Unraveling the Secrets of Blues 7th Guitar Chords: Are All Blues Guitar Chords Really the Seventh?

Discover the truth behind the common belief that all blues guitar chords are seventh chords. Explore the diverse world of blues chord progressions, from the basic 1-4-5 to the intricate Coltrane changes… Learn how to add color and complexity to your blues playing with this in-depth session.

Unraveling the Secrets of Blues Guitar Chords: Beyond the Seventh

When it comes to playing the blues on guitar, many players assume that all chords used in the genre are seventh chords. While it’s true that seventh chords form the backbone of the basic blues progression, the reality is far more nuanced and diverse. In this session, we’ll explore the various types of blues chord progressions and how you can incorporate different chord qualities to add depth and complexity to your blues playing.

The Basic Blues Progression: 1-4-5 on Guitar

The most fundamental form of the blues progression consists of the I, IV, and V chords, all played as dominant seventh chords. This 1-4-5 progression is the foundation upon which countless blues songs have been built. For example, in the key of A, the basic blues progression would be:

  • A7 (I chord)
  • D7 (IV chord)
  • E7 (V chord)

This progression is absolutely legit and forms the core of the blues genre. It’s essential for every blues guitarist to have a solid grasp of this basic structure before exploring more advanced variations.

Adding Color with Ninth Chords on Guitar

One simple way to add some variety to your blues chords is by incorporating ninth chords. Instead of playing a standard dominant seventh chord, you can add the ninth scale degree to create a richer, more expansive sound. For instance, instead of playing an A7 chord, you could play an A9 by adding the note B to the chord.

Using ninth chords in your blues progression can give it a slightly jazzier flavor without straying too far from the fundamental blues sound. Experiment with different ninth chord voicings to find the ones that resonate with your playing style.

Exploring Minor Blues on Guitar

While the basic blues progression is built on dominant seventh chords, there’s also a whole world of minor blues to discover. In a minor blues, the I chord is typically played as a minor seventh chord, creating a darker, more melancholic atmosphere.

One common minor blues progression uses half-diminished chords to create a sense of tension and release. Instead of the traditional 1-4-5 progression, a minor blues might follow a sequence like this:

  • Am7 (I chord)
  • Bø7 (II half-diminished chord)
  • E7alt (V chord with alterations)

The use of the half-diminished II chord and the altered V chord adds a layer of complexity and sophistication to the minor blues sound. Exploring minor blues progressions can help you expand your chord vocabulary and create more emotionally diverse blues performances.

Coltrane Changes: The Epitome of Complexity

For those seeking the ultimate challenge in blues chord progressions, look no further than the infamous Coltrane changes. Named after the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, these changes are known for their intricate harmonic structure and rapid chord movement.

Coltrane changes often involve a series of descending major third intervals, creating a sense of constant harmonic motion. The chords used in these progressions can include a wide range of extensions and alterations, such as sharp elevenths, flat thirteenths, and more.

While mastering Coltrane changes can be a daunting task, even for experienced blues guitarists, studying these progressions can help you develop a deeper understanding of advanced harmony and open up new avenues for musical expression.

Beyond Chord Progressions: Voicings and Shapes

In addition to exploring different chord progressions, blues guitarists can also add variety to their playing by experimenting with different chord voicings and shapes. While the fundamental chord qualities may remain the same, the way you voice those chords on the fretboard can have a significant impact on the overall sound and feel of your blues playing.

Try playing seventh chords in different positions on the neck, or use alternate fingerings to create unique voicings. You can also experiment with partial chords, such as playing only the essential notes of a chord to create a more open and spacious sound.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is music_mentor_banner-1024x363.png

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all blues chords really seventh chords?

No, not all blues chords are seventh chords. While seventh chords are the most common type of chord used in blues, there are many other chord qualities that can be incorporated, such as ninth chords, minor chords, half-diminished chords, and more.

What is the basic blues chord progression?

The basic blues chord progression is based on the I, IV, and V chords, all played as dominant seventh chords. In the key of A, this would be A7 (I), D7 (IV), and E7 (V).

How can I add more variety to my blues chord progressions?

There are many ways to add variety to your blues chord progressions. You can incorporate ninth chords, explore minor blues progressions, study advanced concepts like Coltrane changes, and experiment with different chord voicings and shapes on the guitar.

What are Coltrane changes?

Coltrane changes are a series of advanced chord progressions that involve rapid harmonic movement, often based on descending major third intervals. These changes are named after the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane and are known for their complexity and sophistication.

Wrapping Up

While the basic 1-4-5 blues progression using seventh chords is an essential foundation for any blues guitarist, it’s important to recognize that the world of blues chords is much more diverse and complex than that. By exploring different chord qualities, progressions, and voicings, you can add depth, sophistication, and emotional range to your blues playing.

Whether you’re incorporating jazzy ninth chords, delving into the melancholic sounds of minor blues, or tackling the intricate Coltrane changes, the key is to approach your blues playing with an open mind and a willingness to experiment. With dedication and practice, you’ll be able to unravel the secrets of blues guitar chords and create your own unique voice within this timeless genre.

Related Posts