C 12-Bar Blues

Here is a very traditional standard I-IV-V 12-bar blues in the key of C. It has that unmistakable 12-bar blues common rhythmic pattern. As soon as you hear this pattern it should kick off in your head that this is a standard I-IV-V blues jam and that there will be many soloing options.

Like many blues jams this one starts off on the V chord. That is a very common blues device, “let’s take it from the V”. This jam features a pinky embellishment on each chord that adds the 6th interval. That is a very common traditional embellishment in blues rhythms.

What Relates to all the chords:

Try C Minor Pentatonic & Blues over all the chords. Since this is a major I-IV-V blues progression Minor Pentatonic & Blues will give killer bluesy sounds and is probably the first choice for many players.

C Minor Pentatonic & Blues = C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb

Try C Major Pentatonic over all the chords. Major Pentatonic will give you that sweet major bluesy sound. Remember that for most any major key jam you can use Major Pentatonic over all the chords.

Major Pentatonic relates to all in this jam.

C Major Pentatonic is the same as A-minor Pentatonic. C major and A minor are relative major and minor. If you think more in terms of Minor Pentatonic or just know those shapes then play A Minor Pentatonic scales, but start on and emphasize the C notes and it will be C Major Pentatonic and have that sweet major happy sound.

By shifting those scales to the root, C, they take on that real major happy sweet sound as opposed to the darker, bluesy minor sound.
And we want that sweet major sound for this jam. Remember that it all comes down to the sounds, moods, and textures that you want to create with the music.

C Major Pentatonic – C, D, E, G, A

A Minor Pentatonic – A, C, D, E, G

(Same notes – just emphasize the root of the mode, C.)

Try C Dorian over all the chords. Because we know that both major pentatonic & minor pentatonic will work we then know that the Dorian mode will also work. Remember Dorian is considered more of a minor mode but works great over major key I-IV-V blues, swings, and shuffle progressions. The Dorian mode sounds great over minor chords.

The Dorian Mode is a seven-note scale often used in blues, rock, and many other musical genres. Dorian is considered a minor mode and is always the 2nd mode in any major key. Since Dorian is the second mode in any major key, to play C Dorian ask what major scales 2nd note is a C note. The answer is Bb. Bb Major has the same notes as C Dorian:

C Dorian = C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb

Bb Major = Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A

(Same notes – just emphasize the root of the mode, C.)

C Dorian is the same as Bb major, (C Dorian=Bb major). So play all your Bb major scales but start on and emphasize the C notes for that killer Dorian tonality.

Also try mixing C Minor Pentatonic & Blues, Major Pentatonic, and C Dorian over all the chords. Notice the cool differences between the major versus the minor and also the five note pentatonics versus the seven note diatonic scale. Cool stuff!

Treat each chord like a separate event:

  • With this 12-bar blues jam there is enough time on each chord to treat each chord as a separate event. Be sure to time your changes over each chord and really listen to the rhythm to ensure you don’t get caught playing the wrong scale over a given chord.
  • Try moving Minor Pentatonic & Blues over each chord. Play C Minor Pentatonic & Blues over the C chord, F Minor Pentatonic & Blues over the F chord, and G Minor Pentatonic & Blues over the G chord.
  • Try moving Major Pentatonic over each chord. Play C Major Pentatonic over the C chord, F Major Pentatonic over the F chord, and G Major Pentatonic over the G chord.
  • Try moving the Dorian mode over each chord. Because the rhythm of this jam is embellished with the 6th, Dorian again is a perfect choice as that is a key interval is in the mode:

Dorian Mode = 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7

Play C Dorian, (=Bb major), over the C chord. Then play F Dorian, (=Eb major), over the F chord. And then try G Dorian, (=F major), over the G chord. Listen for the chord changes and change your mode as the chords change. Experiment and remember that this device takes time to get proficient. It will get better and quicker over time. Keep practicing the technique with jam tracks and in different keys.


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