Tip #218 – Spicing-Up the Middle to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the middle section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them. In addition, see how the last chord of the “row” leads into the last 4 measures. Some of them might work well together while others may not.

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Tip #217 – Spicing-Up the End to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the closing section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them, as well as how each of them have a unique turnaround.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #216 – Spicing-Up the Beginning to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the beginning section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them, as well as how each of them have a unique motion to getting to the second row starting with the IV7

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Tip #214 – Using the Blues Arpeggio

An interesting topic that I found from other composers is the use of the blues arpeggio. It looks something like this:

Just like how you can arpeggiate the chord harmony, the blues arpeggio works great over dominant-seventh chords in the blues format.

Notice that even as you are going down in the arpeggio, the lowered-third comes before the raised-third. This is so you can obtain that classic blues slide sound as well as the microtonal blue note in-between. Of course, this is a preference, not a strict rule.

In addition, just as the chords change in the 12-bar blues format, so will the arpeggiation. It does not stay strictly to the key signature; more so, it is determined by the root of the dominant-seventh chord.

Try practicing with them!

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Tip #204 – Bluesy Vamp

Another vamp chord progression you can use is this:

I – IV7

Some of you might be thinking “but the IV chord isn’t usually a dominant-seventh chord… nor does it resolve to the I.”

Remember this from previous posts: in the twelve-bar blues progression the IV chord resolves more naturally to the I than the V does. Plus, the IV chord harmony appears more frequently than the V chord.

In addition, the IV7 chord provides the b3 scale degree. b3, which is in the blues scale.

Play around with it and see how it works!

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Tip #192 – Understanding a Cliché Blues Ending

While it might be wise to avoid clichés, you can certainly learn a lot from them. Musical clichés are what helps group the idioms of certain genres/styles together. Trying to emulate a particular style might mean using a musical cliché – but adding your own unique twist.

Take for example this bluesy melodic ending over a I7 – V7 – I progression:

Let’s dissect into this.

One thing that pops out in an instance is the use of a chromatic line against the upper tonic drone that leads down towards the fifth of the V chord.

Try that for yourself. Build a chromatic line that alternates in pitch between a drone. Now, lead the chromatic line toward the next chord, and after that to the following chord. Listen to how the contour and dissonances shape the forward moving motion towards a cadence.

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Tip #71 – Understanding Half-Swing

Take a look at the image below:

You might have recognized instantly that the top staff is a notation of straight/even eighths, and that the third staff is of a triplet swing rhythm. Also, you might have figured-out that the last staff at the bottom is a “jagged” and pretty square swinging rhythm.

But what about the second staff??

That is the approximate (and that term is used VERY loosely) of a “half-swing” feel that is roughly in between the straight eighths and common triplet swung eighths.

Be aware; this is a feel for a performer to play. While the notion is good for programming purposes in a DAW, do not ever give someone a piece of sheet music written this way. Simply indicate this feel to a performer, or learn it yourself. You might be surprised as to hose loose and flowing it really is for your composition.


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