Blues Guitar Institute

Twelve Bar Blues Got You in a Rut?


What is the second most popular blues progression?

From Key to the Highway to Worried Life Blues, the legends have given us a great way to break free of the same old twelve bar blues pattern. Some of the most iconic blues songs ever penned use the 8 bar blues format.

Don’t get me wrong, 12 bar blues is important and powerful, but sometimes…

You need a change.

Keep Your Repertoire Interesting with 8 Bar Blues

When you feel twelve bar blues running through your veins, it may be time to explore other common blues formats.  Squeezing a few eight bar blues tunes in your set list can keep you from putting your audience to sleep.

To keep your listeners (even if its just the wife, kids or the dog) from hitting the snooze button when you play, open your ears to the 8 bar blues format. To get you started, check these popular 8 bar tunes out:

–  Worried Life Blues (Big Maceo)

–  Sittin’ on Top of the World (Mississippi Sheiks)

–  Key to the Highway (Big Bill Broonzy)

–  How Long, How Long Blues (Leroy Carr)

After hearing these songs, you’ll no doubt be ready to put the 8 bar blues format to work for you.

Learn 8 Bar Blues

Here is a quick video that runs through a typical 8 bar blues progression in the style of Key to the Highway.

Watch On YouTube

The progression is beautifully simple and has a unique feel that is sure to add variety to your rhythm playing.  Using roman numeral analysis, this progression can be written:

I    V    IV   IV

I    V      I      V

So plugging in the chords in the Key of A, the progression looks like this:

A  E  D  D

A  E  A  E

In the video, I add 7’s and 9’s to these chords to make them super bluesy.  But the basic chord is what you see above and will work nicely as well.

Break Free from the 12 Bar Rut with 8 Bar Blues

There are tons of variations to this 8 bar pattern to keep things interesting.  In fact, it seems there are more common variations on the 8 bar pattern than the 12 bar pattern.

Kind or crazy since there are fewer bars to work with, right?

Getting 8 bar blues down cold, could truly be a case of doing more with less.

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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