Top 10 jazz blues tunes to know

10 Jazz Blues Tunes Every Beginning Guitarist Should Know

Building Your Jazz Blues Repertoire

Top 10 jazz blues tunes to knowA big part of learning jazz guitar means building his own repertoire of pieces. Here is a list of 10 jazz blues songs every beginning guitarist should know.

This short list covers a range of jazz blues chord progressions and their different variations (form, tonality, Harmonic structure) with a brief analysis and also represents the most played jazz blues tunes at jam sessions.

1- All blues - Miles Davis

“All Blues” is surely the most famous jazz blues tune that every beginning guitarist should study. It was written by Miles Davis in 1959 and appears on the influential record, “Kind Of Blue”, still one of the best-selling jazz albums of all times. “All blues” is a 12 bar blues in 6/8 containing only dominant 7 chords.

The particularity of this tune is that there is a bVI7 that goes to V7 in the turnaround. Another particular characteristic of this tune is the bass line which is almost the same from the beginning to the end except in bars 9 and 10.

Why “All blues” is considered an exceptional jazz, blues tune ? A reference for every jazz player ? Surely because it has been recorded by an exceptional band : Miles Davis (Trumpet), John Coltrane (Tenor sax), Bill Evans (Piano), Cannonball Adderley (Alto sax), Paul Chambers (Bass) and Jimmy Cobb (Drums).

All blues chord changes

G7 | % | % | %

C7 | % | G7 | %

D7#9 | Eb7(#9) D7(#9) | G7 | % |

2- Blue Monk - Thelonious Monk

Blue Monk is a 12-bar medium blues in Bb composed by Thelonious Monk. This tune is characterized by the use of four-note chromatic scales in bars 1,2,4 and 5.

Thelonious monk jpegThere is an interesting variation of the basic blues progression in which Thelonious Monk inserts a IV in bar 2 and a diminished seventh chord (E°7) in measure 6 a half-step higher the IV of the bar 5. It is a variation among many other jazz, blues variations

Blue Monk chord changes

Bb | Eb7 | Bb F7 | Bb Bb7 |

Eb | E°7 | Bb F7 | Bb |

F7 | % | Bb | % |

3- Blues for Alice - Charlie Parker (Bird)

Blues for Alice is a Bebop tune composed by Charlie Parker (Bird) and first recorded in 1951 with Red Rodney (Trumpet), John Lewis (Piano), Ray Brown (Bass) and Kenny Clarke (Drums).

It is surely the most complete and interesting variation of the typical 12-bar blues progression. The "Bird blues" or "Charlie Parker blues" is often referred to as "Bird changes", "New-York changes blues" or "Cycle blues".

This is a very common 12-bar form played by jazz musicians since the bebop era. This is evidenced by "chi-chi" or "Blues for Alice" (Charlie Parker) or "freight trane" (Tommy Flanagan). The main characteristics of this progression are :

  • A major seventh chord instead of the dominant seventh chord in bar one.
  • Three consecutive II-V sequences in bars 2,3 and 4. The first is a minor II-V that resolves to the relative minor, Dm7 (VIm7) of Fmaj7. The second goes to the Vm7 (Cm7) and the third to the IV7 (Bb7).
  • Three chromatic descending II-V sequences in bars 6,7,8.
  • A II-V (Gm7 - C7) cadence in bars 9-10 that goes to a I-VI-II-V sequence (F-Dm7-Gm7-C7).

Blues For Alice chord changes

Fmaj7 | E-7b5 A7 (b9) | Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7

Bb7 | Bb-7 Eb7 | Am7 D7 | Abm7 Db7

Gm7 | C7 | F Dm7 | Gm7 C7

4- Mr P.C - John Coltrane

Mr P.C is a basic C minor 12-bar blues composed by John Coltrane in 1959 in tribute to his friend and bass player Paul Chambers. It was first recorded on the landmark album John coltrane“Giant Steps” by Coltrane’s quartet the same year he recorded the legendary “Kind of blue” with Miles Davis. It is an easy and accessible minor blues, an essential jazz tune to know.


John Coltrane (Tenor saxophone)

Tommy Flanagan (Piano)

Paul Chambers (Bass)

Art Taylor (Drums)

Mr P.C chord changes

Cm7 | Cm7 | Cm7 Bb | Cm7 |

Fm7 | Fm7 | Cm7 Bb | Cm7 |

G7 D7  | G7 | Cm7 Bb| Cm7

5- Tenor Madness - Sonny Rollins

Tenor madness is a Bb blues composed by Sonny Rollins from the eponymous album recorded in 1956. This tune is the result of the unique collaboration of two jazz masters, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

It is a basic 12-bar blues with some variations as a II-V (Fm7 - Bb7) cadence in bars 4 that goes to the IV7 (Eb7) and a IIIm7 - VI7 - IIm7 - V7 sequence (Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7) in bars 9 and 10.


Sonny Rollins (Tenor saxophone)

John Coltrane (Tenor saxophone on Track #1 “Tenor madness”)

Red Garland (Piano)

Paul Chambers (Bass)

Philly Joe Jones (Drums)

Tenor Madness chord changes

Bb7 | Eb7 | Bb7 | Fm7 Bb7

Eb7 | % | Bb7 | %

Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Bb7 | %

6- Straight no chaser - Thelonious Monk

Straight no chaser is an easy Bb 12-bar blue composed by Thelonious Monk, it is a common jam session tune. Monks recorded it first in 1953 with its quintet featuring Sahib Shihab on alto sax, Al McKibbon on bass, Milt Jackson on vibes and Art Blakey on drums (He begins the tune with a drum chorus).

This second version with Gerry Mulligan on Baritone saxophone, Wilbur Ware on drums and Shadow Wilson on drums has been recorded in 1957. There is a third version recorded in 1967 taken at a faster tempo with saxophonist Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums.

This jazz-blues head has been recorded numerous time by many other musicians. Miles Davis makes it popular in the key of F in his record “Milestones” in 1958.

Straight no chaser chord changes in F

F7 | Bb7 | F7 | %

Bb7 | % | F7 | Am7 D7

Gm7 | C7 | F7 | %

Straight no chaser chord changes in Bb

Bb7 | Eb7 | Bb7 | %

Eb7 | % | Bb7 | Dm7 G7

Cm7 | F7 | Bb7 | %

7- Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock

Watermelon man is a 16-bar blues composed by Herbie Hancock originally recorded in 1962 for the album “ Takin’ off”. He released a better known soul-funk version arranged by Harvey Mason in the 70’s with the Head Hunters band. It is most commonly played in the key of F.

Takin’ off Musicians 

Butch Warren (bass)

Billy Higgins (Drums)

Freddie Hubbard (Trumpet)

Dexter Gordon (Tenor saxophone)

Herbie Hancock (Piano)Herbie hancock

Head Hunters line up

Bennie Maupin (Soprano & tenor Saxophone, bass clarinet, Alto flute)

Paul Jackson (Electric bass, Marimbula)

Harvey Mason (Drums)

Bill Summers (Percussions)

Herbie Hancock (Electric piano, clavinet, synthesizers)

Watermelon man chord changes

F7 | % | % | %

Bb7 | % | F7 | %

C7 | Bb7 | C7 | Bb7

C7 | Bb7 | F7 | %

8- West coast blues - Wes Montgomery

West coast blues was composed by the greatest jazz guitarist of all time, Wes Montgomery. This tune first appeared on its 1960 album, “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery”.

The key feature of this tune is that the solo changes are different than the melody changes. You may also notice that it is in 6/4 time. One other characteristic is that instead of playing the IV7 chord in bar 2, the tune goes to the bVII7 (Ab7).

West Coast blues is a great tune for working on II-V progressions because there are many of them, particularly in the solo changes (Bm E7 ; Bbm7 Eb7 ; Ebm7 Ab7 ; Dm7 G7 ; Dbm7 Gb7 ; Cm7 F7).

The final consideration is the turnaround, it is as a series of tritone substitutions for a VI-II-V in Bb. Indeed, Db7 is three tones away from G (VI), Gbmaj7 is 3 tones away from C (II) and Bmaj7 is three tones away from F (V).

West coast blues chord changes


Bb7 | Ab7 | Bb7 | Bm7 E7

Eb7 | % | Bb7 | %  

F7 | Eb7 | Bb7 | %


Bb7 | Ab7 | Bb7 | Bm7 E7

Bbm7 Eb7 | Ebm7 Ab7 | Dm7 G7 | Dbm7 Gb7

Cm7 F7 | Cm7 F7 | Bb Db7 | Gbmaj7 Bmaj7

9- Bag’s groove - Milt Jackson

Bag’s groove is a jazz-blues tune in F composed by Milt Jackson an American jazz vibraphonist. The song owes its name to Jackson’s nickname “Bags”.  It was first recorded by the Milt Jackson’s Quintet (Lou Donaldson, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke) in 1952 for Blue note Records .

The most famous version was recorded by Miles Davis’s quintet in 1954 and released in 1957 on the album Bag’s groove. This is a great jazz-blues tune to know, the melody is simple, repetitive and it’s quite easy to improvise over.

Bag's groove - Chord changes

F7 | Bb7 | F7 | %

Bb7 | % | F7 | %

G-7 | C7 | F7 | C7

10- Blues for Willarene - Grant Green

Blues for Willarene is a Bb soul-jazz tune composed by Grant Green (Guitar) from his 1961 debut album “First stand” recorded in a trio with Baby Face Willen on organ and Ben Dixon on drums. This tune is not well-known, but deserves to go in this top 10 list.

Blues for Willarene chord changes

Bb7 | % | % | %

Eb7 | % | Bb7 | G7

Cm7 | F7 | Bb7 G7 | Cm7 F7


Obviously, there are many other jazz blues heads which deserved to be listed here as “Chitlins con carne”, “C jam blues”, "Billies Bounce", "Equinox", "Foot prints" or “Blue Trane”. This could be the subject of another article. In the meantime, you can complete this list using the comment form below.

  • Guitar Scale Dictionary

    This E-book is a printable PDF method including over 700 scale diagrams and formula charts for guitarists.
  • 30 Groovy Jazz Guitar Licks

    This downloadable package contains a PDF WITH audio files giving access to 30 groovy guitar phrases mixing jazz, blues and funky licks for beginners.
  • Guitar Chord Dictionary

    This PDF eBook provides over 550 guitar chord shapes. This is the perfect reference guide to understand how chords are built and how to play them on the guitar neck.
  • 172 Arpeggio Shapes For Guitar

    This printable PDF is a method dedicated to guitarists of all styles who want to learn the most important types of arpeggios.
  • 126 Triad Chord Shapes

    This handbook for guitar players is intended both for teachers and students. It includes 126 guitar shapes for mastering triads.
  • 30 Minor Arpeggio Licks

    This package includes a printable PDF method containing 30 exercises with tabs, staves and audio files for practicing minor arpeggios on guitar.
  • II V I Bundle - 170 Exercises

    This bundle contains 4 PDF methods for a total of 170 exercises with tabs, staves, analysis & audio files for practicing scales, arpeggios licks & chords over the 2-5-1 progression.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • 30 Smooth Jazz Guitar Licks

    In this package you'll get a printable PDF Method with tabs, notation, analysis, scale shapes and audio files for practicing 30 smooth jazz guitar licks.
  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains fourteen 2 5 1 jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This printable PDF guitar method provides 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab and staves for learning major 2-5-1 chord voicings.
  • 40 Minor 2 5 1 Chord Voicings

    This PDF method contains 40 exercices with tabs, scores and audio files for practicing jazz guitar chords over the minor 2 5 1 progression.
  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor 2 5 1 jazz patterns.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    PDF guitar method with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians. Tab, standard notation, audio files & analysis.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    11 jazz blues chord studies with tabs, standard notation, analysis, and audio recordings and PDF.
  • 10 Easy Fingerstyle Blues

    This PDF with Tabs and audio files provides 10 easy acoustic fingerstyle blues guitar studies for kids and beginners.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant Patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson. These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.
  • 10 Minor 7 Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF eBook offers 10 easy minor 7 arpeggio patterns with its related YouTube video for beginner guitarists.
  • 10 Easy Major 7 Arpeggio Licks

    This is a printable PDF for beginner jazz guitar players providing 10 easy licks to practice major 7 arpeggios.
  • 10 Chord Melody Lines

    Within this package, you'll discover a set of ten chord melody exercises for beginners. Printable PDFaudio files, a backing track, and a link to the associated YouTube video.
  • 10 Minor Blues Scale Licks

    You'll find here a PDF with 10 easy jazz guitar licks to practice the minor blues scale on guitar.

jazz guitar guitar lesson Jazz blues


  • Christian JT
    Good list. Also for beginners I'd suggest "Night Train" and "Bessie's Blues". I always have fun playing these tunes.
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2018-03-08
      Thanks, the list is long...

Add a comment




Free pdf guitar