Blues Lesson One

The Basic Progression and Using Extended Chords

Domenick Ginex is a guitarist living in Tampa, Florida. He has played in several groups in the Tampa Bay area for over 25 years.

Over the next several weeks we are going to look at the blues. We'll go over the basic chords and progressions, then we'll get into several alternate progressions and chord substitutions.

Finally we'll get into how to solo against the blues using various scales and modes. So we'll go from the basics to the more advanced.

Without further delay, let's get into the lessons!

The basic blues progression is shown below. The blues below is shown starting on G7 but it could start from any dominant 7th chord (also referred to as 7th chord). The basic progression includes a root chord or '1' chord (G7 in this case), a '4th' dominant 7th chord up from the root (in this case C7) and a '5th' dominant 7th chord up from the root (in this case D7). The blues progression is sometimes referred to as a 1-4-5 progression due to the chords involved, as described above.

G7 C7 G7 G7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
C7 C7 G7 G7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
D7 C7 G7 D7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

It is also referred to as the 12 bar blues because there are 12 bars or measures that comprise the entire progression. Each measure has 4 beats as indicated by the '/' symbol. Each beat would receive a '1 and' count, so for example the first G7 measure would be played as '1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and'. Once the progression is played through then it starts over again. There may be lyrics that are sung against the progression and usually an improvised solo by an instrument played against the chords.

You can use any inversion of the chords. It is common to use the bar chord versions as shown in the figures below.

Let's look at the basic blues progression in another key. This time let's start from Eb7. The progression is shown below.

Eb7 Ab7 Eb7 Eb7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Ab7 Ab7 Eb7 Eb7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Bb7 Ab7 Eb7 Bb7
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Note the 1-4-5 relationship again, where Eb7 is 1, Ab7 is 4 and Bb7 is 5.

The associated bar chords that can be played with the above progression are shown below.

Now that we have looked at the basic blues progression, you need to practice it. Try playing it in the keys shown in this lesson and then try starting from other root chords, for example start from Bb7 (Bb7=1, Eb7=4, F7=5). Then start from C7 (C7=1, F7=4, G7=5). Your goal is to be able to play the blues starting from any 7th chord.

Next we are going to look at extended chords that can be played in place of the dominant 7th chords. Specifically we'll look at using the 13th and 9th chords with the 1-4-5 progression.

Below is an example of a 1-4-5 blues starting with a G13 for the 1 chord, a C9 for the 4 chord and a D9 for the 5 chord. The chord diagrams are shown below the progression diagram.

G13 C9 G13 G13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
C9 C9 G13 G13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
D9 C9 G13 D9
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

You could also use a C13 and D13 interspersed with the C9 and D9 chords to add some variety as shown below or in any way that you find creative.

G13 C9 C13 G13 G13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
C9 C13 G13 G13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
D9 D13 C9 C13 G13 D13 D9
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Let's look at a similar progression starting from Eb, as shown below. This time we are going to start with Eb9 as the 1 chord, Ab13 as the 4 chord an Bb13 as the 5 chord.

Eb9 Ab13 Eb9 Eb9
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Ab13 Ab13 Eb9 Eb9
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Bb13 Ab13 Eb13 Bb13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

You could also use an Eb13 chord interspersed with the Eb9 chord as shown below or in any way that you find creative.

Eb9 Eb13 Ab13 Eb9 Eb13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Ab13 Ab13 Eb9 Eb13 Eb9
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Bb13 Ab13 Eb9 Bb13
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Once again I will emphasize the need for you to practice these progressions and chords in all of the possible keys so that you can play them all along the fretboard and in any key.

In the next lesson we are going to look at more extended and altered chords as well as some alternate chord substitutions.

Domenick Ginex is a guitarist living in Tampa, Florida. He has played in several groups in the Tampa Bay area for over 25 years.

Related Articles:
Blues Lesson 2
Blues Amp Roundup

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