Jazz Blues 12 Bar Progressions You Can Have Fun With

jazz 12 bar progressionsStarting blocks; every genre in music has them. For heavy metal they are the power chords, for acoustic they are the CAGED chords; for jazz and blues, they are the twelve bar blues progression.

The jazz and blues twelve bar progression is one of the most popular jam along progressions in modern music. At some point in their life, every musician learns them. In fact, the twelve bar blues and jazz progression is the starting point when most musicians get together to play.

In this lesson, we will teach you how to play the twelve bar jazz and blues progression.

First Thing’s First Though; You Need to Assess Yourself

In order to learn the twelve bars jazz and blues progression, you need to have some fundamental theoretical knowledge. The most important thing is that you understand the basics of scales. Everything in music relates to scales, and the twelve bar jazz blues progression is no exception.

The things you should know are the basic scale degrees, such as the tonic, subtonic, etcetera; the basic intervals such as major third, minor third, octave, perfect fifth; and the basic scale properties, such as enharmonic notes and relative majors and minors. These will allow you to grasp the key concepts of creating a basic progression.

Have You a Working Knowledge of How Chords Work?

It is also important that you understand how triads and seventh chords are built, as they are the chords most often used within the twelve bar jazz blues progression.

The major triad is built of a major third with a minor third on top. The minor triad is built of a minor third with a major third on top. To make a major seventh chord, simply add a further major third on top of a major triad. To make a minor seventh chord, simply add a further minor third on top of a minor triad.

Although you should know how to create both diminished and augmented triads and seventh chords, it won’t be a necessary skill for playing the twelve bar jazz blues progression.

At its heart, the twelve bar jazz blues progression uses the tonic, the subdominant, and the dominant of the chosen key, or the I-IV-V. This progression can be applied to any musical key, but for this lesson we are going to use the C Major key, as it is the most basic of major keys, containing no sharps or flats.

An Example of a Twelve Bar Jazz/Blues Turnaround

To make our twelve bar progression, we will use a leisurely build. Some progressions employ the quick to four methods, which allows the player to get straight to the four chord. This is helpful in some cases, but when you are simply jamming with friends, you may want to take your time getting to the four.

Here is a basic, leisure paced twelve bar progression in the key of C Major.

roman numerals representation

 This is a basic, slow paced progression. However, there isn’t only one way to approach the twelve bar jazz blues progression. Take your time and try different ways. Remember one thing; drastic changes are discouraged, but not out of bounds as long as they are used tastefully.

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