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the blues . . .

Student NotesEight is great! It's good to see your efforts to learn the piano and Jazz music. Ready for another lesson? Let's get started.

No matter where you live in our global community, there is one set of chords known throughout the Jazz community as a standard and a staple. This set of chords, that I am referring to, is known as "The Blues." Knowing how to construct and play a set of "Blues" chords (changes) will be very important to you in your journey into Jazz.

"The Blues" are a set of chords which last for 12 bars and repeats. This set is repeated until each player in the group has exhausted their musical ideas during their solo. The performance of "The Blues" can be as brief as a few minutes and as long as a few days. "I've been to a few jam sessions that have played the same "Blues" song for 2 days." Several hundred melodies have been written based on the changes (chords) for "The Blues." There are also many chord set variations for "The Blues." We will study most of the basic variations, however, keep in mind that there are many more. When you are playing with other players for the first time, it takes a few times through the changes for everyone in the group to settle into a common set for the song. The one thing you can count on in "The Blues" is that it is 12 bars long and will repeat.

Using any root note, the formula for constructing the most basic set of "Blues" changes is (beginning with the first measure):

  • I- for 4 bars.
  • IV- for 2 bars.
  • I- for 2 bars.
  • V- for 1 bar.
  • IV- for 1 bar.
  • I- for 1 bar.
  • V- for 1 bar.

Lets see how this looks on the next page using a root note of C. In other words, let's look at "The Blues" in the key of C.

12 Note Companion

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