Playing the blues

Blues Ukulele

The blues has arguably been one of the most influential genres of music in the past century. The chants, spirituals, and songs of African-American slaves in the 19th century gave birth to the genre, while descendants of slaves carried their legacy into recorded form in the early 1900s.

When people think of the blues, they typically think of a man with a raspy voice singing and playing along with a guitar. While this is a common expression of the blues, it’s not unlikely that in the early to mid 20th century people would sing and play the blues on their ukulele too.
The blues are characterized by simplicity, repetition, rhythm, and pure emotion. Today, the most popular forms of the blues is 12 Bar blues. Most rock music is based on this form. For readers that have a bit of a musical background, you would know that this common blues format is a I IV V pattern. Basically start at any note and go up or down 4 notes and up or down 1 more for the 5.

Below is some blues chord progressions

C F7 G7

C# F#7 G#7

D G7 A7

Eb Ab7 Bb7

E A7 B7

F Bb7 C7

F# B7 C#7

G C7 D7

G# C#7 D#7

A D7 E7

Bb Eb7 F7

B E7 F#7

So if you wanted to play a 12 bar blues in the key of G it would look like this

|G |G |G |G |
|C7 |C7 |G |G |
|D7 |C7 |G |G |

Besides from 12 bar blues, which as the name suggests is a pattern 12 bars in length, we also have 16 bar, and 8 bar patterns. Although there are many other bar length patterns in blues music, these would have to be the most common. Back when I was a professional musician (playing drums and percussion) I used to play lots of jazz and blues. I used to play some quite obscure forms and patterns. One that comes to mind is 13 bar blues. This is an old folk blues form.

Most of our readers would have come across 12 bar blues patterns by now, so I have decided to include a basic 8 bar blues pattern for something different to have a go out.

8 Bar Blues

Not all blues songs are arranged into 12 bar sections, many are 8 bar progressions. Here is one example
Count one 4/4 bar for each chord except where 2 chords are included in bars. count these 1 2 and change 3 4 and change. For example | A A F#m F#m |

| A | A7 | D7 | Adim | A F#m | Bm7 E7 | A D7 | A E7+5 |

If you need to know the fingerings for the different chords a good chord chart is here –

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