4 Blues Chord Progressions That You Need To Master

So you've picked up a guitar, and you're ready to start learning how to play. There are a lot of musical styles and options at your fingertips: rock, folk, funk, punk, classical and too many other styles to count. However, there are some basic ideas you need to learn before you tackle even one of these genres. One incredibly important lesson comes from one of the most influential styles, the blues, and its blues chord progressions.

Even if you aren't interested in learning the blues themselves, the blues chord progression will be invaluable for you to learn. Chord progressions exist in all forms of music, and understanding them will make you a better musician. And since the blues have had a strong influence in popular music, learning blues chords progression will give you a leg up in a number of genres. So let's get started by showing you what they are, why you should learn them, and finally, some examples for you to follow and learn.

What Is a Blues Chord Progression?

man holding a guitar

So with all that said, what is a blues chord progression? Well, first you need to understand what basic chord progression is. As you might have guessed from the title, chord progression is moving through a series of chords. In doing so, the musician forms the 'skeleton' of the musical piece. In most popular music, the chord progression is written before the melody and rhythm come into play.

By setting the chord progression, you can define the key, or musical placement, of a song or other musical piece. This varies between genres, as you might expect. The blues, therefore, has its own distinct chord progressions and language. Blues chords progressions are often identified by Roman numerals (i.e. the first chord is I, the fourth is IV, and so on). This allows a musician to move through the blues progression by remembering the notes of the key by number; for example, in the key of A, A would be the I chord.

Rock music also uses this method, which makes sense since it evolved in part from the blues. A common blues chord progression used in rock is the familiar 12-bar blues refrain. This can be played in multiple keys, but the progression is always linked to notes I, IV, and V of the key. You likely heard this progression in blues shuffles or rock songs by blues-based artists like George Thorogood.

Is There a Need to Learn Blues Chord Progressions?


So now that you understand what the blues chord progression is, do you need to learn it? After all, you may not be interested in the blues. Your tastes may lie in another genre of music. That's not a bad thing, but even if you do want to play funk or rap-rock or folk, you need to learn the basics.

Blues chord progressions are among the most basic elements of guitar playing. So no matter what genre you choose to play in, you need to understand how they work. Imagine trying to play drums without knowing how to hold drumsticks, or bass playing without knowing to pluck. Chord progressions on guitar are just as essiential.

You'll need to learn how to hold a guitar, how to finger chords and notes, and especially how to solo. Almost all of that will only work if you have the basic musical knowledge to understand how to play (holding the guitar shouldn't be too much of a lesson!). The blues chord progressions are the basis for rock and will give you the knowledge to better understand everything from jazz to rock and beyond. So even if you don't plan to play the blues, learning these progressions will make you a better player and you can take that skill into the genre you do like to play.

The Most Essential Blues Chord Progressions

person holding a guitar

Now that we've established blues chord progressions and why you need them, it's time we actually get into them. Now, there are a large number of blues chord progressions, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities. Don't worry, we've got you covered. We've looked through multiple resources and found four blues chord progressions that are essential for you to learn.

We do want to emphasize that these progressions can and should be used as building blocks for your journey on the guitar. Use them to find other unique progressions that you can make your own and will help improve your skills. Think of it as a metaphor for your journey to learn and improve your skills on the guitar. These progressions will be your first steps on a long and hopefully very fruitful journey.

Chord Progression #1 (takelessons.com)

Chord Progression #2 (uberchord.com)

Chord Progression #3 (makingmusicmag.com)

Chord Progression #4 (uberchord.com)


Blues Chord Progressions That You Need

As we've said, the blues chord progression may not fit the type of music you want to play perfectly. However, it does contain some of the essential music knowledge that you will need to be a better musician. No matter what genre of music you like, this should always be your goal. Remember, the more you learn, the more you can apply to your playing.

Be sure to check out other examples of blues progressions beyond the ones we've listed here. There are plenty of blues-based rock acts (i.e. Led Zeppelin, Derek and the Dominos) that used, changed, and improved these progressions to fit their own visions of music. Listen to what they did and see how it fits into the ideas of the blues chord progressions. Then try it for yourself and see what you get!

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