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Blues Guitar Chord Progressions • The Three Chord Progression • Part 2 • Chords, Tab, Video Lessons

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Johnny Lang DVD's And CD's

Progression 1

This progression (as all the progressions in this lesson), is said to be in the key of C. Although the only chord in the key of C is G7, blues players would simply say '12 bar, key of C, quick change'. For the experienced player this would be enough information to jam with someone. Home base scale for this progression is Cm Pentatonic, or Cm Blues scale. C Major Pentatonic will work, but care must be taken when playing across the IV (four) chord: F7. This chord contains an E♭, and C Major Pentatonic contains a natural E. As mentioned, the quick change is in place. This is explained in Blues Basics 1. I have extended the C7 in measures four and eight to include the seventh interval (B♭) an octave higher. This gives the chord more bite and sounds great!. The turnaround is I IV I V. This is a very common chordal turnaround.

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Progression 2

All the seventh chords have been replaced by ninths for this progression. The F9 and G9 are very common voicing for ninths and sound good sliding into the chord from either, the fret below or the fret above. Try it. Play the F9, then play it again, but slide into it from the E9 (one fret below) then the G♭9 (one fret above). The C9 shape is not so common, but very useful. The chord does not actually contain a root, that is, there is no C. I like to think of the root as the same fret as the fourth finger on the next string (C on the eighth fret on the high E string).

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Progression 3

This version combines the elements of #1 and #2. The extended C7 moving into the F9 at the end of measure four sounds particularly good. In measures nine and ten, the G9 and F9 move into a seventh shape that is based on an open C7 chord. As long as the low and high E string are muted out, this chord can be played all over the fretboard. Of course, if you are playing this shape as an E7, the low and high E strings can ring. Once again, as in progression #1 and #2, Cm Pentatonic would be the home base scale.


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Progression 4

This version will have you moving around the fretboard and is the most challenging of them all. It should be noted here, that since all the chords do not contain altered intervals (no sharps or flats), this progression can be played over top of progression #1, even though this is much more complicated. Play this slowly, memorize it, then work with it. Make up your own versions. After awhile, the chords will become so familiar that this can be improvised. This form of rhythm playing (substituting more elaborate chords) is called 'Comping'. Jazz and Blues players are constantly comping in behind soloists.

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