The Blues for Kids — 12 Bar Blues — All Around This World

Not only are there are many variations of the blues but there are also many ways the spirit of the blues has inspired and created an emotional context for many other genres. Still, there is a generally agreed-upon “blues form.”

In the basic blues form, there are four beats to each “bar” or “measure”–count 1-2-3-4. The guitarist–or pianist, but most often a guitarist–will play a series of three chords in a progression that lasts for 12 bars before the music cycles back to the beginning. Musicians call this THE 12 BAR BLUES. [Okay, this is hard to explain in words. Let this guy’s video introduce you to the basic 12 bar blues, as well as the 1-4-5 (I-IV-V) chord progression. Wikipedia’s blues page does a pretty good job of introducing the blues form in general.]

Blues lyrics appear within a similar 12 bar structure, usually there are two lines repeated (each line lasting four bars), and then a third line, also lasting four bars, that comments on the first–call, repeated call and response. The first and second lines, since they’re basically the same thing repeated, are called the “A” lines, and the third line (different than the other) is the “B.” The form is therefore called AAB.

For example, listen to Robert Johnson perform “Sweet Home Chicago”:

A: Oh, baby don’t you want to go

A: Oh, baby don’t you want to go

B: Back to the land of California, to my sweet home Chicago.

In class we’ll explore basic 12 bar blues and invent our own AAB songs about our current struggles. (Most likely having to do with diapers.)

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