Expanding on the 12 Bar Blues (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Expanding on the 12 Bar Blues

In lesson 17, Matt reviews and expands on the jazz version of the 12 bar blues form.

Taught by Matt Brown in Jazz Guitar with Matt seriesLength: 23:20Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (08:22) Introduction Lesson Objectives

Add color to the basic "jazz" form of the 12 bar blues progression by adding altered dominant chords, diminished chords, and the turnback progression.

Chord Voicings

Chord charts are not included in the "Supplemental Content" section of this lesson. All chord voicings discussed in this lesson have been covered in the following past lessons:

1. Set 1 Voicings - Lessons 1-2

2. Set 2 Voicings - Lessons 2-3

3. Set 3 Voicings - Lesson 15

Rootless Set 1 and Set 2 Voicings

Remember that the low root note of set 1 and Set 2 voicings can be omitted when comping with the Charleston rhythm.

Most Basic Form of the 12 Bar Blues

The chord changes listed below are found in the most stripped down version of a 12 bar blues progression in the key of F major. You have most likely learned these chord changes in Phase 2 blues lessons taught by Hawkeye Herman, DJ Phillips, Eric Madis, and Mary Flower. The most basic form of the blues is seldom used in jazz music.

Bars 1-4: I chord (F)
Bars 5-6: IV Chord (Bb)
Bars 7-8: I Chord (F)
Bar 9: V Chord (C)
Bar 10: IV Chord (Bb)
Bar 11: I Chord (F)
Bar 12: V Chord (C)

The chords in this form of the blues progression can be played as basic triads. Or, each chord can be played as a dominant seventh voicing.

Note: The I chord can be played in measure 12 instead of V. The V7 chord is typically used, because it creates a stronger resolution back to the beginning of the form.


Watch as Matt demonstrates this form of the 12 bar blues with the Freddie Green Rhythm at 02:05.

Basic Form of the "Jazz 12 Bar Blues"

Essentially a jazz blues takes the original or basic 12 bar form, and adds some additional chords. Also, existing chords are frequently altered to add more color. These additions and alterations give the 12 bar blues the characteristic harmonic sound of jazz/swing music.

For the sake of comparison, let's take a look at the chord changes for the basic 12 bar form and the jazz blues.

A. Basic 12 Bar Form

Bars 1-4: I7
Bars 5-6: IV7
Bars 7-8: I7
Bar 9: V7
Bar 10: IV7
Bar 12: I7

B. 12 Bar Jazz Blues

Bar 1: I7
Bar 2: IV7
Bars 3-4: I7
Bars 5-6: IV7
Bar 7: I7
Bar 8: VI7
Bar 9: ii7
Bar 10: V7
Bar 11: I7
Bar 12: V7

Make a careful note of the differences between the basic form of the jazz blues and the most basic form of the blues progression. As you can see, the jazz version is much busier as a result of more frequent chord changes.

Turnback Progression

Bars 7-11 feature what is called a "turnback" progression, or I VI ii V I. This is the second most common chord progression in jazz next to the turnaround.

12 Bar Jazz Blues Demonstration

Watch as Matt demonstrates the basic jazz blues with Set 1 voicings and the Freddie Green rhythm at 04:38.

Play Along

Play the basic jazz blues with Matt in F at 06:18. Use Set 1 voicings the first time through the form. Then, use Set 2 voicings. During the third pass through the form, make sure that you mix up the available voicing options and keep the comping interesting.

For additional practice, play the Charleston rhythm with Set 3 voicings while Matt plays Freddie Green.

Notice how Matt does not play the IV chord in bar 2 during the last pass through the form. This is a common technique that can be used to add variety when playing multiple choruses of a blues progression. You must make sure that the I chord is consonant with the melody in bar 2. If not, the IV chord must still be played. When comping for a solo, this substitution idea can be incorporated at will.
Chapter 2: (08:53) Chords in the Key of F Bebop or "Fancy" Jazz Blues

Bar 1: I7
Bar 2: IV7
Bar 3: I7
Bar 4: optional altered dominant I chord: F7(#9), F7(b9), F7(#11), F7(#5), etc.
Bar 5: IV7
Bar 6: optional altered dominant IV chord: Bb7(#9), Bb7(b9), Bb7(#11), Bb7(#5), etc. or, play the #ivo7 chord (Bo7)
Bar 7: I7
Bar 8: VI 7 (This chord can be played as an altered dominant if the altered extensions work with the melody.)
Bar 9: ii7
Bar 10: V7
Bars 11-12 Turnback Progression (I7 - VI7 - ii7 - V7)

Note: The altered dominant chord options cannot be used if their extensions clash with the melody. However, they can always be used when comping for a soloist.

Discussion of Jazz Styles

The basic form of the jazz blues is most often used in classic swing and cool tunes. The fancy version is most frequently used when playing bebop tunes. Bebop features more rapid chord changes and chromaticism.

Note: Additional information about the stylistic characteristics of the major jazz genres will soon be added to the articles section of the site. This section can be accessed through the "Articles" button on the left hand side of the homepage.

Practice Time

Play through the "fancy" version of the blues progression in the key of F. Practice with the metronome set to beats 2 and 4. Vary the voicing options each time you play through the form.

Play Along

When you feel ready, return to the lesson video and play the "fancy" jazz blues along with Matt at 07:30. Keep in mind that you will not always use the same voicings. This is perfectly acceptable and expected since both of you are improvising.
Chapter 3: (06:04) Chords in the Key of B Flat The keys of Bb and F are most common for jazz tunes that follow the basic 12 bar form. Keys that contain flats are the most common keys used in jazz composition. Although these keys are more difficult for guitarists and pianists to play in, they are far easier for horns. Since horns are the most prevalent melodic instruments in the jazz genre, most compositions are written in flat keys. The most common keys are Bb, Eb, F, Ab, and Db. Consequently, these keys should receive more practice time than key signatures that contain multiple sharps.

Fancy Jazz Blues in Bb

Bar 1: I7
Bar 2: IV7
Bar 3: I7
Bar 4: optional altered dominant I chord: B7(#9), B7(b9), B7(#11), B7(#5), etc.
Bar 5: IV7
Bar 6: optional altered dominant IV chord: Eb7(#9), Eb7(b9), Eb7(#11), Eb7(#5), etc. or, play the #ivo7 chord (Eo7)
Bar 7: I7
Bar 8: VI 7 (This chord can be played as an altered dominant if the altered extensions work with the melody.)
Bar 9: ii7
Bar 10: V7
Bars 11-12 Turnback Progression (I7 - VI7 - ii7 - V7)

Watch and Learn

Watch as Matt plays the fancy jazz blues in the key of Bb at 02:58.

Practice Time

Practice all three forms of the blues progression in the key of Bb with a metronome. Play through the form at a wide variety of tempo ranges.

Play Along

When you feel ready, play the "fancy" form of the jazz blues with Matt at 04:11. Remember to keep things interesting by varying the chord voicings. Also, do not limit yourself to one area of the neck when comping! Feel free to utilize the whole range of the guitar.

Preview of Next Lesson

In Lesson 17, you will learn how to play the "fancy" form of the blues progression with the Charleston rhythm.

Video Subtitles / Captions


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Jazz Guitar with Matt

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this lesson set, Matt will teach you everything you need to know to fluently play jazz guitar.

Intro to JazzLesson 1

Intro to Jazz

Check out this lesson to learn some basic jazz theory & chord voicings.

Length: 31:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Voicings & MelodiesLesson 2

Voicings & Melodies

Learn some more advanced chord voicings as well as the Charleston rhythm.

Length: 19:13 Difficulty: 3.0 FREE
Set II VoicingsLesson 3

Set II Voicings

Learn a handful of Set II voicings & round out your knowledge of the basic jazz chords.

Length: 27:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Applying Chords / Solo IdeasLesson 4

Applying Chords / Solo Ideas

Apply the chords you've learned & experiment with some solo ideas.

Length: 32:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Scales and Chords TogetherLesson 5

Scales and Chords Together

Learn which scales work with which jazz chord voicings.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Circle of FifthsLesson 6

Circle of Fifths

Matt sheds some light on the circle of fifths.

Length: 28:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Proper PracticingLesson 7

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Proper Practicing Part 2Lesson 8

Proper Practicing Part 2

Here's the second installment of Matt's proper practicing lesson.

Length: 32:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Physicalities of PlayingLesson 9

Physicalities of Playing

Learn how to avoid carpal tunnel and other hand injuries by using proper technique.

Length: 46:19 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
All of MeLesson 10

All of Me

Matt Brown teaches the jazz standard "All of Me."

Length: 31:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lead and ScalesLesson 11

Lead and Scales

Matt Brown explains how to improvise over the changes to "All of Me."

Length: 7:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Estudio No. 1.Lesson 12

Estudio No. 1.

Matt Brown begins talking about solo arrangements in this lesson. He teaches Carcassi's "Estudio No. 1" as an introduction to this concept.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Reviewing the ii V I ProgressionLesson 13

Reviewing the ii V I Progression

Matt Brown returns to his Jazz series with a review lesson. He applies the standard ii V I progression to the circle of fifths.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Turnback ProgressionLesson 14

Turnback Progression

In lesson 14, Matt discusses the turnback progression in the jazz style.

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Set Three VoicingsLesson 15

Set Three Voicings

Matt brown discusses and demonstrates the set three voicings used in jazz guitar.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Jazz Solo ArrangementLesson 16

Jazz Solo Arrangement

In this lesson, Matt demonstrates how to practice jazz solo arrangements by taking a look at "Here's That Rainy Day."

Length: 35:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Expanding on the 12 Bar BluesLesson 17

Expanding on the 12 Bar Blues

In lesson 17, Matt reviews and expands on the jazz version of the 12 bar blues form.

Length: 23:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Adding VoicesLesson 18

Adding Voices

In this lesson, Matt adds to your voicing repertoire while playing the Charleston rhythm.

Length: 14:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Key of B Flat MajorLesson 19

Key of B Flat Major

Matt Brown talks about lead options when playing a blues in B flat major.

Length: 23:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Key of FLesson 20

Key of F

Matt Brown provides instruction and examples of playing jazz heads in the key of F. Once again, all examples follow the 12 bar blues form.

Length: 18:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Jazz Heads in B FlatLesson 21

Jazz Heads in B Flat

Matt Brown takes another look at blues heads in the key of B flat. In this lesson, he covers a head by Thelonious Monk.

Length: 10:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tools for Solo ArrangementsLesson 22

Tools for Solo Arrangements

Matt Brown takes a look at a solo arrangement and provides thoughts and tools necessary to complete this type of guitar playing.

Length: 23:13 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Introduction to Bossa NovaLesson 23

Introduction to Bossa Nova

Matt Brown starts breaking down the rhythmic tendencies and patterns to the Brazilian Bossa Nova style of playing.

Length: 17:56 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Blue Bossa #1Lesson 24

Blue Bossa #1

In lesson 24 of his Jazz series, Matt takes a look at the melody to Blue Bossa.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Blue Bossa #2Lesson 25

Blue Bossa #2

Matt Brown takes a look at the available chord voicings for Blue Bossa.

Length: 10:39 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Matt Brown

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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