Twelve Bar Blues
Songs that use the classic 12-bar blues Chord Progression
Needs Examples

(permanent link) added: 2011-06-15 21:29:39 sponsor: ThePocket edited by: WaxingName (last reply: 2013-01-08 13:55:35)

Add Tag:

Waxing Name is now in control of this YKTTW

Formerly: This is a Blues Riff in B

The classic twelve-bar blues: (I, IV, I, V, IV, I; often all of them being 7 chords). A Chord Progression that started out being used for blues songs (hence the name) but later worked its way into big-band swing and particularly early rock-and-roll, where it became all but omnipresent up until the mid-60's. Like the Doo Wop Progression, it has a distinctly "classic" feel to modern listeners. It's so recognizable that all Marty McFly had to tell his backup band in Back to the Future was "This is a 'blues' riff in B" and they were able to properly accompany his rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" (until he started channeling Eddie van Halen, anyway).

The progression isn't strictly 12-bar, though. For example, "Heartbreak Hotel" is written with an 8-bar cycle, but otherwise uses the same chords as the standard progression.

Compare The Four Chords of Pop, which seem to have replaced this from the late 60's to the present as the dominant chord progression in popular music.

Songs using this chord progression:

  • Glenn Miller's "In the Mood"
  • Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode"
  • The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"
  • Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
  • Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock"
  • Ellis Hall's "Flip Flop and Fly" (as heard in Chicken Run)
  • The Hippie Battle theme from MOTHER 1 and 2, as well as "Rock and Roll (Mild)" and "(Spicy)" in 3 use this progression as they are in the style of 50's rock.
  • The blues standard "Hound Dog", made famous by Elvis Presley.
    • Also from Elvis, "Heartbreak Hotel", though as noted above, it's in 8-bar rather than the traditional 12-bar.
  • "Greased Lightning" from the Grease musical and film.
  • The legendary Robert Johnson, the king of the Delta Blues, recorded many examples of this, including such classics as "Crossroad Blues", "Sweet Home Chicago", and "Love in Vain".
  • Pink Floyd put a straight-forward 12-bar blues song, "Seamus", on their album Meddle. Just to keep things from seeming too normal, though, they used an actual dog to howl along with the instrumental section. A different dog performed live on their concert film, Live at Pompeii.
  • From Little Richard, "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally", "Lucille" and many others.
  • Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame released an album by this name. And yes, the songs matched this progression.
  • The surfer tune "Wipe Out", first performed by The Surfaris in 1963.
  • "Johnny C. Bad", that upbeat piano and bass tune that plays in a crowded bar and later the Dragon's Neck Coliseum in Final Fantasy VI.
  • Bob Dylan did quite a bit of 12-Bar Blues, most notably on Subterranean Homesick Blues.
  • The Louisiana Gator Boys in The Blues Brothers 2000, fronted by B.B. King and with a literal all-star lineup, seen here singing "How Blue Can You Get." (The ending falls into a 16-bar blues style.)
  • "Mighty, Mighty Man" by Roy Brown is one of the songs in constant rotation on "Galaxy News Radio" in the video game Fallout 3.
replies: 26

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy