If you’ve stumbled across this page in your search to find out the secret to playing the blues or boogie woogie on the piano, then look no further as we’re here to confirm how easy it is – and you only need just three chords!
Only three chords, nah, that can’t be right can it?
Yep! It certainly is, and you’ve probably never realised how many great rock ‘n’ roll and blues songs have been written with only three chords. Jerry Lee Lewis, for example, only used three chords in Whole Lotta Shaking. Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and The Comets was only three chords. Little Richard, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and the list goes on.
More commonly known as the 12-bar blues, this simple three chord progression has been used so many times over the years and you probably never realised how simple it can be to jam along and create your own blues and rock ‘n’ roll songs.
So what are these three chords and how do I play them?
The good news is that these chords are always the same for each key you are playing in. For example, if you are playing in the key of C then the three chords are C, F and G. But the most important aspect of this to remember is that they are always in the same position on their scale. So if you are playing in C, the three chords are on the first, fourth and fifth position of the C major scale.
Here’s how it looks –
Now we’ve worked out which chords will work if we are playing in C, we can now need to construct each chord. The first chord is C which consists of C, E and G. Here’s how it looks –
The next one is the F chord which looks like this –
And the G chord looks like this –
So now we now how simple these three chords are to workout and play, we now need to understand how to insert them into a song or even create our own.
First of all we need to remember that there are 12 bars in total – with each bar consisting of 4 beats. What I would like you to do is go over to your keyboard or piano and play the C chord (C, E, G) four times at a steady pace of around 100 beats per minute. This will complete one bar, but we obviously need to play a lot more bars to make up the ’12 bar’.
So where do I use these chords in my 12 bar blues song?
Here’s how the 12 bars will look using up all three chords –
So you can see that the first 4 bars use the C chord. Bars 5 & 6 use the F chord, followed by the C chord for bars7 & 8. Finally we have the G chord for bar 9 followed by the F chord for bar 10, and the C chord takes us nicely home for the final two bars 11 & 12.
Don’t forget – each bar consists of 4 beats, which means you need to play the chord 4 times per bar at a nice steady pace of around 100 beats per minute. You can of course go slower at first if you wish, and you can also go much faster once you’ve mastered the chords and the chord progression.