5 Reasons Why Learning 12 Bar Blues Guitar Is an Essential Skill

learning-12-bar-blues-guitarIt’s not that complicated and it certainly is an invaluable skill for anyone who aspires to guitarist status. Learning 12 bar blues guitar is one of the stepping stones of one’s musical evolution, since it is the simplest form of the blues. Also, it’s quite easy to learn, provided you know how to read guitar tablatures and are willing to put in a modicum of effort. If you’re not entirely convinced just yet, read on to find out why you, too, should consider learning 12-bar guitar blues.

1. Want to be able to jam with others?

Learning guitar can happen at any age. Irrespective of whether you’re a senior citizen with a lot of spare time on their hands, or a teenager just discovering the guitar, learning 12 bar guitar blues will definitely come in handy, whenever you want to play together with others. It’s a common denominator of sorts – a musical foundation on which players can build and improvise together. As long as all the guitar players involved know the same chords, one can play them, while the other one sings along or improvises a solo over the basic chords.

2. 12 bar blues is at the core of many popular songs

You may not realize this, but some of the most popular and classical blues pieces are based on 12-bar blues. Titles such as Hound Dog, St. Louis Blues, Easy Rider and Corinna, Corinna are all 12-bar blues standards. They all follow the same pattern: there are three lines per verse and the first line is always repeated.

3. Learning 12 bar blues guitar is as simple as the name suggests

As long as you can read basic guitar tablatures, you’re halfway there, in terms of learning 12 bar blues guitar. What else do you need to know? Each musical passage in 12-bar blues consist of 12 measures and unfolds according to a specific scheme. Unlike other musical genres, it replaces letters with Roman numerals. It also employs slashes, which leave the player some leeway in interpreting what the tablature actually asks of him. When playing 12-bar blues guitar, you can always play around with eighths and alternate upstrokes with downstrokes.

4. 12 bar blues song structures are almost identical

Essentially, learning 12 bar blues guitar is all about mastering three musical elements: the song’s intro, its outro, and the 12 bar in the middle. Most intros simply consist of a couple of essential chords, followed by single notes, which serve as an introduction into the main part of the song. Then comes the 12-bar per se, which is repeated twice. The third time you play the 12-bar, replace the final two bars with the outro, in order to smoothly lead out of the song.

5. It’s easy to get creative with 12-bar blues

Before you can truly hone your 12-bar creativity, you need to make sure you’ve got the basics covered. As such, keep practicing the main section on a loop, disregarding the intro and the outro for the time being. Only move forth when you’re sure you’ve got the main section covered. Then move on to adding the intro and the outro: the essential thing about learning 12 bar blues guitar is to successfully keep your timing. Listen to 12-bar blues recordings and play along, then try your hand at an A blues scale over the recordings. Always make sure you are not hitting open strings when playing. Make note of the most common 12 bar blues variations, such as the quick four (which replaces the second bar), and the turnaround, which does just what its name suggests – return the music back to the beginning.

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