One of the things about blues that makes it easy to play is the fact that the 12 bar blues form is just that – a form that you can depend on.
In fact, if you know the key, and you know the feel, you can often jump right in and play without much else to go on if you have some blues rhythms that you know will work.
So since you should know the 3 chords in the 12 bar blues, no matter what key… it’s time to hip you to some of the most common blues feels.
And in this case we’re going to start with some active listening of the feels so you can connect some dots down the road…
Feel #1 – The Shuffle
The blues shuffle is the quintessential blues feel for most people (right up there with the slow blues.) The main difference between the shuffle and the slow blues is the tempo – but both divide the beat into 3 pieces, not 2 or 4 as is more common in other styles of music.
So as you listen to this clip, try to count the “1 and uh 2 and uh 3 and uh 4 and uh” even though it’ll go by pretty quickly.
Now while that’s a great clip, let’s try something considerably different, but still a shuffle…
Feel #2 – The Slow Blues
Usually, when people say something is a slow blues they intend for it to be a triplet based feel… so it’s basically a shuffle but much slower.
A little something like this:
Again, you want to listen for the “1 and uh 2 and uh 3 and uh 4 and uh” feel. Sometimes it might be called a 12/8 (twelve-eight) or 6/8 (six-eight) feel.
Here’s another one for you:
Feel #3 – The Straight Slow Blues
These are slower, and often in minor keys (all chords are minor instead of 7th) and are prone to stray from the 12 bar blues form so you need to keep your listening ears on and see if you can catch the chords…
But of course, the most famous example of this feel is from BB King…
The original recording of that tune is actually a little faster than a typical slow blues, but the tempo can vary greatly on these as it’s as much about the mood as anything.
Feel #4 – The Straight Rock And Roll Blues
Chuck Berry pretty much established this feel all by himself…
But Stevie Ray Vaughan brought it into the modern era with this:
Feel #5 – The Latin Blues
Some folks call it a Mambo, some call it a Rumba, and I’m not sure which it is to be honest… but I often hear it called a Latin Blues and that seems easier to remember 🙂
Notice the drum groove on these, that’s what you want to focus on.
or this one here might be easier to hear.
If you can at least recognize those sounds and feels, you’re well on your way to being jam session ready!