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What You Need To Know About Standard 3 Chord Blues Form

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In this JGT video lesson, Patrick Arthur discusses the standard 3 chord, or the V IV blues form and how to play it in all 12 keys.

The basics –

12 repeated measures broken into three 4 bar phrases.

The chord quality of every chord in this particular blues is dominant. Dominant chords are spelled 1, 3, 5, b7.

Here is a breakdown of the form:

  • First 4 bars are typically just the I7 chord
  • The second phrase starts on the IV7 for 2 measures and then back to the I7 for 2 measures
  • The third and final phrase is one bar of V7, one bar of IV7, and then finally back to the I7. If you are going to repeat for further solos then it is common to put a V7 chord in the final measure.

I chose to play this blues in the key of F as many jazz blues that you will hear are commonly in this key. I will also include a chart on the following page in the key of G, this lays a little better on the guitar and might be a good place to get started if you are new to playing this form.

There are a lot of subtle variations that take place in a blues, I strongly encourage you to listen to as many recordings as you can and to play along with them as this will train your ear to catch them when they happen in a live situation. Use this chart as a guide and see if you can hear the different chord substitutes that might be present in the recording you choose to listen to.

Copyright PatrickArthurMusic

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