12 Bar Blues 1: I, IV, V Chords &; Basic Shuffle Pattern

For the first part of this lesson you must be sure you can play the chords E, A and B, (all Maj), fluidly, with minimal time spent working positions out. You will also need relatively good timing, although I’ve kept it straight-forward for now.

The I, IV, V pattern is the most commonly employed set of chords in blues music, (perhaps every genre!), and has many alternate versions and substitutes. It is commonly referred to as “the 12 bar blues”, because it takes up exactly that many bars. Here we’re going to examine the simplest form of this pattern in the key of E. You will almost definitely need the help of a metronome for this lesson, as timing is key. Play the chords below at a steady pace, along with the video if you like, strumming each chord 4 times per bar, (crotchets). The dots next to the double-lines at either side are repeat marks, which mean that you should start again from the last place you saw the dots, (in this case, the beginning).

Once you are comfortable with this pattern we can try using the traditional blues shuffle riff. The second part of the video demonstrates how the E shuffle should sound – you’re still strumming 4 times every bar, (as indicated by the crotchets above the notes in the tablature), with every other strum being staccato, (lit. ‘detached’, play the notes then mute them with either hand, so they don’t resonate as long as the others. This is indicated by the dot just below these notes in the tab). I’ve only written one bar for each shuffle, largely for the sake of space, and my own sanity, but it should be clear that you need to play these in the same order as the open chords. (If in doubt, play along with the video).

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