1 Must Know Musical Formula for Guitar: The 12-Bar Blues

Posted by Brian Parham on Thursday, January 4, 2018


If you want to rock your guitar, you got to learn to play some blues! 

The History of the 12-Bar Blues

The blues was born in the Mississippi Delta and made famous by legendary guitarists like Robert Johnson, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurts. It’s hard to overestimate the vital role these early bluesmen played in the development of rock ‘n’ roll music, and most serious guitarists—including iconic rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page—have spent a significant amount of time honing his or her blues chops.

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A Genre and a Formula

Not only is the blues a style of music, it’s also a formula too. Although there are many different types of blues progressions, the 12-bar blues progression is the most common. The 12-bar blues formula can be found in all types of music including rock, country, surf, rockabilly, r&b, and jazz.

As you can see, the blues is common to most styles of popular music, so you can see just how important it is to master the 12-bar blues formula!

Famous Blues Songs

The 12-bar blues is a simple pattern of chords that repeat over and over again. A typical blues song might play through the pattern 20-times or more. The blues can be played in any key, so long as you apply the formula. Some famous songs utilizing the 12-bar blues formula include “Kansas City,” by Albert King, “Crossroads” by Cream, and “Dust My Broom” by Elmore James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Parham is the founder of the Rock Dojo in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches hundreds of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years-old to play, perform, and compose their own original music on the guitar in after-school group guitar lessons. He’s also the author of three guitar method books including Guitar for Kids: Rock Dojo The Complete Belt System

Categories: Guitar Practice, Rock, Tips & Tricks

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