Watch the Week 5: Basic Contemporary 12 Bar Blues online guitar lesson by Bob Wolfman from Essential Guide To Jazz Blues Comping

Chart for Standard 12 Bar Blues (With No Substitutions)

So first we'll do a little analysis of the first chart. Again, it's basically a standard 12 bar blues for the first 7 measures, but then we break away a little for the remaining five measures. As we look in a bit close we see that we use a D7 chord which functions as the V7 of II, which resolves to G-7 (II-7) in measure 9. In the tenth measure, we have C7 which functions as the actual V7 of F (V7 of I), and of course it resolves to the F7 (I7 chord). In the last two measures, we have pretty simple "turnaround" from the F7 (I7) up to Ab7 (bIII7), down to G7 (II7), and then finally down to Gb7(bII7). Keep in mind that this is only one of dozens of possible "turnaround" combinations. For example, we could use a I - VI - II - V turnaround for the last two measures. We'll not delve into the subject of turnarounds for now though, as we'll cover that in another workshop. Your homework assignment is to play your own substitution chords/ideas along with the jam track. You should always write down diagrams with the appropriate chord symbol when you come up with pleasing ideas and combinations. This should be a very rewarding process and it will get better over time.

Chart With Substitutions

Now, for the more colorful chart with all those "juicy" substitutions. Keep in mind, for those of you that are pretty new to the subject, and the actual playing/application of all these chord forms, aside from getting comfortable with the chord fingerings, which is obviously quite important, remember the music theory part is actually quite simple. We're basically adding 9ths, (also using lowered and raise 9ths), same with 5ths and 13ths. Notice the usage of these tensions and altered tensions occurs on all three chord types; major, minor and dominants. In summary, we took the basic simple mother/parent chord for each measure and added harmonic richness/color to each chord by adding tensions. In the future, as you experiment and become more and more proficient with the use of chord substitutions, you'll inevitably discover even richer, and more interesting combinations that what I've presented here in these workshop lessons...well, that's the objective, right? I strongly encourage you to listen, listen, listen to as many great chordal accompanists as possible...all the time, and not just guitarists, but piano players as well. This will not only serve to help you develop a vocabulary, but also to see similarities and differences between many great artists in this genre. If you're having a hard time with any particular forms or measures, just slow down, take your time! Drill the difficult form by itself and then in context with the chord before and just after. Just drill one or only two measures at a time. This always works very well with my students, particularly the one's that are very hard and overly demanding of themselves. Keep at it, and it will all come together sooner than you might imagine! Get out your crayons kids and start coloring!