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Blues Guitar Lesson: The 12 Bar Blues Progression with Keith Wyatt


One of the most fundamental chord progressions that has shaped a near-endless number of songs in genres ranging from blues to jazz, rock, bluegrass, and beyond is the 12 bar blues. It’s a song form that is deeply rooted in American, and now world, music culture, and is an essential chord structure that every musician should know and explore.


In this blues guitar lesson, critically acclaimed guitarist, former Director of Programs at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, CA, and ArtistWorks master instructor, Keith Wyatt, walks us through the basics of the 12 bar blues structure. He highlights pivotal guitar chords and fingerings for the progression that translate across the neck and discusses introductory blues improvisational techniques that can be employed over this foundational song form.


“Blues has a form, a way of arranging the chords, that is stylistically called the 12 bar blues,” Keith explains. “The 12 bar blues songwriting method was invented and began evolving around the beginning of the 20th century, and is ingenious and fundamental to blues music.”


The 12 bar blues can be broken down into three sections, with each section consisting of four bars, or measures. The melody played over every 12 bar blues is arranged within each of these three sections in a very specific way. The song’s melody is divided into two sub-sections within each of the progression’s three overarching sections that manifest in the form of a musical call and response. This can feel mathematical and confusing, but the concept becomes instantly apparent in a musical context.


“The way blues songs are written is such that they have a call and a response,” Keith explains. “In each phrase, the musician says something, and then provides a musical answer back.”


It is crucial for beginner and advanced guitarists alike to review the 12 bar blues chord structure. For beginner guitar players, this is a form that you’ll want to practice thoroughly and internalize. For more advanced students, it never hurts to revisit more basic concepts that relate to this fundamental progression, like crafting musical and sophisticated call and response phrases.


To learn more about the structure of a 12 bar blues and Keith’s approach to call and response improvisation, dive into this online guitar lesson from Keith Wyatt:


The 12 Bar Blues Progression with Keith Wyatt:



Have you always wanted to learn how to play the blues guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Keith Wyatt, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Keith’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques and tunes. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as guitarists and musicians!


Try out some free sample music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



ArtistWorks Music Series Podcast—Exploring the Styles of Blues: Keith Wyatt 

Blues Slide Guitar: A New Lessons Series with Keith Wyatt

New Course: Announcing “Blues Rock Guitar with Jared James Nichols”




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