12 bar blues

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by sn0wblind, Jul 20, 2001.

  1. sn0wblind

    sn0wblind Guest

    Apr 20, 2000
    Ontario, Canada
    First of all I'd like to thank you (Mr. Dimin) and your fellow pros for taking time out of your schedules' and helping all of us here at Talkbass for all the wonderful help...... anyways...

    I like listening to the blues, but Im not too hot on theory, I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on 12 bar blues.....

    P.S. - what does somebody mean when they are playing a chord sequence (I-IV-V) etc...
  2. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Don't mean to step on Mr. Dimin's toes here, and I'm bad at this (don't hurt me!) but I feel like taking a shot at this:

    Ok, first off, I-IV-V means a diatonic (based out of the "major scale" modes, which an entirely other story) chord progression where it will go from major to major to dominant. Major (I) - Major (IV) - Dominant (IV). For example, in the key of C, the chord progression will be (in simple terms) Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Gdom7.

    However, just to complicate things, most blues has no major sevenths, because they are too pretty sounding for "sad" music...so most chords end up being dominant anyway, if we are taking chords that don't go beyond 7ths. Even major blues excludes the major 7ths, for the most part.

    To understand how the chord progression works, we'll split it up like a chart. There will be the I section, where the C chord dominates (not to be confused with dominant!) the section, the IV section with the F dominating, and the V section (you get the point). Each is 4 bars long. However, it won't necessarily be I-I-I-I-IV-IV-IV-IV-V-V-V-V, and usually won't ever be that...if that makes sense. Here's a standard 12 bar blues chord progression:

    I: I-I-IV-I
    V: V-IV-I-I

    For me, it's a lot easier to explain the whole chart business in person, but I hope you understand. It's just splitting it up to each section of 4 bars (keeping in the I-IV-V form, see?). Basically, with the chart, the chord progression looks like this:

    I-I-IV-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I, where each change is 1 bar. That makes up twelve bars. Also can be seen as:

    C-C-F-C-F-F-C-C-G-F-C-C, without the chord types shown.

    Modally, if you've delved into that much, it's based out of Ionian (I), Lydian (IV), and Mixolydian (V).

    That's just a very basic explanation. It only takes about 2 minutes to explain all that in person, but injest it slowly. Just remember there are many different permutations to that chord progression, some simpler, some harder, but that's a fairly common version.

    If you have questions, I'll try to help (I'm sure Mike could easily answer them too) and explain myself if need be.

    Make any sense? :oops: :D
  3. BassMan2000


    Sep 27, 2000
    yea exactly what Angus said good job Angus.

    Try this such as C blues

    | C | F | C | C |
    | F | F | C | C |
    | G | F | C | C |

    start with chord tones eg Root,3rd,5th,

    eg C= C root, E 3rd, G 5th
    F= F root, A 3rd, C 5th
    G= G root, B 3rd, D 5th

    Try that after that trying useing scales as well and thing not wise not pattern wise.
  4. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    Sorry it has taken be so long to respond. I have been away, teaching at the National Summer Guitar Workshop these past few weeks.

    I would like to thank Angus and Bassman 2000 for answering the question in my absence.