Play the 12 Bar Blues As a Beginner Piano Student!

12 Bar Blues For Beginner Piano Students

Are you in awe of blues and jazz players? I’ve always been impressed with how effortless it seems to sound so complex! However, the 12 bar blues gives us a great place to start.

If you are just clicking on this article and have never played piano before, just wait a moment. I would recommend you read the articles on putting Major and minor chords together (part 1 and part 2) so you have a better understanding of what is covered here.

Do You Need To Be A Great Piano Player?

I was a classically trained piano player. This meant that the majority of my piano education focused on playing notes on the page … specifically classical music. This all changed when, as a teen, I joined a group that played music in all sorts of ways. It opened my eyes to some of the many incredible ways to play the piano!

Do you need to be an advanced piano player to play the 12 bar blues? No!

But, you do need to have an understanding of chords. If you are just starting out, and with the right piano teacher, you can begin learning these much faster than I did. For example, with teen and adult beginners I tend to start these in the first few lessons. For younger students, it all depends on their finger dexterity, but we often start within the first year.

What is the 12-Bar Blues Chord Progression?

There are two parts to this question.

First, a chord progression is a series of chords. These chords often are related to each other in some way which is what makes it sound good to your ear.

Secondly, the 12 bar blues got the name because it lasts for 12 bars (measures). Each bar is typically 4 beats.

What is the chord progression?


I would recommend watching the video below (or click here) to see this and the following tips in action.

3 Ways To Add Rhythm To The 12 Bar Blues

While playing the chords is a good place to start, adding rhythm ups the level of your piano playing quickly.

  1. Left hand plays broken chords. Right hand holds the chord for 4 beats.
  2. Left hand plays broken chords again. Right hand hold the chord for 2 beats, then repeats.
  3. Add a little syncopation (off the beat) to your playing.

To see and hear these in action, watch the video above (or click here).

Add Melody To The 12 Bar Blues

You are going to use a partial Blues Scale: C, Eb, F, F# G. Go up and down as you play the chords in the left hand.

By changing the order or repeating notes you will create a unique melody all of your own! Feel free to repeat the chord progression as many times as you want as you create your song!

To see and hear this in action, watch the video above (or click here).

12 Bar Blues For Beginner Piano Students

Here’s a quick review of the 12-Bar blues:

  • Chord progression is only 3 chords in a particular order. (hold up white board).
  • Adding rhythm can be as simple as adding broken chords (one note at a time)
  • Adding melody: Keep it simple with repeating notes and going up/down.

Want to know the bonus tip I tell all my students when improvising? If a note doesn’t sound great, just go up or down until you get to one that does sound good to you!

What was your favourite part of playing the 12-Bar Blues?

If you like this approach to learning piano, click to set up an interview to join our online piano studio!

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