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Jazz Guitar Lessons

The Lewis Changes and the Bird Blues – A Chuck Anderson Lesson

Chuck Anderson

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In this guitar lesson, Chuck Anderson focuses on two other well-known forms of Blues – the Lewis Changes and the Bird Blues.

In the last lesson, I covered 12 bar blues in the Traditional and Quick Change form. Today, we’ll focus on 2 other well know forms of Blues (especially in jazz) – the Lewis changes and the Bird Blues.

What is Jazz Blues?

It is still a 12 bar form and is still based on the I IV and V chords of a major or minor key. The unique characteristic of jazz blues is its use of a more expanded sense of harmony. Since the harmony is expanded, both the melody and the improvisation can be expanded.

The I chord or a substitute for the I chord is used as an anchor at bars 1, 7 and 11. The IV chord or a substitute for the IV chord is used at bar 5. The V chord or a substitute for the V chord is used at bar 9.

Here is an example of 12 bar blues based on the Lewis Changes. These examples are in the key of F but could be transposed to any key. Jazz Blues is traditionally in the following major keys or their relative minor keys

Major keys are C, G, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db

Relative minor keys are Am, Em, Dm, Gm, Cm, Fm, Bbm. Any key can be used but these are common in the jazz blues.

Lewis Changes

F7/// Bb7//// F7//// Cm7// F7// 

Bb7//// Bdim7//// Fmaj7// Gm7// Am7// Abm7// 

Gm7/// C7/// Fmaj7// D7// Gm7// C7//

Bird Blues

Fmaj7//// Em7b5// A7// Dm7// G7// Cm7// F7// 

Bb7//// Bbm7// Eb7// Am7// D7// Abm7// Db7// 

Gm7//// C7//// Fma7// D7// Gm7// C7//

Notice that both of these progressions have either the I, IV, V, or substitutes for the  I, IV, V at the appropriate bars for 12 bar blues. The uniqueness of the progressions comes from the creation of linking chord progressions that connect the critica I, and V chords.


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