I am trying to play the 12 bar blues. From the manual I use, the idea seems to play the chord progression (CCCCFFCCFGCC) and at the same time it is possible to improvise or use some existing patterns on the pentatonic scale (halftone intervals 232232 starting from C).

I however cannot figure out how it would be possible to play the soloing pattern and the background progression with the same instrument at the same time. Is it true that two instruments and two players are always required?

2 Answers 2


No, you don't need more than one player for the blues, as a lot of recordings show. Just playing the chords one time through will make most people recognize the tune form. If you would then solo using the C, F and G blues scales, changing scale where the chords change, people would still recognize the tune form. Adding the chords at different places in your solo will reinforce the structure if needed.


It will depend to a degree on what the instruments are, and how advanced the player is.On piano/keyboard, it's quite easy to play both parts.On guitar, which is,I guess, what you play, it's not easy.Especially in C. You may well be able to transpose the key to E, using E,A and B(7). Or A, using A,D and E.That way, at least, you can put a bass pattern in on open strings underneath a blues tune using the top 2,3 or 4 strings.

If the player is someone like Martin Taylor, then one instrument is all that is needed - he'll put in bass, chords and tune at the same time. Us mere mortals tend to use another person to play the 'missing' parts.

The pattern you quote sounds better if the last F and G are swapped over, and usually the last chord is a G, used as a turnaround to get into the next verse.Leave it as C the last time though !

The pentatonic you quote isn't clear (to me), and is (in C) C,D,E,G,A for the major, and C,Eb,F,G,Bb for the minor. To make your tunes sound more bluesy, play Gb as well.

  • And to add to this, quite often you can play the progression in a simplified way (fifths etc) and use your this and fourth fingers to lead over it. This is very common from blues guitarists.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 11:13
  • Lenny Breau did this really nicely (more jazz or bebop, stylistically, than blues) and with a fairly accessible approach actually: youtube.com/watch?v=LJdYOYSTG1E is a pretty good lesson on that kinda thing. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 13:45

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