Jazz Banjo Blues

Jazz Banjo Blues

From Earl Scruggs’  “Foggy Mountain Special,” to Chuck Berry’s  “Johnny B. Goode,” the 12 Bar Blues is an uniquely  American art form. Here is a brief study of just some of the variations of this classic progression beginning with basic chords to a standard jazz-style arrangement.

Part 1 – The Chords

The basic chord types used in 12 Bar Blues can be reduced to three primary groups:

  1. Major
  2. Minor
  3. Dominant Seventh

Example #1

Here is a standard 12 bar blues form in 4/4 time. It consists of a G chord for 4 measures followed with two measures of C and then two more measures of G. The last four measures are split with two measures of D and G:

From this basic form, many variations are possible. In this next example, the second measure has the common “quick to four” variation in the second and tenth measures:

Example #2

The use of dominant seventh chords is also common:


Finally in example #4, we add IIm7-V7 measure cadences and diminished seventh chords to form the standard jazz model:

Example #4

Here’s a chord chart using simple three-note chords:

Sound File:


Dominant chords like D7b9 and diminished chords are embelishments creating voice-movement.

Here is an 8th note study for chord-connection and ear training:

Sound file with piano chords:


Sound file played on banjo: