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  • Easy Blues on Guitar : The 12 Bar Blues Shuffle

    The Blues Shuffle

    The Blues Shuffle is one of the defining and most commonly used rhythms or blues guitar riffs in Blues music. Its iconic sound has formed the backbone of many a Blues tune from the likes of Robert Johnson, B.B.King and Eric Clapton and understanding should be an integral part of any blues guitar instruction.

    The Shuffle usually involves playing two strings together as 1/8 notes. On the first of these two strings you sound the root note whilst alternating between the 5th and 6th note of the scale on the second string as follows:

    12 Bar Blues shuffle  

    However, what makes this sound so definitive is the way in which you play the 1/8 notes. Insted of playing them as straight 1/8 notes (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) they must be played as triplets. In the notation you may see this marked liked this:

    12 Bar Blues shuffle

    What this means is that we must play the 1/4 note as the 1 and 2 of the Triplet ad the 1/8 note as the 3. This is the typical way to play the Blues shuffle and it has gone on to become a Standard rhythm in Jazz, Blues, Swing and Rock n Roll.

    12 Bar Blues

    12 Bar Blues literally means that we play a progression for 12 Bars. In standard Blues we normally play three chords which are all derived from the root chord of a Major scale. The first chord is the root chord so we can call it I as it is the first note of the scale. The second chord that we play is the 4th chord of the scale so we can term it IV. Our final chord is the 5th note of the scale, so we term it V. Remembering the chords as numbers in this way makes it easier to move our progressions into other keys.

    So the chords we are using will be I, IV and V. In the example below we are playing a Blues in A. As A is our I chord, it then follows that if we go up the scale to IV we have a D and to V we have an E, therefore, our I, IV, V chords in A are: A, D and E.

    12 Bar Blues Form

    The first four bars of our 12 are played on the A (I), followed by two on the D (IV). Then return to the A (I) for two bars before moving one bar at a time through E (V), D (IV), A (I) and E (V) for the last four bars. In the notation you will see that I have written the chord name above the changes in the form:

    12 Bar Blues shuffle  

    Now Check out this Video Lesson to help get used to the sound of the 12 bar blues form:


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