12 Bar Blues Progression to Improve Guitar Chord Strumming SkillsIt is every aspiring guitarist’s dream to strum a few chords and sing in front of an audience or theirfriends or family. It is often the first easy step towards an exciting guitar journey ahead beforeventuring into challenging solos or licks.Though learning to strum chords is considered easier than playing fast licks, mastering the skill ofholding different chord shapes and changing them quickly (while playing) can be quite a dauntingtask for a beginner or even for an intermediate level player for that matter. The only way toconquer that skill is by practicing varied chords and chord progressions.Here I have a simple yet melodious 12 bar blues chord progression in the key of A Major in twodifferent positions of the fret board. This chord progression typically uses 3 chords – the tonic, sub-dominant and dominant chords also called the One, Four and Five chords.These 3 chords are technically derived from the Root, 4th and 5th notes of a scale, the 4th and 5thchords are theoretically known as Sub-Dominant and Dominant Chords. These are the chords usedin a typical 12 bar blues chord progression. Theoretically Tonic, Sub-Dominant and Dominantchords are all Major chords, but in a blues progression, either 7th (or Dominant 7th) or 9th(Dominant 9th) chords are used, to get that “bluesy” feel to it. So in this progression we will beusing an A7, D7 and E7 chords also known as I, IV and V chords. Where A7 is the one chord, denotedin Roman numeral I, D7 is the four chord, denoted as IV and E7 is the five chord denoted as V.Building Major ScalesThe scale interval for building a Major Scale is W-W-H-W-W-W-H (where W is a Whole Step orWhole Tone and H is a Half Step or a Semi Tone). By applying this scale interval formula starting onthe note A, an A Major Scale can be built as A- B- C#- D- E- F#- G#- A, where the Root note is A, 4thnote is D and 5th note is E. And the three chords used in the 12 bar chord progression are built fromthese 3 notes.Building Dominant chordsThe formula for building a Dominant 7th chord is 1-3-5-b7, which means that a Dominant 7th chordis built from the 1st, 3rd, 5th and Flattened 7th notes of a major scale, in this case, an A Major Scale,flattening just means lowering a note by half step, a flat is denoted as “b”.So let’s build an A7 chord by applying this formula.And we get an A7 or A Dominant 7th Chord as A-C#-E-G“#” means sharp, which means raising a note by half step, just the opposite of a flat.Similarly we can build the other 2 chords which are D7 and E7 from the given formula from theirscales of origin.D7th chord from D Major Scale ( D – E- F# - G- A – B- C#) would be D-F#-A-CE7th Chords from E Major Scale (E – F# - G# - A – B - C#- D#) would be E – G#- B- DUnderstanding a “Bar” in a Chord Progression|////|
This is how a typical bar would be denoted for chord progressions, you can see that there are 4slanting lines, each one denotes a beat and here there are 4 beats in total in this bar, which can berhythmically read as “1 And-2 And-3 And-4 And” which can be translated into an equivalentstrumming pattern on the guitar, and should also be played in regular intervals. Where “1 and”completes one beat, “2 and” the second beat and so on.In “1 And-2 And-3 And-4 And”, the 1, 2, 3 and 4 are usually strummed in down strokes & all theAnds must be strummed as up strokes. So each beat will get “up” and “down” strokes.Tip: I would recommend a basic metronome for every beginner guitar player for practicing solosand chord progressions, which would greatly help in improving the timing and perfection.Note: A bar can consist of 2 beats or 4 beats, it all depends on the type of song or progression thatyou will play. And also, there is no rule that an up and down stroke should exist in each beat, it canbe in all possible permutations and combinations or various strumming styles.The 12 Bar Blues Chord ProgressionI = One Chord or the Tonic Chord (in this case A7)IV = Four Chord or the Sub-Dominant Chord (in this case D7)V = Five Chord or the Dominant Chord (in this case E7)Blues Chord Progression in the Key of A (Open Chords)In this lesson, I have created 2 sets of the same chords in 2 different positions of the guitar fretboard that you can play, one set using the open chords, which means the chords having openstrings, and the other set using Barre chords, that has no open strings.
Blues Chord Progression in the Key of A (Barre Chords)Please don’t get confused with a “Bar” in a chord progression and “Barre” chords, they arecompletely two different things.Barre chords (or bar chords, but spelled as “barre”) are the type of guitar chords where you pressdown multiple strings across the fret board with your index finger or any other finger (like a bar) tobuild a chord.The beauty of barre chords is that they are moveable to any position on the fret board or neck. So inthis case, the barre chord A7 on the 5th fret when moved to the 10th fret becomes an D7 and whenfurther moved to 12th fret becomes an E7 chord. So the finger positions remain the same.In case of the barre chords, when you strum the equivalent of 2 & 4, you must add the note in thechord (with the finger indicated) marked in red and release it in the following “and”, which givesthat “bluesy” feel to the progression.
Practice Tips:Practice these 2 sets of progressions slowly till you get used to holding and changing differentchord shapes. It’s for sure that initially you will get sore fingers and achy hands, so take a break,never overdo it, may be take a day’s break, then resume the following day till you can get the chordssounding crisp and clear. Chalk out a regular practice schedule and never go out of touch for days.This is a great exercise to perfect your strumming and to streamline difficult chord changes ofvarious chord shapes quickly.I would again like to reiterate the importance of a simple, basic metronome for practicing solos andchord strumming esp. for beginners. If don’t have one yet, grab one from your nearest music store itwon’t cost you a fortune. But the rewards are absolutely phenomenal in terms of gaining timecontrol and perfection.You can visit my guitar blog for more interesting guitar lessons and tips athttp://www.onlineguitarschools.com/GuitarBlog/.