Blues harmonies

Blues Harmony

In this article we will take a look at blues harmony. If you want to learn more about music analysis, we would recommend reading this article.

Blues harmony is analyzed using roman numeral analysis, and has some specific characteristics:

  • Blue notes (In the melodies, not in the chords)
  • Deceptive cadences and descending fourths
  • Liberal use of dominant seventh chords
  • The chord pattern is often a 12-bar blues

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12-Bar Blues

A 12-bar blues follows a very specific pattern which you should know by heart. This will allow you to say "Hey, let's play a blues!" to your bandmates, and then you can easily jam and improvice because everyone knows the right chords to play. With roman numeral analysis, a 12-bar blues looks like this (1 bar for each chord):

I    I    I    I

IV   IV   I    I

V    IV   I    I/V (The last bar can be either a I or a V)

The interval IV - I is a descending fifth.

The interval V - IV is a deceptive cadence.

As mentioned previously, it is very common to use dominant seventh chords. A 12-bar blues in the key of C could therefore look like this:

C7    C7    C7    C7

F7    F7    C7    C7

G7    F7    C7    C7/G7

Genres With Blues Harmony

As the name implies, blues harmony is the foundation of blues music. However, it is also commonly used in rock and jazz music, even though it may not strictly follow the 12-bar blues pattern.

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