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Piano Nanny - Free Piano Lessons
Advanced Studies

Lesson 8 - Section 1

The 12-Bar Blues

Eight 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, there is one set of changes known throughout the Jazz community as a standard and a staple. This set of changes is known as the 12-Bar Blues. Knowing how to construct and play a set of Blues changes will be very important to you in your journey into Jazz.

A 12-Bar Blues is a set of chord changes that is 12 bars long and repeats several times until each player in the group has exhausted their musical ideas during their solo. The performance of a 12-Bar 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 12-Bar Blues, with variations, for 2 days. Several hundred melodies have been written based on the changes for the 12-Bar Blues. As mentioned, there are also many chord variations for a 12-Bar 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 a Blues before everyone in the group settles into a common set of changes for the song.

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

Using a root note of C, lets see how this looks in the next section.

In other words, let’s look at a 12-Bar Blues in the key of C.

Lesson 8 - Section 2

Blues Changes (Chords)

Blues Changes – Variation One

Play the mp3 audio file below to hear the set of Blues changes shown in the image for this section. 

Blues Changes – Variation Library

Here is a library of variations for Blues changes.

Variation Two
Variation Four
Variation Five

For the rest of this lesson, take some time to go to each variation above and practice playing along with the changes. If you need to construct a new melody to improvise along with these changes, you can use the same method that you learned in Lesson Number Seven. In fact, we will be building on Lesson Number Seven in the next lesson.

Your Assignment for the Week

Over the next week, go back through the variations show above and in your music note book construct a set of Blues changes for each using a new root note.

May I suggest using a root note of F, A, E, Ab, Bb, or Db? There are many Blues written in these keys.

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