Welcome to your first step into the world of blues guitar! There is nothing more satisfying that playing through a cool blues riff and seeing people move their feet and bodies to the groove you're laying down! This is exactly what we want to achieve on this course, and we will be starting by introducing you to dominant 7th chords and blues rhythms. This course is a lot of fun but can be very challenging, so be prepared to put some practice time in!
A twelve bar blues is a standard structure that most blues songs stick to. This structure can vary a little, but generally stays the same! This is why when you see people jump up on stage at blues gigs or jam, they all seem to know how to play every song, even though they may not know the actual song! So, there are two things we need to know:
1. The chords to use
You use the 1st, 4th and 5th chords of any key. We won’t get into the theory at this point, all we need to do is work it out practically. Whatever the key (see the fretboard below for various examples) you build, find your root note on the E string; this gives you your first chord. Let's make an A powerchord to start with, as an example. The 4th chord is always the note on the same fret on the next string. Then the 5th chord is 2 frets up from the 4th. So, in the key of A, our 3 chords of the blues are A, D and E. These can be powerchords, major chords, minor chords or dominant chords.
2. The order of chord changes
The 12 bar blues is called so because it has twelve bars, as you may have guessed! These 12 bars then repeat over and over again. The basic order we will be working with, is shown below. The final two bars are often referred to as the turnaround as they turn the 3 chords around quickly before starting the whole 12 bar again; try to learn this sequence. Notice also that we use roman numerals in place of numbers. This means that 'I' is one, 'IV' is four and 'V' is five.
I /// IV /// I /// I /// IV /// IV /// I /// I /// V /// IV /// I / IV / I / V /
...which translates to (using the key of A blues)...
A5 /// D5 /// A5 /// A5 /// D5 /// D5 /// A5 /// A5 /// E5 /// D5 /// A5 / D5 / A5 / E5 /
When harmonising a scale, beyond major and minor chords, you move into the world of 7th chords. This is where you take your major or minor chord and add one further note, the 7th note in the scale. As always, we will keep the in-depth theory to the theory section of the website, but this is essentially what is happening. When you take a major chord and add a flattened 7th, you get a dominant 7th chord. Here are the three shapes we are learning today, as well as other ways to fret those shapes.
Time to put our new blues theory into practice with this awesome 12 bar blues track called 'Travelling Eyes'. Not only will we be learning how to play through the main 12 bar using the dominant 7th chords, we will will also be adding riffs and turnaround sections into the track. This is not only more fun to play and listen to, but it's also more realistic as this is what your typical blues rhythm player would be playing. Listen to the entire track and then move onto the next lesson to start learning it!
This tune is a 1, 4, 5 in the key of E. So, just as we talked about in the first video, all we need to do is slot these three chords into the 12 bar structure. Now our structure for this 12 bar is slightly different, and looks like this:
E7 /// //// //// //// A7 /// //// E7 /// //// B7 /// A7 /// E7 (TURNAROUND) /// ////
As you can see from the video, it isn't as simple as just playing the chords with a strumming pattern, it is far more intricate than that. The full tab is below so that you can learn it properly. Remember to only look through the parts we tackled in the video for now!
We will now take a look at the turnaround section as well as the alternate 12 bar where we use the slightly different versions of the 7th chords. The cool thing about turnarounds is that as you learn more and more of them you can just 'import' them onto this section of the 12 bar! Let's now take a proper look at the full chord chart.
Below is a link to the full chord chart / tab of the song. You can now piece the entire song together! Take advantage of the slow down and looper feature to make sure you get these parts correct.
Just as with the tab above, you can also find the audio tracks here to play along to. These are all at full speed so make sure you have practised with the tab version before trying these. Good luck!