n this lesson we will be exploring blues piano or more specifically the 12 bar blues progression for piano. We will be working in 4/4 time which means that each “bar” or “measure” will have 4 beats. This gives the 12 bar blues progression a total of 48 beats (12 X 4 = 48). Briefly, so as not to get confusing, a beat for our purposes is one tap of the foot. This would give you 4 foot taps for each bar or measure. It goes like this…1,2,3,4 (one bar or measure), 1,2,3,4 (our second bar or measure), 1,2,3,4 (third bar or measure), etc. for 12 bars. Notice we start over after 4 beats. We do not count 1,2,3,4…5,6,7,8, we only give each bar or measure 4 beats or foot taps.
Blues piano is based upon the I-IV-V chord progression. If you have studied our lesson on chord progressions you know this means you will be using the 1st, 4th, and 5th scale tone chords of a major scale.
In the key of “C” this would give you a C major chord (I), F major chord (IV), and G major chord (V). This is based upon the student using “triad or 3-note scale tone chords”.
However, in blues piano we will be adding a lowered or flatted 7th (seventh) tone to each major chord making them 7th or dominant 7th chords.
This lowered 7th tone or note is called a “blues” note. Using the key of “C” this would give you C7 (notes are C,E,G, and Bb) as the I chord, F7 (notes are F,A,C, and Eb) as the IV chord, and G7 (notes are G,B,D, and F) as the V chord.
For our basic blues piano we have established the amount of bars or measures to use (12), the beats per bar or measure (4), and the chords we will be using (C7, F7, and G7). Now it is time to specify how many bars or measures each chord will be played.
We shall begin with C7 and play this chord for 4 bars or measures. So, play or strike the C7 chord and tap with your foot 4 beats.
You will do this 4 times for a total of 16 beats. Then, play the F7 chord for 2 bars or measures. Play the F7 chord and tap with your foot 4 beats. Y
ou will do this twice (2 times) for a total of 8 beats. Now, go back to C7 chord for 2 more bars or measures. Play the C7 chord and tap with your foot 4 beats. Do this 2 times for a total of 8 beats.
Now for our grand finish. Play the G7 chord for 1 bar or measure. Play the chord and tap with your foot 4 beats. Move down to the F7 chord for 1 bar or measure. Play the chord and tap with your foot 4 beats.
Finish with the C7 chord for 2 bars or measures. Play the C7 chord and tap with your foot 4 beats. Do this twice for a total of 8 beats.
You are now playing basic blues piano! I have provided a graphic showing the chords written above the beats you will tap out.
Work on moving from one chord to the next smoothly and without any interruption in your tapping out the beats. And of course, practice playing this blues progression in all 12 keys!
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