Ukulele 2 – The 12-Bar Blues

Intro to the 12-Bar Blues

  • Video tutorial

  • Ear Training Exercise: The first song you’ll learn to play is Sweet Home Chicago. Take a listen to this arrangement by Eric Clapton. Can you follow the 12-Bar Blues, where it starts, where the line breaks are, and where it “turns around” and starts again?

Song 1: Sweet Home Chicago

  • Video tutorial

Song 2: Down-Hearted Blues

  • Original song: Take a listen to Alberta Hunter as she sings one of the songs she was most known for. Can you hear the 12-Bar Blues pattern? Once you’ve learned the song, you can play along with her!

  • Video tutorial

Song 3: St. Louis Blues

  • Original song: This is the version of the song I used to create our class arrangement. Can you hear the 12-Bar Blues? Listen closely, because there’s a part that deviates from the 12-Bar Blues, too. Enjoy the majestic voice of the incomparable Lady Day …

  • Video tutorial (Basic version)

  • Video tutorial (Full version)

Song 4: Move it On Over

  • Original song: There are many more verses to this song than I included in our class arrangement!

  • Video Tutorial

Song 5: Backwater Blues

  • Play with Bessie: Bessie Smith recorded this song in the Key of A, so you can play right along with her, following the chord chart in your packet.

12-bar blues in modern music

Once you’ve become familiar with the 12-Bar Blues in all these keys, it is likely to become an ear worm for you. See just how well you recognize this pattern by searching for it in the following songs:

Can’t Buy Me Love (Lennon-McCartney, The Beatles)

Tutti Frutti (Little Richard, with Dorothy LaBostrie)

Can’t Let Go (Randy Weeks, Lucinda Williams)

Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley)

Take a listen to these songs from the 1960s and see if you can hear the 12-Bar Blues pattern in them: