Twelve-Bar Blues

Iman Rahimipour

Iman Rahimipour

Musicien, Composer, Instructor

Playing his guitar backstage

Maybe you’ve heard the twelve-bar blues term in many songs, performances, YouTube videos, and so on.
The twelve-bar blues are the most popular chord progression in the blues genre, consisting of 12 bars that follow a chord’s specific order.

In twelve-bar blues, each phrase consists of 12 bars that the soloist can improvise over this phrase over and over. This phrase is known as chorus, and we usually have a turnaround at bar 12 to repeat the section or the phrase.

Twelve-bar blues chord structure:

The most important chords in twelve-bar blues are I, IV, and V chords. The chord I is Tonic, the IV is Subdominant, and the V is Dominant.

Chords Number Roman Numeral
Tonic (T)
1
I
Subdominant (S)
4
IV
Dominant (D)
5
V

Here is a structure of twelve-bar blues:

twelve bar blues with turnaround

In the image above, you can see that the last chord of the twelve-bar is the V chord, which is a turnaround and gives the audiences an incomplete sense of ending and prepare them to turn back to the beginning of the chord progression ( Incomplete Cadence )

twelve bar blues ending explained

In this image, you can see that the last bar is the I chord or the Tonic chord, which is a full cadence.

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what is twelve-bar blues?

Maybe you've heard the twelve-bar blues term in many songs, performances, YouTube videos, and so on. The twelve-bar blues are the most popular chord progression in the blues genre, consisting of 12 bars that follow a chord's specific order.

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