Blues School: Minor Blues 12 Bar Form

Here is the Minor 12 bar Blues presented in its most basic form, with chord roots in the bass and closed position stacked chords with voice leading. Notice that the minor Blues follows the same 12-bar form as the major Blues, except that all three principal harmonies are now minor:

Minor Blues

Sub-patterns in the 12 bar Blues form...

Just like the major Blues, the minor Blues 12-bar pattern consists of three distinct 4-bar phrases...

Phrase 1 of 3 (bars 1-4): The first 4-bar phrase establishes both the home key and minor-ness of the piece with the Cm7 chord (Im7). Naturally, this is also where the main rhythmic/melodic theme is presented...

Minor Blues

Listen to a typical minor blues phrase #1:

As you listen, sing the root note of the Im7 chord (Do) out loud.

 

Phrase 2 of 3 (bars 5-8): The second 4-bar phrase creates harmonic tension with the Fm7 chord (IVm7) that is released with a return back to the tonic Cm7 chord (Im7). Notice that there is no mixture of the major E (Mi) with the minor Eb (Me) in the minor Blues. Here, there is typically either a repetition or variation of the main theme...

Minor Blues

Listen to a typical minor blues phrase #2:

 

Phrase 3 of 3 (bars 9-12): The third 4-bar phrase creates harmonic tension with the Gm7 chord (Vm7) that is released with a return back to the tonic Cm7 chord (Im7). Compositionally, the third phrase is usually different from the first two phrases, but something that complements or answers the first two phrases and leads the listener back to the top of the next chorus...

Minor Blues

Listen to a typical minor blues phrase #3:

Think of these three phrases as interrelated musical sentences that tell a story. Such understand of form and phrasing is absolutely essential to playing blues in authentic style.

Listen to all three phrases combined into a 12-bar chorus:

*************

Common Minor Blues Variations

1.

Phrase #1
Phrase #2
Phrase #3
Cm7
%
%
%
Fm7
%
Cm7
%
Gm7
Fm7
Cm7
%

2.

Phrase #1
Phrase #2
Phrase #3
Cm7
%
%
%
Fm7
%
Cm7
%
Dø7
G7
Cm7
%

3.

Phrase #1
Phrase #2
Phrase #3
Cm7
%
%
%
Fm7
%
Cm7
%
Ab7
G7
Cm7
%

4.

Phrase #1
Phrase #2
Phrase #3
Cm7
%
%
%
Fm7
%
Cm7
%
Ab7
G7
Cm7 Aø7
Dø7 G7

 

Notice that all of these variations still preserve the basic harmonic essence of each 4-bar section.

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