Common Blues Forms

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Common Blues Forms

Below are several 8-bar, 12-bar, 16-bar, and 24-bar blues forms. You'll want to play through them in your favorite keys.

8-Bar Forms

The 8-bar blues progression is similar to the much more popular 12-bar traditional blues progression except that bars 3, 4, 8 and 10 are eliminated in order to shorten the sequence. The turnaround continues to be comprised of the last two bars of the progression with many possible substitutions available.

| I       | I      | IV     | IV     |
| I       | V      | I      | I      |


| I       | I7     | IV7    | IV7    |
| I       | V7     | I      | I      |


| I       | I7     | IV     | IVo    |
| I       | V7     | I      | V7     |


| I       | V7     | IV     | IV     |
| I       | V7     | I      | I      |

12-Bar Forms

Unlike most popular music that is divided into eight or 16 bar phrases, most blues songs are in the 12-bar format. The 12-bar form is the most prevalent in blues and rock and is the oldest of the blues forms related to the chants and hollers sung in the fields by slaves particularly from West Africa.

| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | V      | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | V      | I      | V      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | V      | I  IV  | I   V  |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | IV     | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V7      | V7     | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V7      | V7     | I  IV  | I   V7 | 


| I       | I      | I      | I7     |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V7      | IV     | I      | V      |
                or:| I  IV  | I  V7  |  


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| ii      | V      | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| ii      | V      | I  IV  | I V    | 


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| ii7     | V7     | I      | V      |


| I       | I      | I      | I7     |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| ii7     | V7     | I  IV  | I V    |


| I       | I      | I      | v7   I7  |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I        |
| ii7     | V7     | I  IV  | I    V7  |


| I       | I      | I      | v7   I7  |
| IV      | #IVo   | I      | I        |
| ii7     | V7     | I  IV  | I    V7  |


| I       | I      | I      | v7     I7  |
| IV      | #IVo   | I      | iii7b5 VI7 |
| ii7     | V7     | I  IV  | I      V7  |


| I7        | I7     | I7       | v7     I7  |
| IV7       | #IVo   | I7       | iii7b5 VI7 |
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  |


Quick Change Progressions


| I       | IV     | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | IV     | I      | I      |


| I7        | IV7    | I7       | v7     I7  |
| IV7       | #IVo   | I7       | iii7b5 VI7 |
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  |


| I7        | IV7    | I7       | v7   I7    |
| IV7       | #IVo   | I7  VII7 | bVII7  VI7 |
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  |


Minor Progressions


| i       | i      | i      | i        |
| iv      | iv     | i      | i        |
| v       | v      | i      | i        |


| i       | i      | i      | i        |
| iv      | iv     | i      | i        |
| V7      | V7     | i      | V7       |


| i       | iv     | i      | i        |
| iv      | iv     | i      | i        |
| V7      | V7     | i      | V7       |


| i        | i        | i        | i          |
| iv       | iv       | i        | i          |
| ii7b5    | V7       | i        | V7         |
 

| i        | i        | i        | i          |
| iv       | iv       | i        | i          |
| V7       | bVI7 V7  | i        | V7         |


| i        | V7       | i        | i          |
| iv       | iv       | i        | i          |
| iiimi6   | ii7b5 V7 | i        | i          |

16-Bar Forms

The 16-bar blues progression is similar to a 12-bar traditional blues progression except the first four bars of I chord are doubled in length to eight bars.

| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | V      | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| V       | IV     | I      | I      |


| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | I      | I      |
| ii      | IV     | I  IV  | I   V7 |  


| I         | I        | I      | I        |
| I         | I        | I      | I7       |
| IV        | #IVo     | I      | I        |
| ii        | IV       | I  IV  | I    V7  |


| I7        | I7     | I7       | I7         |
| I7        | I7     | I7       | v7     I7  |
| IV7       | #IVo   | I7       | iii7b5 VI7 |
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  |


| I7        | IV7    | I7       | v7     I7  |
| IV7       | #IVo   | I7       | iii7b5 VI7 |
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  | 
| ii7       | V7     | I7  IV7  | I7     V7  |

24-Bar Blues

The 24-bar blues progression is similar to a 12-bar traditional blues progression except each chord is doubled in duration. In this case the turnaround is comprised of the last four bars of the progression.

| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| IV      | IV     | IV     | IV     |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |
| V       | V      | IV     | IV     |
| I       | I      | I      | I      |


| I7      | I7     | I7     | I7     |
| I7      | I7     | I7     | I7     |
| IV7     | IV7    | IV7    | IV7    |
| I7      | I7     | I7     | I7     |
| V7      | V7     | IV7    | IV7    |
| I7      | I7     | I7     | I7     |


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