How To Play Over A 12 Bar Blues Guitar Chord Progression

Hey guys! Gaby Soule here from, today we’re going to take a look at the 12 Bar Blues guitar chord progression.

The Twelve Bar blues is probably the most widespread and influential chord progression in blues and all the styles that surround it.

It consists of a structure that repeats over and over with a specific number of bars per chord. If you want to jam with other musicians from all over the world, no matter where they come from or how skilled they are, you need to know this formula.

Many of the more significant songs of rock and blues history are made out of this pattern or some kind variation on it.

The first step to understand how it works is to establish the root of the formula. Once you know the key you’re ready to jam over it.

Let’s suppose we choose to play in the key of A. Then the structure will be 4 bars of A, 2 bars of D, again 2 bars of A and then the final 4 bars will be as follows: 1 bar of E, 1 bar of D and the last two bars will be A and E. (Sample 1)


The ending bars of a Twelve Bar Blues create an effect that makes you want to go back to the beginning. That is why they are called a “Turnaround”.
There are tons of different ways to play a Turnaround. You can use either chords, phrases, or licks, etc. (Sample 2)



A Twelve Bar Blues is made out of three chords: the root (or tonic), the fourth (or sub-dominant) and the fifth (or dominant).
A good way to understand how this works is by counting notes. If the root of the progression is an A, we need to count four notes starting from and including A, and then we’ll find D. After that we have to repeat the same process but this time we’ll count five notes and that is how we’ll find E.

Then we may be interested in playing this formula in different keys. In order to do so we can assign a number to each chord. (Sample 3)


There are many different types of rhythms and chords that can be used for this great progression, but as long as you know at least one of them (Sample 4) you can start enjoying the magic of the Twelve Bar Blues.


Keep on playing! See you soon!

P.S If you like blues guitar and want to go deeper, I recommend you to check out our:


How to play your favorite songs from the 60's & 70's on the guitar


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