I'm writing a song around the 12-bar blues format. However in my verse, I need the following chord progression for it to sound right:

|I       |IV7 I   |I       |I       
|IV7     |IV7     |I       |I       
|V   I7  |IV7     |I7      |V7       

I'm referring specifically to the I in the second half of the second bar and the I7 in the second half of the ninth bar seems. I believe this is a "quick-to-four" progression (with the IV in the second bar), but I don't know if the changes in the middles of the bars are acceptable variations. If not, is there a better way I can achieve the same or similar sound using another chord?

Sorry if this is a stupid question, I like blues but I'm terrible at understanding the theory of the chords.

  • The answer to “is X acceptable” is always “yes, if it sounds right”, in music in general and most definitely in Blues, which basically has no theory at all, just “sang from the heart” emotion and a chord sequence that's usually used but is by no means the defining feature. – leftaroundabout Mar 8 '17 at 16:12
  • 7
    On behalf of all Official Music, I hereby accept this variation on the 12-bar blues. – Todd Wilcox Mar 8 '17 at 17:01
  • What is acceptable rarely matters, does it sound good? – Neil Meyer Mar 8 '17 at 17:51

There are many, many variations on the 12 bar blues format. They will have 12 bars, of course, and most more or less follow the basic pattern. The usual changes are that 2nd bar, and sometimes the last 4 bars (or 2) get changed into a long turnaround. So, it's not breaking any rules ( blues has already done all that !!) and is so little changed from the basic format that it's more than acceptable. You could even try more changes without it losing its shape. Go on!

  • 1
    Not always exactly 12 bars -- inserting or dropping a measure, or even a half measure, is not unheard of. – Dave Mar 8 '17 at 15:25
  • @Dave - yes, I sometimes play with bands that do that. They're just not aware they're doing it though... Would those still be 12 bars? – Tim Mar 8 '17 at 15:53
  • I'd say it falls under "acceptable variations on 12-bar blues", and that's the way I think of it: "It's a 12 bar blues w/ an extra I on the end" or whatever. – Dave Mar 8 '17 at 15:56

It's unusual for the chord to change mid-bar in 12-bar blues, but 'acceptable'? I would say just about anything is acceptable so long as the 12-bar pattern is maintained and the piece starts on the I chord. (The final time through you should probably also end on I rather than V, but I've heard 12-bar blues songs ending on the dominant before, so it's not like you're doing something totally off the wall.

A traditional blues player would probably tell you that your piece is 'not authentic' or some other response that would say it's unusual. But I can't imagine anyone refusing to call it blues if the melody has plenty of blue notes and the singing style is appropriate to the genre!

  • The second verse ends on an I before leading into the bridge (I'm not sure if it's technically a bridge or not, but it has a different melody to the verses, leads into the piano solo, and doesn't feature the mid-bar chord progressions - I've heard things like this in blues before, where there is another section with a different melody or feel to the verses which sits between the second verse and the solo). The third verse ends on a V7 but leads into the ending. – Micheal Johnson Mar 8 '17 at 15:29

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