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I've seen many blues songs, with progression:

I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | 
IV / / / | IV / / / | IV / / / | IV / / / | 
V  / / / | V  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / |

or

I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | 
IV / / / | IV / / / | IV / / / | IV / / / | 
V  / / / | IV / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / |

or

I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / | 
IV / / / | IV / / / | V  / / / | V  / / / | 
V  / / / | IV / / / | I  / / / | I  / / / |

which it's kinda the same. Is there any other progression for blues?

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Check the jazz variants: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_blues#In_jazz –  Meaningful Username Jun 11 at 12:05
5  
Usually bars 5-8 of a 12 bar blues are IV,IV,I,I –  Dave Jun 11 at 13:58
2  
The most common is I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, IV, I, V –  Tim Jun 11 at 14:59
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In the most common 12-bar blues forms, in bars 7 and 8 you would go back to I, not to IV or V. –  Matt L. Jun 11 at 16:12
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Try | I7 | IV9 | I7 | I7 | IV9 | IV9 | I7–ii7 | iii7–♭iii7 | ii7 | IVmin7 | I7–IV9 | I7–Vaug | from the Allman Bros version of Stormy Monday Blues (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stormy_Monday for details). –  Kirk A Jun 11 at 18:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

12 bar blue sequences - poffle.com shows at least a dozen. The blues sequence doesn't have to be 12 bars long, it's just that this is the commonest. 8 and 16 are other well used ones. Basically putting 7ths onto each chord will help to bluesify a sequence. Or 9ths, which sound more jazzy. A lot of varieties use 'passing' chords such as diminished to get from one main chord to another. Others will go off on one, for instance, be in C, then find their way to E for a bar, before going 'round the houses' (up in 4ths) to get back to the original C key and chord. Most will use a G (V) as the ultimate turnaround chord, as that leads straight to I for the next verse.

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I wrote a 20-bar blues -- essentially alternating 8-bar and 12-bar. Whatever works, works. –  keshlam Jun 12 at 5:06

I would say that the basic idea of the (12 bar) blues is this:

4 bars with the feel of I: Could be as simple as I | I | I | I, or as complex as I | vii III7 | vi | II7 | v I7 (notice that in the important places, the harmonic onbeats, the chords are I, and vi (the relative minor), giving the feel of I even though that chord doesn't appear much.

4 bars, 2 with the feel of IV and 2 with the feel of I: Traditionally this is I | I | IV | IV, but it could be something like IV7 | iv bVII7 | iii VI7 | biii bVI7 (even though there isn't much sense of I in the the latter 2 bars, it still sounds like a blues due to the context).

4 bars, 2 with the feel of "coming back to I", and 2 with the feel of I: This could be V | IV | I | I, or along the lines of | ii | V7 | I VI7 | ii V | (a ii V heading back to I, and then a turnaround in I.

The idea of the blues can also be extended to different numbers of bars. For instance, in Grease, virtually every song is a blues (or I IV vi V7 (Those Magic Changes)), but only one is 12 bars long.

As I remember, there is also a 14 bar blues:

I   | I   | I | I
IV  | IV  | I | I
V   | IV  | V | IV
I   | I

a 10 bar blues:

I    | I   | I | I
IV   | IV  | I | I
V IV | I

and an 8 bar blues.

The 16 bar blues also exists:

I  | I  | I | I
IV | IV | I | I
V  | IV | V | IV
V  | IV | I | I

The chords in the blues can also have their quality altered - a traditional blues is likely to have all dominant 7th chords, a more modern blues might have higher extensions, and you can also have blues in minor keys.

The blues are also linked by the use of the blues scale to improvise over them (1 b3 4 b5 5 b7) although this scale can also be used in other situations (and often seems to be overused).

N.B. The complicated blues I gave as an example is the Bird changes (that page also lists a couple of other blues for comparison).

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We could go the way of Charley Patton's "Hammer Blues" ....

| 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
| 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
| 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |

Or Skip James' "Cypress Grove Blues" ...

| 1   / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
| 1   / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
| 5m7 / / / | X / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |

Where X is the fifth as min7, C7, G or whatever.

The other alternative is to go full jazzy, presented in G:

| G7  / / / | C7    / / / | G7 / / /   | G7  / /  / |
| C7  / / / | C#dim / / / | G7 / / /   | Em7 / /  / |
| Am7 / / / | D7    / / / | G7 / Em7 / | Am7 / D7 / |

I stole some of these progressions from Bob Brozman and you can find others there.

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If someone could edit this so that it didn't show the chord descriptions in the jazzy version, I'd love it. –  VarLogRant Jun 11 at 19:12
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Edited - you have to put <pre> before and </pre> after. Now waiting for approval as I don't have enough rep. –  steve verrill Jun 11 at 21:24

The sequences you've listed are extremely common, but there are thousands of variations that you could still call blues. So many, that it becomes futile to try and "collect" them. Just listen to lots of blues, listen to the chords and learn to spot the different sequences.

One example "Going Back Home" by Dr Feelgood:

 | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
 | 4 / / / | 4 / / / | 1 / / / | 1 / / / |
 | 5 / / / | 4 / / / | 5 / / / | 3 2 1 / |
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