Playing The Blues Progressions In Different Keys

Earlier we discussed the makeup of the basic 12 bar blues. It consists of the 1, 4 and 5 chords of whatever key we are in. Our first example was in the key of A. In this lesson, I would like to show you the same progression in the key G.

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12 Bar Blues in G

shuffle rhythm in g key

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Now, if you compare the blues in A with the blues in G you notice that the chord pattern is identical with the exception of the frets they are played in. As I mentioned earlier, because the blues is built on the same basic structure, it is very easy for you to change keys.

The 1 and 4 chords are in the same fret and the 5 chord is two frets higher. Here’s another example in the key of C.

12 Bar Blues in C

12 bars in C

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As you can plainly see, all three examples follow the same structure in how the chords are played. By following the structure of the previous examples, you should now be able to play the blues in any key.

Using Chords Starting With The Root On The Fifth String

The earlier examples all started with the root (I) chord on the sixth string. Here’s another way to play the 12 bar blues with the root chord starting on the 5th string.

12 Bar Blues Using C Barre Chords

c barre chords

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Did you notice a pattern forming? The root (I) chord is now located on the fifth string. The IV and V chords are located with the root on the 6th string. Wherever you start with the 1 chord, the IV chord is played two frets lower. You then move back up two frets to play the V chord. The 1 and 5 chords will be located in the same fret.

in e key

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You now know two different ways to play the chords in a 12 bar blues guitar in any key. Each method only covers a span of three frets and is built on a repeating pattern so it’s very easy for you to play and memorize them.

Make sure that you practice at a nice slow tempo when starting out. Keep a steady beat and use a metronome if you have one. If you are new to barre chords, hang in there as they will get easier.

Here’s another useful example of the blues in E and is played using open position chords. Check out the following video on Youtube to see how it is played.



Even though Stevie Ray adds a few wrinkles and embellishments to the basic chords, they are all variations of playing the blues in E. As a blues player, you need to learn the 3 chords below as they form the fundamentals and basic understanding of the genre.

Steve Ray signature music

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The Easiest System to Learn The Blues

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