The 12 Bar Blues


12 Bar Blues is a popular choice for teaching form, chord structure, chord progressions and songwriting for students.


I've recently been working on my GarageBand, Soundtrap and Bandlab lesson plans and teacher tips course (yeah, the title is a mouthful!) and in module 3 we're learning how to record a 12-bar blues accompaniment using a virtual keyboard, bass guitar and drum track.


Latest songs In the course (which is available to all members of the Midnight Music Community), students will learn to create a blues progression "with a twist": their blues accompaniment can be in any musical style they like! After listening to samples of songs that use a 12-bar blues progression, they use the virtual instruments in GarageBand, Soundtrap or Bandlab to create their own unique style.


Here's a Spotify playlist I put together with examples of songs that use a 12 bar blues progression in all or part of a song. There are traditional blues examples as well as contemporary/popular style compositions.


How to write blues lyrics


Blues songs often talk about things that are sad or problematic, so you have the opportunity to tell us about something that's bothering you or struggling with. Lyrics don't have to be super serious - you can make them feel good.


The lyrics will follow a traditional 12 bar blues lyric pattern:


There will be 3 lines and they will have A A B format.

This means that the first line (A) is sung twice and the next line (B) is sung once

It is best if the word at the end of line A rhymes with the word at the end of line B

Each line must fit within 4 measures (measures)

example 1


A This morning I woke up and found myself alone

A This morning I woke up and found myself alone

B I have nothing to do, so I'm going to call my friends on the phone

You may have noticed that the texts follow a "problem-solution" pattern:


In my example. row A is the problem:


PROBLEM: I woke up this morning to find myself alone

And line B is the solution:


SOLUTION: I have nothing to do, so I'll go call my friends on the phone

example 2


Here is another example. This doesn't quite follow the troubleshooting pattern, but it still works!


A I will be late for school because the bus never came

A I will be late for school because the bus never came

B I'll probably get arrested and that's really lame

Your texts can be on any topic you like. Here are some suggested topics or issues if you're out of ideas:


Wifi doesn't work

I forgot my password

No milk left

I'm stuck at home with my sibling

i can't cut my hair

My phone battery died


What will be next? Sing or speak your lyrics over the backing track!


Once students have written their lyrics, they can perform them by singing or speaking to the beat. If they choose to sing, they can create a simple blues tune using just 2 or 3 notes.