Friday 25 July 2014

Ticket 33: Subvert A 12 Bar Blues By Altering The Chord Sequence

A standard version of the 12 bar blues chord progression is

I    I    I I      (example in E)   E E  E E
IV IV I I                                A A E E
V   V I I                                 B B E E

A more complex variation would be

I    IV   I I7            E A   E E7
IV IV7 I I7           A A7 E E7
V  IV   I V7          B A   E B7

But even with these alterations, this is such a traditional form that the listener is fully aware of what to expect as early as the fifth bar. So moving chords around or substituting new ones can keep the form fresh. The most common application of this songwriting trick is to mess with the turnaround (the last four bars).


Can't Buy Me Love

I    I    I    I       C C C C
IV IV I    I       F F C C
V  IV IV I       G F F C


Stuck In The Middle With You

I    I             I   I      D D       D D
IV IV          I   I      G G       D D
V, bVII IV, I   I      A, C G, D D

Can't Buy Me Love - verse
Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Day Tripper
I Want You (She's So Heavy)
I'm Down
Little Child - solo
One After 909
Paperback Writer
The Word
Yer Blues

see also

Bodhissatva (Steely Dan)
Flying In A Blue Dream (Joe Satriani)
Jesus Just Left Chicago (ZZ Top)
New, New Minglewood Blues (Grateful Dead)
Peggy Sue (Buddy Holly)
Pretzel Logic (Steely Dan)
Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry)
Stuck In The Middle With You (Stealer's Wheels)
The Forecast (Calls For Pain) (Robert Cray)
Victim Of Changes (Judas Priest)
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) (Jimi Hendrix)

Other examples would be one chord songs like Baby, Please Don't Leave Me (Buddy Guy), Boogie Chillen' (John Lee Hooker) and field holler songs.

See also

Ticket 19: Different Bar Blues
Ticket 34: Disguise A 12 Bar Blues Song By Avoiding The AAB Lyric Structure
Ticket 35: Use 12 Bar Long Sections In Non 12 Bar Blues Songs

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

Thanks to T.C. Elliott, Mike Louis Griebel and Nancy Rost on the BSA forum and Aaron Krerowicz for examples

Further reading Aaron Krerowicz: 12 Bar Blues in Beatles Music

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