12 Bar Blues Progression

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Learn How To Play The 12 Bar Blues Progression on Guitar!

In this blues guitar lesson you are going to be learning the basic twelve bar blues progression. The twelve bar blues progression is simply a common chord progression that lasts for twelve measures. This progression is used quite often in all kinds of music. It is great to know this progression because it is something that almost every musician in the world knows. You can use it when you show up to a jam or go over to your friend’s house to play around. Call out a twelve bar blues in the key of E and everyone will know exactly what is going on and they will have a clear road map to follow.

The twelve bar blues progression uses the 1, 4 and 5 chords of any given key. Since we will be in the key of E for this lesson the chords that we will be using are E, A and B. The example in this lesson uses all power chords so that you can concentrate on the progression and not have to worry too much about which chords to play. First we will walk you through the actual progression and then we will add a simple strumming pattern to the chords.

Take a quick look at the sheet music and TAB for the twelve bar blues progression. You will see four measures of E, two measures of A, two measures of E, one measure of B, one measure of A, one measure of E and one final measure of B. This is the standard twelve bar blues progression. Try playing through this progression using just whole notes with your E, A, and B power chords.

Once you get the general idea of the progression you can start to put some basic rhythms with the chords. This progression is in 4/4 time. That means that each measure gets four beats. Try counting each measure as “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”. Usually a blues song will have a shuffle or swing feel instead of a straight eighth note feel. This just means that you give a little bit longer note value to the numbers when you count and a little shorter note value to the “ands” between the numbers. If this sounds confusing just watch the video and try to copy the rhythm that you hear. Count “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and” and play a downstroke for every number and every “and”. This is a very basic blues rhythm but that is good because the object of this lesson is just to become familiar with the basic twelve bar blues progression.

As soon as you have the twelve bar blues progression down cold you can start to use some more sophisticated rhythms with your picking hand. If you want to put this progression into practice you should check out the lesson Twelve Bar Blues Riff.

Click Here to go to the next lesson in the Blues Guitar Quick-Start Series.

This Lesson Has 35 Comments

  • nick says:

    very cool lesson im really progressing, but the bars are cnfusing me

    • Michelle says:

      Aug02Stephen Hey Robin!I’ll be starting from the very bieinngng, but you’ll be able to see where you want to jump in because they’ll all be on my site! Good to hear from you!

  • alex says:

    can i play this on acoustic

  • Dale Pautzke says:

    Can’t see your fingers on the chords. I know E, A etc but they don’t look like the chords you are playing. Could you explain, or did I miss that lesson?

    • Chris Holzer says:

      Download the PDF. Nate shows you what strings to put your fingers on and which strings to play.

  • Alycesha says:

    He barred the A and D string with the first finger on the second fret for the E power chord and then he did the same with the A power chord. For the B power chord you put your first finger on the second fret of the A string then you put your third and fourth finger on the fourth fret of the D and G string.

  • Jack says:

    It looks like the first time you play B power cord you are on the A string and the second time (to end the progression) you are on the E string. Am I seeing that wrong?

  • mario says:

    how many strums in one bar.,?

  • Sean says:

    badly explained, cant follow chords even with pdf..

    • Sam Booth says:

      He explained it well enough, even I got what he was talking about and I know jack shit about guitar.

      The fault isn’t in his lesson, or his PDF, it’s in your brain.

  • prantik says:

    nate explaining so rudely in this lesson. cant follow everything. nate plz explain like b4, just explain like beginning lessons.

  • Scott says:

    He explains it perfectly. Follow the pdf, you need to count as you strum down. Practice the E until you can get the one and two and three and four strum then proceed. This is a basic blues progression most others are all based on.

  • Scott says:

    Also when he says measure, he means one measure of one and two and three and four.

  • Ankit Singare says:

    brother can u pls tell me the name of every fret like E G A D because i dont know if u have some lessons which i can learn so pls tell me.

    • Abubakar says:

      Hi Lisa, I met you on the guitar trikcs site. I subscribed and I’m very happy I did. I’m a 57 year old guitar lover. Played in my younger years, then decided to pick it up again now that it is my turn in life to do as I please. I’ve learned so much from you already, as well as the other guitar trikcs staffers. Many thanks for all you do.

  • prajwal says:

    cant understand any thing………..

    • Brijesh says:

      Hi there this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG edriots or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  • ted thomas says:

    Could you tell me what brand name of acoustic guitar Nate plays. Thank you.

    • Kalyanasundaram says:

      It could be a rsult of not pushing down hard enuogh, or more commonly bad placement, make sure you are towards the right side of the fret, if you are to far to the left side of the fret area it will buzz. If you still find the problem, it could be the guitar itself.

  • jj says:

    You needed to show how you did that B because it look liked you payed to differnt cords and you needed to slow down justt a bit and break it down just a little bit more but you are still teahing me alot so thanks.

  • Angelo says:

    hey nate i got the prg and just started but i dont understand some stuff like modes and licks. what videos should i watch to understand these things. sos!!

  • zzzmissgirl says:


  • Steve says:

    Could you explain how to read TAB’s?

    • Sam Booth says:

      I’m pretty sure he’ll probably have a lesson somewhere BUT, it is incredibly simple once you understand what’s going on.

      I’ll break it down to my best understanding here:


      Each line represents a string, the strings are labelled behind the lines so that you don’t get it upside down or something. When a number appears on one of the lines, example:


      It means play that fret of that string, so a three on the line representing E would be the third fret, it’s fairly simple once you break it down.

      Now if there will almost always be stuff going on on different strings, so here I’ll give another demonstration:


      So for this, the 1 on the D string is the closest to the left hand side, therefore it would be played first. Then next is A, and then E.

      I’m no expert in this, all I can help with is the very basics, the only other example I can give now is sliding -which is shown like so:


      With this, the / shows that it is a sliding movement, and the number on the left hand side of the / is the fret you start it on, and then on the right hand side is the fret you end it on.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a better explanation, I’m barely grasping it myself, but this is how I worked out what I know of it, and I hope it helps!

      Keep playing, practice as much as you can. You’ll eventually get it.

    • Nate Savage says:

      Thanks for posting this Sam.

  • erdogan says:

    thanks for all the lesson nete i m enjoying to play guitar god bless.

  • Jonathan says:

    Have been playing guitar for a long time but have never had an opportunity to from a professional like you Nate.It is thrilling and exciting to watch you play as you explain.God bless you.

  • Jonathan says:

    Have been playing guitar for a long time but have never had an opportunity to learn from a professional like you Nate.It is thrilling and exciting to watch you play as you explain.God bless you.

  • kyle says:

    What amp are you using i play guitar and i hate my amp

  • Lance says:

    Sorry Nate Couldnt understand this lesson :(

  • zakir says:

    im sry nate but its hard to follow what your doing since your not showing where to position our fingures and which chords to strum. iv been trying to just google the chords you mention so i can try to understand what your saying. your leaving that information out.

    • Nate Martin says:

      The power chords are simply open chords without a 3rd. Nate’s playing three strings only on each of the chords in the progression. E power chord is 6th string open, 5th string 2nd fret, and 4 2nd fret. A power chord is 5 open, 4 2nd, 3 2nd; and the B power chord is 5 2nd, 4 4th, and 3 4th. A ‘bar’ is a measure. The blues is counted in 12/8 time (not 4/4…sorry, Nate) counted as 4 triplets, as 1-and-a 2-and-a 3-and-a 4-and-a. Nate is playing chords on the numbers and the ‘a’, and not playing on the ‘ands’. Enjoy.

  • Allen (Hillbilly) Butcher says:

    You won’t learn all of this in the first 5 minutes. Patience/Practice/and more practice.But wait till you “nail it”—- a smile from earlobe to earlobe.You accomplished a milestone.It will only get better from there


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