I'm trying to put a 12 bar blues to paper but the notes don't add up. It will be C/F/G and I have the rhythm like so (just the C here):

12 bar blues

but something isn't right (and what's more, my baby done left me!)

Can you tell me what am I doing wrong? Wrong time signature?

Audio: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LLA69qHa8bQmdCtgm4R1IR0FpU7Iys1Z/view?usp=sharing

Here's version 2. It adds up now but the rhythm isn't quite right. It doesn't swing.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Have a look here and see if it clears things up for you. The notes add up, but you have beamed (joined) them in a way that makes them hard to read: musicnotes.com/now/musictheory/… I suspect that the actually rhythm you intend is different from the written one. Pay close attention to the dotted eights and dotted sixteenths. You probably will never need a dotted sixteenth in a blues transcription.
    – Max
    Jun 5, 2020 at 0:12
  • Thanks for your reply. I've just recorded a short audio clip on my phone and added to the question. This should make it clear what I'm trying to do. Jun 5, 2020 at 0:18
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    Was that notation automatically generated by software while you played it? If so, the software may have a "quantize" function to get the rhythmic placement simpler, more natural. Jun 5, 2020 at 14:32
  • That could very well be. Also, I decrease the speed of the playback which was helpful. Jun 5, 2020 at 14:50

2 Answers 2


Not knowing your intended rhythm, I'd bet your dotted sixteenth notes are incorrect; these demand thirty-second notes, which result in a "more correct" notation of the following, which I can't imagine is what you intended:

enter image description here

After hearing your recording, your intended rhythm is:

enter image description here

So as it turns out, your rhythm is actually correct—at least, once you remove the dots!

Otherwise, I'd recommend re-spelling the chord to include a B♭ instead of an A♯. This note is the seventh of the chord, and since the root is C, we prefer to spell it as the note a seventh above C (that is, some kind of B) as opposed to some kind of A.

  • I just added some audio to the question to show the rhythm. Jun 5, 2020 at 0:24
  • @AlLelopath See edit; your rhythm was very close!
    – Richard
    Jun 5, 2020 at 0:26
  • Thanks for the B♭ suggestion. I've attached a new image to the question, take a look please. I hope I've followed you correctly. Jun 5, 2020 at 0:37
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    Though augmented sixth chords may be used in Blues as well, usually in minor blues in some ♭Ⅵ⁺⁶ - Ⅴ⁷♯9 where the standard major blues would have Ⅴ⁷ - Ⅳ⁷. For the tonic, the +6 interpretation would certainly be weird though! Jun 5, 2020 at 0:39
  • @AlLelopath Looks correct, even if the notation program could separate the B-flats and Cs a bit better!
    – Richard
    Jun 5, 2020 at 0:42

After hearing the audio and seeing your examples, the written example 2 is rhythmically accurate BUT I would suggest this rhythm be written in quarters and eighths, not eighths and sixteenths. My reasoning for this is it doesn’t FEEL like 8ths and 16ths, it feels like a faster 4/4 with a backbeat on 2 and 4 as opposed to a slow 4 with the back beats on the off eighth notes. This groove is more easily read and felt this way:

enter image description here

Notice the 8th rest on beat 4. You need this to get the right feel, the preceding note should not be sustained. In order to show the sustained bass notes without writing out a polyphonic staff I used slurs on the C and G to indicate they should be sustained.

Also, since it’s in the key of C it’s better not to use an F key signature but instead use C and put in the Bb accidentals.

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    It's an interesting question why we use key signatures for major and minor but not the other modes. Blues is typically mixolydian, and C mixolydian has a B♭. One could imagine a world where the key signature for C mixolydian has 1 flat, for E phrygian has no sharps or flats (lots of Spanish guitar music) and so on. It's just not the world we live in. Jun 5, 2020 at 20:31
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    @AdamChalcraft I completely see the logic in what you’re saying and there’s nothing to prevent someone from writing in a modal key signature. I’m sure it has been done. Because it isn’t commonly done especially in a genre like blues I suggested calling it a major key in C with Bb accidentals. I know if someone put this chart in front of me with one flat my first thought would be “Oh, it starts on the V chord.” Maybe using modal key signatures but identifying them as such at the top would be a good way to do it. Jun 5, 2020 at 21:16

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