IV) D (IV) A (I) A (I)
E (V) D (IV) A (I) E (V)


Another form of the 12 bar is the quick change.  A quick change means it jumps to the IV chord in the second measure and back to the root chord for the third measure.  See the example below:

A (I) D (IV) A (I) A (I)
D (IV) D (IV) A (I) A (I)
E (V) D (IV) A (I) E (V)

In a standard 12 bar blues you would hang on the root longer before going to the IV chord. See the example below:
 The basic 12 bar blues is made up of 12 bars or measures. You can strum, shuffle or riff your way thru the bars but for now we will start with a simple shuffle.

For now try this shuffle for a 4/4 meter 12 Bar Blues. Count out loud the beats as you play with down strokes.

Beat 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

A Chord Riff






D Chord Riff







E Chord Riff







In the next lesson we will put it together with a backing track.