12 Bar Blues

There are quite a few variations on the blues, often people will play the I chord for the first 4 bars skipping the IV chord in the second bar. Here are a few popular versions of the blues.

1. Boogie Woogie

2. Sweet Home Chicago by Robert Johnson (in F)

Sweet Home Chicago ala Blues Brothers (in E)

3. Everyday I Have the Blues by Pinetop Sparks
Lyrics http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bbking/everydayihavetheblues.html

Everyday I Have The Blues ala John Mayer

Everyday I Have The Blues ala BB King

Everyday I Have The Blues ala Count Basie Orchestra

Everyday I Have The Blues ala Eric Clapton

4. What’d I Say by Ray Charles (in E)

5. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry (in Bb)

Johnny B. Goode ala Michael J. Fox

6. Killing Floor by Hollin’ Wolf (Blues in A)

Killing Floor ala Hendrix

7. I Feel Good by James Brown

8. Pride and Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughan

9. Rock N’ Roll by Led Zeppelin

10.Batman TV show Theme Song

11. Spiderman Cartoon Theme (in Cmin)
Lyrics http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/spidermanlyrics.html

Picking Exercises Part 1: Using a Pick

Choose a number of notes between 1 and 8 and play it evenly to a metronome on each string in the following order:

#1 E A D G B e B G D A
#2 E D B e G A
#3 E D A G D B G e G B D G A D E A

For example, if I had picked the number 5 and exercise #1, I would play 5 notes on the E string, 5 notes on the A string, 5 notes on the D string and so on.

Playing with a Pick

When using a pick it is important to alternate direction (down, up) when repeating notes on the same string. The most economical way to pick 2 notes on exercise #1 would be to play Down Up on the E A D G B and e strings and then Up Down on the B G D A and E strings if you were to repeat the pattern, which I recommend you do. The pattern will be similar with other even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8). When picking uneven numbers, such as 3 notes per string, the pattern would begin Down Up Down on the E A D G B and e strings and then become Up Down Up on the B G D A and E strings. The pattern would also be similar with other uneven numbers (3, 5, 7).

Notice that when exercise #1 descends (i.e. E A D G B e) each string begins with a down stroke and when it ascends (i.e. e B G D A E) each string begins with an up stroke. This will continue for exercise #2; however now there is string skipping involved. For exercise #3 the pattern is still the same but the direction now changes constantly. If you were to play exercise #3 with 2 notes per string the pattern would begin Down Up on the E and D strings, then Up Down on the A string, then Down Up on the G string, then Up Down on the D string, etc.

The motion with which you would start for any exercise would be dictated by the direction you are going. If you are going to a string above the one you just played (i.e. B string to G string) you would begin with an Up stroke. If you are going to a string below the one you just played (i.e. G string to B string) you would begin with a Down stroke.

Practicing Major Scale Key Signatures

As you begin to expand your repertoire you will be exposed to more and more key signatures. You might start noticing that some keys are more common than others and some styles of music use some keys more than others. Also certain instruments are more commonly played in certain keys than others. For instance Bb instruments tend to prefer the flat keys whereas stringed instruments tend to prefer sharp keys. If you want to be a versatile musician, it is important to master each key signature to the full extent of your instrument.


  1. Practice saying and playing each scale.
  2. Practice them in fourths (C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb/F#, B, E, A, D, G)
  3. Practice them in fifths (C, G, D, A, E, B, F#/Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F)
  4. Practice them in whole steps ascending and descending (C, D, E, F#/Gb, Ab, Bb, C and Db, Eb, F, G, A, B)
  5. Practice them in minor thirds ascending and descending (C, Eb, F#/Gb, A; Db, E, G, Bb and D, F, Ab, B)
  6. Practice them in major thirds ascending and descending (C, E, Ab; Db, F, A; D, F#/Gb and Eb, G, B)
  7. Practice them chromatically ascending and descending (C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B)
  8. Practice them in tritones ascending and descending (C, F#/Gb; Db, G; D, Ab; Eb, A; E, Bb and F, B)

Once you’ve absorb the keys and the sound of changing from one to another it is important to add the element of time to the routine.

Practice the previously mentioned exercises while playing each scale for 4 bars in eighth notes or quarter notes at various tempos while always moving by step ascending and/or descending. Then do it for 2 bars, then one bar, then half a bar.

Try analyzing a piece you like and find what keys the piece explores.

In a basic blues in the key of A for instance, the key would be D major for the first bar, G major for the second bar, then back to D major for two more bars. Then it’s G major for two bars, D major for two bars, A major for one bar, G major for one bar, D major for one bar and then A major for one bar.

Once you’re familiar with each major scales for the tune try playing through each scale in quarter notes and changing keys at the right time while doing only stepwise motion ascending and/or descending. Afterwards try it in eighth notes.

Practicing the Major Scale Key Signatures on the Guitar

On a stringed instrument like the guitar, scales need to be practiced in every position and on every individual string. Here are all the major scales in the open position to get you started.


The Chromatic Scale

The chromatic scale is Western music’s ABCs. It is a symmetrical scale built with twelve consecutive semitones ascending or descending. Most of the instruments we know and use such as the piano keyboard, guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, flute, saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, etc. are equal temperament tuned instruments that utilize the chromatic scale as a basis.

Practicing The Chromatic Scale

Music has become increasingly chromatic over the centuries and that is a trend that doesn’t seem like it will be ending anytime soon. So if you want to keep up with this musical development, it is important to practice the chromatic scale in every way possible to be proficient on your instrument. If we compare music to language, being able to play your chromatic scale is like knowing how to pronounce all the syllables in English.

Chromatic Scale Exercises for the Guitar

If you play the guitar as I do, you should practice the chromatic scale in each position, on each string and in combinations thereof across the fretboard. First you should try playing the chromatic scale in the open position, like so.

Exercise #1

Exercise #2

This slightly modified chromatic scale in the open position doubles the “B” at one point by having it both on the 4th fret of the G string and on the open B string. This is done to continue the symmetry of the picking hand pattern.

The pattern for players that prefer the plectrum is down-up-down-up-down on every string when ascending the scale and up-down-up-down-up when descending the scale. For finger pickers, the right hand pattern is thumb, pinky, ring, middle, then index whether ascending or descending.

Exercise #3

This exercise starts in the fifth position (index on fifth fret) and shifts down a position on each new string as indicated (except for the switch to the B string). For this exercise, alternate pick (alternate down-up) with your right hand the entire time. Finger pickers should practice doing it with two fingers (thumb, index) and four fingers (thumb, ring, middle, index). Please pay attention to the indicated fretting-hand fingering.

Then try it with a triplet feel.

Then a 16th note feel.

Then try different combinations of those rhythms. Play 8th notes ascending then triplets descending, 16th notes ascending then triplets descending, 8th notes ascending then 16th notes descending and so on.

Exercise #4

I like practicing this single string exercise with two different fretting hand fingerings, here’s the first.

Here’s the other.

Make sure to run these on each string and from your lowest fret to your highest fret. You can also practice playing it in one position. This is an exercise that sounds great on any instrument.

Exercise #5

Here’s yet another chromatic exercise I do as part of my warm-up routine. This one is great for practicing string skipping with the picking hand.

Try coming up with your own chromatic scale exercises and patterns. The possibilities are endless. What chromatic exercises do you like to do? How do you practice the chromatic scale on your instrument?