Blues Basics

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Playing blues on the piano is a great way to learn soloing for other styles such as rock, jazz, funk, soul and neo soul. Because all these styles sprung from the blues, it also gives you a great foundation to understand their basic patterns. It’s fun, too! Here are some basics about the blues, that you should definitely know!

The 12 Bar Blues Progression

A basic blues progression consists of only three chords: the I, IV and V chord of any major key.

A simple twelve bar blues with one chord per bar looks like this:

I      I      I      I      IV     IV     I      I     V     IV     I     V

If you take the key of F for example, the I chord is F major, the IV chord Bb major, and the V chord C major. The chords of the twelve bar blues are:

F     F     F     F     Bb    Bb     F     F     C     Bb     F     C

A very simple way to play this progression is using basic major triads in both hands. The left hand arpeggiates the chord, meaning that the chord tones are played one after the other. The right hand just plays the major triads as whole notes with one chord per measure.

Simple Triad Blues in F


This is what the chords look like on the keyboard, both for the left and right hands:

F major LH 5 3 1 RH 1 3 5

Bb major LH 5 3 1 RH 1 3 5

C major LH 5 3 1 RH 1 3 5

A blues formula for all keys

You can use the same formula to create a simple blues in any other major key. Just take the root note plus the 4th and 5th notes of the major scale and play the major triads for these notes. If you want to have an overview of all the major chords as well as minor, seventh and many other chord types, check out the Piano Chord Charts Book or the Playing Piano with Chords Bundle!

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