The 12 Bar Blues “In A”

In this lesson taken from the Blues Guitar Unleashed DVD course, we’ll cover a 12 bar blues which consists of 3 chords called the I chord, IV chord, and V chord. To explain this concept further, we have to step away from the blues for a minute.

The concept of a I chord, IV chord, and V chord is simple, but it comes from a major scale, not a blues scale.

Simply put, if you build a chord off of the first note in the major scale, it’s called a I chord. Similarly, if you build a chord off of the 4th note in the major scale, it’s called the IV chord, and if you build a chord off of the 5th note in the major scale, it’s called the V chord.

To find the I, IV, and V chords in any key on your guitar:

  • I chord: Find the note on the 6th string that matches the key you’re in. In the key of A, you would find the A on the 5th fret of the 6th string.
  • IV chord: Use the same fret as the I chord, but on the 5th string. In the key of A, the IV chord would be D on the 5th fret of the 5th string.
  • V chord: Go up 2 frets from the IV chord. In the key of A, the V chord is E on the 7th fret of the 5th string.

Check out this video for more info and a demonstration… FOR BEST RESULTS, GIVE THIS PAGE A FEW MINUTES TO LOAD…

Let’s look at the chords from the video…

The D7 and E7 shown here are one of my personal favorite chord shapes. Be sure to notice that the D7 has the 3rd finger on the 5th fret (as shown) but the E7 has the 3rd finger on the 7th fret… though it looks lower. Notice I’ve written “5fr” next to the top line to indicate that is the 5th fret.

Of course, feel free to use the “little chord” version of the A7 if you prefer it when you play over the jam track. If you don’t know what that is yet, don’t worry… we’ll be getting to those soon.

Here is the song for this lesson written out for you.

As always it is SO IMPORTANT to play along with the video. So here’s a slow version play along for you to get started

And the full speed version when you’re ready…

Have fun and I hope you enjoy this lesson. This 12 bar blues works for about 95% of all blues tunes. So ANY TIME someone calls out “Blues in (insert a key)” you’ll know exactly what the 3 chords you need are!

As I mentioned before, this is taken from the Blues Guitar Unleashed DVDs. If you’ve been enjoying the last few lessons and you’ve gotten some good information out of them… I’d really recommend you check out the DVD course. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.

Downloads For This Lesson

You may need to right-click the following links and select Save Link As to download the file to your computer

Leave A Reply (101 comments so far)

  1. williambuchanan

    thanks a good easy no hurry pace to follow , and well laid out easy to follow

  2. roger

    call me whatever,but i never knew those chords existed, ive been in the woods way to long this is very helpful to me ,, thanx agian…im not worthy,, im not worthy,, awsome

  3. Neil Smith

    Thanks for this lesson, as I somehow never seemed to learn this very basic concept, and for the almost daily e-mail updates as they are keeping me on track.

  4. Skip

    Hey, this is really good stuff. I consider myself a beginner, although with a good basic understanding of music so as I wait for my Blues Guitar Unleashed complete DVD course to arrive these lessons and instructions are awwesome. Thanks Griff and thanks to my wife whom tunred me on to your web site.

  5. Derek

    Thanks for this lesson! Its opened a door for me in an easy way!

  6. Greg Stanfield

    Thanks Griff,your lessons are really cool,especially this one,very informative.

  7. steve higgins

    this is a very instructional video starting me out

  8. Dave

    I like your tutorials, but they are just a step or two ahead of me. No idea what a root note is, couldn’t tell you the difference between the A, B, C, D, etc key from my car key. In the tab, don’t know what the ‘/. means or the / does, not to mention the ‘V’ underneath with the table looking symbol (think it’s the strumming pattern). Really like all the downloadable materials including the background jam, and especially the slow versions. Thanks.

  9. These lessons and how you present them are easy to follow and understand…I’m sure you have a lot of players including myself, really enjoying the guitar more.

  10. David

    Thank you Griff, your teaching is great and easy to learn theory.

  11. Mike

    Griff, Your lessons are very clear to follow, shame you weren’t around in the late 50’s early 60’s

  12. I love your videos. Sometimes when I’m not working my regular job as a realtor, I check out an email that you send and always learn something. As soon as I get more time to devote to music on a regular schedule, I want to buy the DVD series and really get into increasing my guitar skills. Keep up the good work.

    Jackson Lee

  13. Thank you for taking the time to put these videos out there for us. I had some skills already, but I have learned a lot of new sounds from these videos regardless. Just wanted you to know that they are appreciated. My teacher just told me he was gonna show me some 12 bar blues, so now I got a leg up on him for the next lesson. 🙂


  14. Anthony

    Excellent lessons. The way you express things is great and the result is that long standing “mysteries” are being cleared up.

  15. James Graul

    Nice Lesson. Keep up the good work!

  16. Great job, can’t. Wait to get my kit in the mail so I can really get started.

  17. love it

  18. James smart

    Thanks for the lesson, very helpful…

  19. HI GRIFF;
    AS Usual,COOL STUFF! Easy and Sounds GREAT,PLUS,VERY EASY To play leads with!
    KEEP Em COMIN’!! (At Least until I can afford the DVD Lessons!!)

  20. Rob.

    Great stuff Griff. Thanks for the tuition. Excellent as always.

  21. wayne

    i m really a raw beginner,with fingers made of stone…but i m trying. i m no spring chicken , but i want to learn at least some of it .thank god your there griff lol ,i m still on the first 6 chords…but i m determined.when i get them down and can get my hands on your course, in the not to distant future. so bear with us slow guys and ya never know…we might surprise ya thanks again for all your effort and what you do

  22. juan benavidez

    Thanks Griff. boy I really can relate with wayne the fingers don’t always work as well as we would like.
    but glad that others share their concerns helps me to keep going.

  23. Hey Griff thanks for the great lessons. I am a great-grandmother who tried 30 years ago to play guitar. Switched to five string banjo for awhile and then nothing for years and years. Decided to help a couple of grandchildren with some guitar stuff…just general knowledge and decided to give it another try myself. Never tried the blues before but I am totally in love with the 12 bar blues. Thanks to you I am really getting inspired. I’ll b e getting your DVD soon I’m sure.
    Keep up the good work. Your lessons are so easy to follow, you do a great job.
    Thanks again Donna

  24. Bob Savage

    Hi Griff,

    Thanks, I really enjoy your blues lead solo lessons on the net.

    I was always shown to play a twelve bar, as shown in song books that I have had for years, starting with the major chord and leading, optionally, to the 7th (in the 4th bar) and then to the 4 chord, rarely starting with the 7th. I learnt this a lot of years ago, but have noticed that younger players I see on the net now tend start in the 7th ??? And, to me, it does not always sound correct to start in the 7th ???

    Regards, Bob

  25. chucker

    hey griff i hope to find you well iv,e just checked out your 12 bar blue,s and really enjoyed a metal head and i find this helpfull in understanding other type,s of music.

  26. Gene shaner

    All ur teaching tips r great! What’s best way to learnn how to hear chord changes to solo over! Does the song have to b memorized or is the 12 bar form all u need to study?

  27. Rob Wilhelm

    Hey Griff,

    Love your work man. You have rekindled my passion for guitar and dragging some real bad ass blues outta me. Love the way im progressing, i love how it encompasses all my music and adds flair to my rock as well as i now feel confident to really solo out there with anyone.


    To all people round the world who love guitar. give Griff a shot. worth every minute spent and then some

  28. Bob Evans

    I don`t have a problem with the E7 & D7 just like playing a C major or C7 formation, just up the neck the trick is trying to relax the fingers enough to move from the barred A7 to the D7 & back again.

  29. Adam. C

    You just cleared up a lot of questions for me. Thanks!

  30. joe willis

    Nice! Keep em comin’!

  31. Lonnie Tiner

    Thanks for the play-along.

  32. les

    hi griff not complaning im loveing the lesons but icant find the d7 th in in any of my cord charts is that won a moverbull cord ? glad theirs a lot of old retird blokes over 60 learning i dont feel like the only old fart here most of the retired here just lay down and wait to die ovre here i cant find anywon to jam with thanks for the lesons ide be lost without them les

  33. I like when the theory we are taught lines up quickly with what we are doing on the practical side of things. The theory knowledge we gain is immediately put to practice in our playing. This was one such example. It’s great teaching style, and makes for a better understanding among the students. Thanks to Griff.

  34. Daniel


  35. Daniel

    Griff really enjoy your teaching.
    I have not played a guitar in over thirty years. So I’m a little
    Rusty. Can’t get your CD just yet but looking forward too
    getting them in a few weeks
    Thanks again Daniel

  36. Phil

    Griff: As a very new beginner your explanations are easy to follow. Another great lesson!

  37. Gary Cost

    John Lennon of The Beatles used those ‘baseball grip’ chords alot, as you can see in many early videos.
    Thanks Griff!


  39. Paul Troalic

    Great stuff Griff. I’m being taught face to face locally but I really find your emails very helpful and easy to follow. When I’ve run out of cash for lessons I’m with you that’s for sure. Enjoy being on your mailing list.

  40. Thanks for the cool guitar chords and rhythm timing that I will be using from now on etc
    Hope you enjoy this…reel25 is the newest reel.
    Thanks again, Griff, you rock!

  41. ruth blizzard

    Injoyn the lessons. Can u help me learn Gospel runs on bass

  42. just great thanks

  43. Joseph W Chu

    Excellent! Thanks!

  44. When you play the rythme, you can almost hear what the lead could sound like, at least in my head I can. If I could only play the lead on the guitar. In time, it will come.
    Thanks Griff

  45. austin

    My favorite so far

  46. That was great, man

  47. lou watson

    Thanks for the lesson Griff. I just turned 69 so even I consider myself a pretty old dude if not actually a defunct old geezer, Anyway, though I still am a long way from getting your ‘4 note solo’ down, this 12 bar chord lesson went quite well. In case I ever get the chance to play with someone who knows blues stuff, I might stand a chance of understanding what is expected of me – that is, if I continue to work through the material you are kind enough to send my way. Thanks again for all this good stuff. By the way, you remind me very much of my highly esteemed Tai Chi teacher though you are perhaps quite a bit younger…

  48. David Bradford

    Very nice.

  49. dale

    thanks Griff. ever brick in the foundation helps. like many of your more mature followers (Not to Old) that is. I can really start to see the blues structure coming together. It is amazing what 15 to 20 minutes a day will do for you. thanks again.


  50. Ernie Rooney

    Dear Griff
    I am really into Classic Country Music..Do you have anything in this line?

  51. Emmanuel Macaraeg

    Thanks. This is really getting exciting.

  52. Mike Bagley

    Griff- Thanks for all the great tips and introductions to the blues. I am an old classic rock guy and a self taught rhythm player. Meaning I mess around in the comfort of my house and play my classic rock rhythm strumming major open chords and the major bar chords. Although I can entertain myself for a few hours, I feel stuck. I have not learned to tab or read music but I can transpose chords from one key to another to find a range I can howl to and to find major chords that get me through the song and my wife will stick her head in the door once in about 20 songs and say, “oh, I recognize that one”. She’s not one for stroking the ego!

    Sorry- I digress! After hearing more and more of your mini lessons, I am growing more and more fond of the blues and am really understanding how much blues influence there is in classic rock. I look forward to more of your lessons and will try and pull the trigger on one of your DVD packages soon. Which leads me to my two questions:

    1. I have an acoustic guitar and wanted your recommendation on which would be the best DVD series to start with for a beginner blues man on acoustic.
    2. I noticed you play a Strat on your videos and the young (the kid inside me) side of me has always wanted an axe! I love the Strat and have always wanted one since I was a kid $$$$$$$. I thought about buying one until I had watched several of your videos and then I picked up a Gibson Les Paul and fell in love with the more diversified sounds that it produced and felt that it might be a better blues guitar. I know that this question is subject to debate based on a lot of different question is personal subjection! What is your take on the two axes?

    Thank you,


  53. Don Bender

    Awesome. Loved it. Thanks

  54. bob

    simple but nice…slow enough so I get it…thanks

  55. david millet

    thanks griff ! don’t know how you found me, but glad you did. I have been playing around with guitar since I was 6. pretty good to be self taught. just really never took lead serous. but with your lessons I have really started trying. you make it so easy to learn, and lots of fun. will get your dvds soon so I can be the guitar player I have always wanted to be. thanks very much

  56. jim pyron

    As usual Griff is patient and clear as a bell with his instructions.

  57. Frank

    Thank you for another great lesson, I appreciate your free lessons very much, saving my pennies to buy your course. Again thank you very much!

  58. Tony Duncan

    As soon as I get a few bucks up I will be ordering this course. Thanks Griff for sharing a few teasers, I am looking forward to having the whole thing. I have beat around on a few old cheap guitars for the last 50 years, I think it’s time I learned how to play one and I know who will be teaching me………….

  59. Hi Griff Really like what you do don’t stop sending lessons love it
    I’m from Ontario Canada I’m 58 been playin since
    I was 13 had a stroke 15 months ago affecting my left
    arm and hand just started playin again 6 months ago and
    your lessons have helped me remember things I forgot
    Hope to hear back from you Good Job !!!!!!!

  60. Ivan Gough Ivan Gough

    Thanks mate being a pensioner and wanting to learn. your lessons are a godsend , one day I’m looking forward to getting your dvds but until then I will keep looking out for your email s regards ivan

  61. keep it real I am going to get the 144 blues soon stay in touch a major minor

  62. Lawrence kirby

    great teacher and clarity much appreciated,:)

  63. Scott

    Thinks for the lessons Griff. I am not a beginner but have not played the blues to any extent, this is really helping with theory and expanding my repertoire and knowledge of the neck.

  64. Mars

    Super helpful .thank you!

  65. Very good teacher, easy to follow. I think I’m even learning how to read music!
    “WOO WHO”

  66. Arthur Thorpe

    A very clear and easy to understand lesson. As you say it’s not rocker science.
    I want/need to learn scales, arpegios from scratch ( basics ) to enable me to improvise jazz. At present I only play chords. Which of your couses would you recommend?
    I am not the quickest learner!

  67. Carmine

    Thank You Griff,
    You’re right. Nothing ventured, .Nothing gained.

  68. Michael Chappell

    Hi Griff,

    I have learnt from a local Guitar teacher a beginner course and am already playing 12 Bar Blues in Solo format and have learnt 12 Bar blues chords in progression. Because I have purchased a lot of the BGU Lessons, I now have to adapt to your method in this lesson. I am now jamming to a lot of 12 bar Blues songs but your version is so much more simpler How do I now convert to your method or just keep doing what I have learn’t and adapt. I already know all the 7th chords. You are right majority of Blues is in 12 Bar Blues structure. I am in my 2nd year learning Guitar and BGU which is fantastic and now I am only learning Blues Guitar from you which again is fantastic. I have played Rhythm Guitar back the 60’s in a band at High School and gradually getting back into it and remembering a few things which is a challenge at 68 yrs. I have a natural Rhythm as at that time I became a pro Drummer by accident so I have the timing. The beauty about Blues Guitar is you don’t have to sing too much because otherwise working out if you can remember the melody for the 8 bar solo while you are still singing could be a challenge at my age.
    All Great Griff keep it coming.
    Michael at Sydney-Australia

  69. Thanksd Griff, that’s a great lesson

  70. It’s really amazing how the timing affects the sound of the progression so much it’s the spaces that give the tune breathing room good stuff Griff great 12 bar lesson plus a little theory kool stuff !

  71. RollyS

    Thanks for this! Apparently my BGU has passed through Canada Customs so should be here any day!! Really enjoy these tidbits and looking forward to my course. I realize now that the tune “Kansas City” which I’ve been singing for years is really 12 bar blues!

  72. Terry L. Kelley

    Learned so much from you…Thanks…You are the Man…

  73. alan hunt

    Im a competent player but never got into the blues until now.Thanks

  74. Jean Carol Billdeau

    Simple, precis et bien demontré. J’aime.
    Easy user, with precision et weel demontred. I apreciate.

  75. pretty basic but clear and concise. w/o hitting my head with the timing (a one a two..) you give a clear sense of hitting the strum on the ah 2 beat. I’ve let my guitars sit idle too long, no longer thanks to your web site and yes I’m sure I’ll pop for the whole program. thanks a lot, louie louie in NC

  76. edward grau

    thanks so much griff, these lessons are the best.and i just received your beginning blues lesson. still at the beginning stages of learning the guitar .talk to you soon and thanks for the emais. and i will be ordering the blues unleashed lessons soon in the future.

  77. David Mott

    Thank you for all of your videos. I work 12hours a day 7 days a week so I am pressed for time with family and job and all. I find they are a great way to unwind and relax and learn something new all at the same time so that’s again and keep up the good times of music

  78. Ayorinde j O

    It’s so helpful


    Am so greatful for help in taking me to the next level in guitar playing. The Video is a lecture on its own. Thanks so much.

  80. I really lose your teaching method it so easy the way to teach thanks Daniel

  81. Ray

    Excellent Lessons. Really good explanation back to basics. Really enjoyed this. Thanks.


  82. Matt Pontillo

    Im finding your methods easy to follow and the riffs your teaching are cool as *%#@ ! Thanks for making them free to the public , THANKS ONCE AGAIN . Matt P

  83. Ray Jeffrey

    Hi Griff,

    I live in England and have been looking at the various lessons and reading your emails- Really great style of explanation- thanks.
    I play as a hobby as does my 11 year old lad,
    I am incredibly busy with work and don’t get time to practice other than late or early hours. Is your whole lesson set available to buy so I have it all ready to progress through in a planned format.
    And if so how much, is it available in the UK and how would it get to me.
    In any event well done with how you make the key lessons so simple to ‘get’



  84. very finethank you

  85. Martin Jukes

    Hi Griff thanks for your tutorials they are very helpful to me and I now have a renewed zeal for playing my 6 string guitar now that I have some direction as I had somehow allowed myself to lose interest. I also play the bass guitar and drums. I have a studio back home where I live in the UK & in my spare time I love to make music & play along with my favourite bands. I love Creedance Clearwater revival songs & depending on what mood I’m in I will pick which ever instruments I have & play along. Thanks again for the lessons I just wanted to let you know that I’m following them & making use of them. I am also a DJ by the name “Jukebox Jukes” hence my name.! I will hopefully be coming to the States in September 2016 with some friends at a place just outside New York so I’m looking forward to that as it will be my first time ever.
    Thanks again

  86. Danny Sheppard

    This is great!!! Keep it coming.

  87. I”ve Found these very helpful AS I Started lessons,Stayed For 8 Months & Quit.I”ve Been playing On/Off for Roughly 10 years,So I knew All the Major/Minor Chords,Only the 1 scale,You would”nt believe it>It”s The 1 you have Shown-The A minor Blues Scale.This time ive put plenty Of time into practice This time as I wish to be able to play Stevie Ray”s -PRIDE & JOY..

  88. Bob Longhurst

    I’m really enjoying your “laid-Back” excellent way of getting me through each lesson. I recently began your Course, and am now a dedicated pupil. Now for the question. Why on all of the written Chord shapes, and I give A7 as an example, do you show the barred fret, in this example, the 5th fret ABOVE THE BARRE?? On every chord shape, the fret above the first “row” or single note played is incorrect.

  89. Kenneth

    Liking what I have been seeing. I use to play in my younger days. Decided to start playing again but needed some refreshing and wanted to learn additional licks and theory . You have helped with both.

  90. Gaz

    Finally using metronome and I thought my looper was out,thanks inspiring stuff.

  91. Very helpful in learning guitar for a newbie.

  92. Rich Cibelli

    Great lesson. I like the way it was explained and laid out…

  93. Steven Siegel

    Once again your lesson is one of the best in the basic’s of the blues. well done Griff

  94. lou

    Thanks, I am definitely enjoying your lessons… 🙂

  95. Jackie

    Liked it !!!

  96. Dave Hawks

    Thank you for a clear cut way of dealing with the Blues. I appreciate your lessons! There are two ways of teaching the guitar. One way confuses the students, the other,( yours), clears everything up.

  97. I together with my pals were found to be reviewing the good advice found on your website and so at once I got a terrible suspicion I had not thanked the site owner for those tips. The guys had been consequently warmed to study all of them and have extremely been loving those things. I appreciate you for actually being really thoughtful and for going for this sort of excellent things most people are really wanting to know about. My very own sincere apologies for not expressing gratitude to sooner.
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  98. Alan

    Thanks, Griff – The lesson is well laid out and explained, and the two practice tracks are great (altho a loop would help)…I’ve always played in the first position chords and this lesson is getting me into using barre chords – again, thanks!!

  99. Rox

    I have bgu, acoustic blues unleashed, rock guitar unleashed and almost all of your courses.
    Somehow I got on the beginner’s list for email. Let me tell anyone who is on the fence about getting Griff’s Courses-go for it!
    Get Acoustic or Rock or any of the unleashed courses. You will be glad you did.
    Nobody asked me to write this. Unsolicited. Order and you will be glad you did.

  100. Kevin Caldwell

    I like your methods. Slow; when needed for enforcement, and fast, to enjoy what you’ve learned. I know bits and pieces of the blues. This instruction will fill in what I’m lacking. Thank You.

  101. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing issues with your site.
    It seems like some of the text within your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let
    me know if this is happening to them as well? This may be a issue with my web browser because I’ve had this happen before.
    Cheers – Lanora