Introducing The Twelve Bar Blues Chord Progression – Learn To Play The Blues

by The Library of Congress

Learning the blues

I came across the Blues in a flea market! More than twenty years ago, a vinyl LP in orange-ish colors caught my attention. I took it home and from the very first second of listening to “Broke Down Engine” I fell in love with it. The recording was Dave Peabody & Co – Blues in Brussels, from 1977.

And blues really is something amazing. With all the guitar riffs and licks as well as long guitar solos, this music has a special location in my heart.

The twelve bar blues chords

But you have to start at the beginning to be able to learn how to play the blues. And a good start would be to learn the traditional 12 bar blues chord progression. This term is from the number of bars in many blues songs.

If you understand and master the twelve bar progression, you will be able to jump right in with nearly any blues jam session.

Ballads usually are about minor chords. But Blues in its turn certainly is the master of dominant seventh chords. And as far as I can tell the most common chords are set in the key of A major. The actual blues chords to use in this case are E7, A7 and D7.


You play them like this:


e 0|—|—|
B 0|—|—|
G |-1-|—|
D 0|—|—|
A |—|-2-|
E 0|—|—|


e |—|-2-|
B |-1-|—|
G |—|-3-|
D 0|—|—|
A x|—|—|
E x|—|—|


e 0|—|—|—|
B |—|-2-|—|
G 0|—|—|—|
D |—|-1-|—|
A 0|—|—|—|
E x|—|—|—|

Those 3 guitar chords stand for the I, IV and V scale steps in the key of A. Quite a few blues songs have only those 3 chords. And that’s great to understand if you want to play in different keys. Now you know you should play the D7 when someone holds up four fingers to you. This means “play the IV chord!”

So, the “magic” blues chord progression in this case looks most of the times like this:

|  A7  |  A7  |  A7 | A7  |
|  D7  |  D7  |  A7 | A7  |
|  E7  |  D7  |  A7 | E7  |

You can actually play the V chord in the 2nd measure for variations.
|  A7  |  D7  |  A7 | A7  |
|  D7  |  D7  |  A7 | A7  |
|  E7  |  D7  |  A7 | E7  |

You can customize the turnaround (the final two bars) in several ways. An example: | A7 D7 | A7 E7 |
Blues Chords – Playing The Cool 12 Bar Blues

But keep in mind you will discover almost endless variations. But once you get the hang of the 12 bar blues, you are well prepared to drill down a bit deeper down into the exciting blues world.

So there you are – the 12 bar blues chords. To help you to translate these chords to other keys, take a look at this table of chords in the keys A, E, D and G.

Key    (I)    (IV)    (V)

E    E7    A7    B7
A    A7    D7    E7
D    D7    G7    A7
G    G7    C7    D7

Good luck and happy bluesing!

Discover a handy trick with blues in A7! Lots of tips and tricks for the guitar beginner at

Article from

More Blue Articles

Related posts:

  1. Learn How to Play Blues Guitar Online
  2. Blues Guitar Lessons – One Of The Best Ways To Learn How To Play Blues Guitar
  3. How do you learn to play ‘blues guitar’? Aurora and York region lessons & tutoring
  4. 12 Bar Blues Guitar Find out How Easy it is to Learn
  5. Beginning Blues Guitar – Best Blues Songs to Learn To Play On the Guitar When Just Starting Out

No Responses so far | Have Your Say!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.