Blues Chord Progressions & Variations

This chord lesson is all about the blues. We all know the chord progression for a typical blues, but there are so many variations that it’s hard to know them all.

The blues originated in the USA and evolved from AfricanEuropean and Latin influences.  The blues had a very big influence on jazz.  Nowadays every jazz musician has some blues in his repertoire.

There are many many different sets of blues progressions, going from the basic original blues to the more modern variations like the bebop and Coltrane blues changes or the changes played by Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk.
The foundation however stays the 12 bar blues with a set of 3 chord changes.

Here are some characteristics of the blues:

  • Most blues chord progressions are 12 bars long, although there are also 8, 14, 16, 24 or more bar blues changes.  There are many different 12 bar blues forms though.
  • The tonic chord of a blues is a dominant 7 chord, a fact that doesn’t fit very well in traditional music theory.
  • The blues is not only about chord changes and scales, but is also about a certain sound, afeeling.
    Responsible for that sound are the blue notes:  a lowered 3rd note and a lowered 5th note.
  • The 3 basic chords of a blues are all dominant 7 chords.

Here’s a list of possible sets of blues chord changes:

Basic Blues F7
Bb7 F7
C7 Bb7 F7
1930s evolution F7 Bb7 F7
Bb7 F7
G7 C7 F7 C7
Count Basie Blues Changes F7 Bb7    Bdim F7 Cm7    F7
Bb7 Bdim F7 D7
Gm7 C7 F7
Bebop Changes F7 Bb7 F7 Cm7    F7
Bb7 Bdim F7 Am7    D7
Gm7 C7 Am7    D7 Gm7    C7
Tritone Substitution F7 Bb7 F7 Cm7    F7
Bb7 Bm7    E7 F7    E7 Eb7    D7
Gm7 C7    Bb7 Am7    D7 Gm7    C7
Charlie Parker Blues Fmaj7 Em7b5   A7b9 Dm7    Db7 Cm7    F7
Bb7 Bbm7    Eb7 Am7    D7 Abm7    Db7
Gm7 C7 F    D7 Gm7    C7


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