These blues guitar chords and their progressions will hopefully have you playing the blues in no time at all. They are for beginners and intermediate players as they contain both easy to play open chords, as well as the more difficult barred chords. If you want to play blues guitar to any real level though, you will need to be able to play barre chords so keep practicing if you can't play them already.
If you want to jump straight down to the blues chords progressions just click on any of the following links. Alternatively, if you want to learn a little of the theory behind blues guitar chords and blues chord progressions, please read on. There is also descriptive text before each chord progression that may be missed if you do decide to jump straight down. Instructional videos are also included.
More videos will be added over time for any blues licks you may see in any of the following videos.
Now, as previously stated on the blues guitar lessons page, blues is traditionally based on a I, IV, V chord progression consisting of twelve bars. The I, IV, V is pretty much in stone for pure blues and the blues guitar chords and their progressions on this page are all structured in that way. However, the number of bars in any blues chord progression can change. It doesn't have to remain at 12 bars. It can be 8 bars or 16 bars for example. This can give it a different feel as well as a longer or shorter span before it resolves back to the I chord. Dominant seventh chords can also be played at certain points in the chord progression or if you like the whole tune can be made up completely of seventh chords. It really is up to you, so remember, if it sounds good, play it! Experiment.
These blues guitar chords and their progressions can be played in any key by moving the whole progression up or down the fret board. This will move the root note and the tonal centre, thereby changing the key.The first two chord charts below show this perfectly. The second chord progression is a repeat of the first blues chord progression in as much as it uses the same chord shapes throughout. The only difference is these chords are played in different positions.
As you will see, the first blues chord progression on the first chart starts at the first fret with the open E major chord, while the second progression on the second chart starts at the third fret with the barred G major chord which comes from the open E major chord shape. When you move an open chord shape up the neck it has to be barred to re-create the position of the nut and to complete the chord or it would just sound strange and be incorrect.
As already mentioned, the first blues chord progression starts on E major. This is the Ichord of the blues progression. Again, it is called the I (one) chord because it is built on the first note of a major scale and not because it is played first. The second chord of this blues progression is the IV chord (four chord) because it's built from the 4th note of the major scale and therefore known as the IV chord and isA maj. The V chord (five chord) called so because it is built on the fifth note of the major scale and is B major.
Note: If you know your major scales, you will know that the first note of the E major scale is obviously E, the fourth note of the E major scale is A, and the fifth note of the E major scale is B. This I, IV, V chord progression is the standard basic chord progression for blues guitar as already mentioned, but worth repeating for beginners.
Start memorising where the root notes of each chord are. They're highlighted in red and include the open strings. They're always in the same place within the chord and the root note is what gives that chord it's name, tonal centre and over all sound. This will be indispensible to you later on for improvising and relating to what substitute chords to play and where to play them, as well as what scales to play over what chords, whether you're playing blues, or other styles of music.
The first two blues guitar chords progressions contain only major triad chords. Triads are chords that contain only three notes. These chords are very common to most popular forms of music and styles. It is the I, IV, V progression that gives the chord progression that 'blues feel'. The different ways they can be played, as well as varying tempos also changes the mood of the music you are playing.
If you're a beginner, to keep it simple, remember that one beat is basically one strum, and four strums or beats make up one bar in 4/4 time which is what this will be. The following blues guitar progression consists of 12 bars or 48 beats. The first chord, E maj, will be strummed 16 times, the second chord, A maj, 8 times and so on.
Don't worry about all of this if you don't understand it. The main thing is just to practice as much as you can to get a feel for it. You'll pick up the theory as you go.
Blues Guitar Chords #1 12-bar blues chord progression E major
Now you may think to yourself 'well that's great but it drags on a bit'. Well all you have to do is shorten the number of bars to the piece of music so that there are less beats or strumming actions over all. There still remains four beats to each bar, but there are less bars of music to the entire song. The blues chord progression below not only shows this, but it also uses dominant seventh chords to give this blues guitar chord progression a slightly different sound.
These blues flavoured guitar chords contain the b7 (flat 7th) note of the major scale giving it that 'open bluesy flavour'.
Blues Guitar Chords #3 8-bar blues chord progression in E - dominant 7s
Now, moving on slightly, the following blues guitar chord chart is basically a simplified version of the previous chord charts as they are variations of previous blues chord progressions. I've left it to you to decide when to make the changes from one chord to the next. Just apply the same I, IV, V blues chord progression principles from the above chord charts, and change to the next chord after so many counts or strums etc. Remember, the basic blues chord progression is - I-IV-I-V-IV-I-V-I. But hey, you can play it how you like, this is just a guidline! Experiment!
This next chord chart contains the exact same dominant seventh chords as above with the exception of the I chords which contain the b7 (flatenned seventh note of the major scale) played with the little (pinkie) finger, shown by the number 4 in all of the I chords below.
The b7 note in each of the I chords of the following progressions can be played or not, or played randomly. This creates a fuller sound to the chord and adds variety. Just add or lift the little (pinkie) finger shown as 4 on either of the I Chord shapes. Play around with this.
Listen to the big and 'open' full sound of the very first E7 Chord. This is one of, if not the biggest blues chords on the guitar because of its open voicing along with it's doubled seventh notes (D), one of which is an open string.
Blues Guitar Chords #4 Blues Chord Progressions in E, G, & A - dominant 7s
There are three different blues chord progressions here moving from left to right. Keep an eye on the fret numbers and above all, listen, your ears tell you everything!
Ok lets move on a little further. These next blues guitar chords are essential to any serious blues guitar player and for those that want to get into jazz-blues. They add tension, colour and variety to any blues chord progression. The top row in the diagram below shows these three new blues guitar chords. These three are all E Dominant seventh(E7) chords. Just move them up or down the fret board and wherever the root note in red lands will be the new chord name and home key ie, A dom7 for example. The second two rows show how two of these chords can be played in a I, IV, V blues chord progression.
Again it's left up to you here to decide when to change chord. As I'm sure you know by now, the basic blues guitar chord progression, just as a guideline, is - I-IV-I-V-IV-I-V-I, but play how you feel.
Take note of where the root notes in red are, as well as the correct positions according to the fret numbers. If you've been observant up until now, you will have noticed a pattern emerging with regard to the root note positions on the base notes in particular, as you change chords.
Note; The video for the chords above is combined with the video lesson of the following blues chord progression below.
The following blues guitar chords progression attempts to bring everything together. It includes all the chords from the previous two chord charts at some point or another to create a variety of blues tones within the progression.
The I chord is pretty much the same throughout with the exception of the little (pinkie) finger lifted or played randomly on the b7 note. The IV and V chords however, can either intermingle or dominate there position depending on how the player feels when playing.
This blues guitar chord progression is an idea that can be played as it is, or played around with, it's up to you. You can stay for any number of beats on the IV and V chords, or play them almost as passing chords as they are written to be played here. When played as I've written them below, they create a kind of ascending and descending cadence that adds a bit of a twist and creates a certain over all mood to the progression.
Listen for the change in your head and put it onto the fret board.
Experiment and have fun!
Blues Guitar Chords #6 Blues Chord Progression A#/Bb - dominant 7's
The following blues chord progression when played quickly with a funky type of rhythmic beat can be applied to jazz-blues style tunes.