Basic blues progression for guitar lesson

Chromatic Descending Chord Sequence Over A Basic Blues Progression

This guitar lesson for beginners explains what's a basic blues progression and how to add a chromatic descending chord sequence at the end.



Basic Blues Progression

The basic 12-bar blues progression in the key of B♭7 (B♭ dominant 7) follows a specific pattern of chords that is fundamental to many blues songs.

Here's a detailed explanation:

Chords Used in B♭7 Blues Progression:

The three basic chords used are :

  • B♭7 (I7)
  • E♭7 (IV7)
  • F7 (V7)

Structure of the 12-Bar Blues Progression in B♭7:

  • Bars 1-4: B♭7 (I7)

The first four measures are played using the B♭7 chord.

| B♭7 | B♭7 | B♭7 | B♭7 |

  • Bars 5-6: E♭7 (IV7)

Measures five and six are played using the E♭7 chord.

| E♭7 | E♭7 |

  • Bars 7-8: B♭7 (I7)

Measures seven and eight return to the B♭7 chord.

| B♭7 | B♭7 |

  • Bar 9: F7 (V7)

The ninth measure uses the F7 chord.

| F7 |

  • Bar 10: E♭7 (IV7)

The tenth measure uses the E♭7 chord.

| E♭7 |

  • Bar 11: B♭7 (I7)

The eleventh measure returns to the B♭7 chord.

| B♭7 |

  • Bar 12: F7 (V7)

The twelfth measure often uses the F7 chord to create a turnaround leading back to the start.

| F7 |

Giving the full 12-bar blues progression in B♭7:

| B♭7 | B♭7 | B♭7 | B♭7 |

| E♭7 | E♭7 | B♭7 | B♭7 |

| F7 | E♭7 | B♭7 | F7 |

Basic blues progression for guitar

Explanation of Each Section:

  • Bars 1-4 (B♭7)

Establish the tonic chord (I7) and set the bluesy feel.

  • Bars 5-6 (E♭7)

Move to the subdominant chord (IV7) which provides contrast and development.

  • Bars 7-8 (B♭7)

Return to the tonic chord (I7) reinforcing the main key center.

  • Bar 9 (F7)

The dominant chord (V7) creates tension and anticipation.

  • Bar 10 (E♭7)

The subdominant chord (IV7) provides a brief resolution before the final cadence.

  • Bar 11 (B♭7)

Return to the tonic chord (I7), giving a sense of resolution.

  • Bar 12 (F7)

The dominant chord (V7) sets up the turnaround, leading back to the beginning.

This 12-bar blues progression provides a solid framework for improvisation and variation, making it a staple in blues music.

The Variation

The main goal of this lesson is to create a variation of the basic blues progression by changing the chords of the last two bars.

As you can see in the chart above and hear in the video, the chords of the bars 11 & 12 (Bb7 and F7) have been replaced by four other chords that are :

Dm7, Db7, Cm7, B7 respectively iiim7, bIII7, iim7 and bII7 of the main key (Bb7).

This is a useful trick to add a jazz touch to any basic blues progression.


3-Note Chords

The chord forms used in this study are made of 3 notes, they are often called shell voicings

They are made up of the most essential notes (root, third and seventh) the fifth being omitted.

Here are the voicing shapes :

Basic blues guitar chords shapes
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