Blues Music Theory

The theory underlying blues music is actually very simple – which makes twelve-bar music generally a great (and fun!) place to learn some music theory.

Learning basic blues music theory

Here are your three basic need-to-knows:

 1. The twelve-bar (as its name suggests) is defined by its twelve-bar chord structure.

 2. Blues and twelve-bar music chiefly uses only three chords – the major I, IV, V chords in a key.

 3. Each of these chords however is usually made a dominant seventh chord, with an added flattened seventh.

BUT HOLD ON A MINUTE!!

Unless you already know about music theory, that will probably be complete gobbledygook to you!

And that’s the problem with theory. Unless it’s the theory of something you already know at least something about – or can be shown – it’s incomprehensible!

Which is why the Blues Music Theory module in the Musicarta Twelve-bar Piano styles workbook is an 'optional extra' tucked away at the back. By the time you get to it, you'll already understand what’s being discussed – and it’ll just be a matter of formalizing your knowledge.

The MUSICARTA 12-BAR PIANO STYLES WORKBOOK

Straight blues and boogie aside, twelve-bar form and styles run like a thread through popular music and are an essential component of any popular-styles keyboard player’s bag of tricks. The twelve-bar is a perennial musical meeting place, and the Musicarta Twelve-bar Piano Styles workbook will ensure you’re never short of an idea or two of your own!



12-bar Styles Workbook
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The Twelve-bar Styles workbook uses graphic and audio explanations to make music theory easy to understand. Running through the numbered points above…

A picture's worth...

The regular twelve-bar blues/boogie chord structure – especially colour-coded – makes a graphic that you can 'practically hear'!

Both the following riffs have this same chord sequence. see if you can 'hear-and-see' it

Being able to think in patterns like this is a large part of being a creative musician, as opposed to just playing other people's music.

Harmony all over

Next, here's a glimpse at the music theory module explanation of point 2 above.

As part of the download, you get the MIDI files of all these examples, so you can learn the I, IV, V chords in all keys using the MidiPiano 'Pitch' control to transpose.

Those Roman numerals (I, IV, V) are something Musicarta encourages every pop-styles learner to get to grips with, because they help you to think about harmony ‘in any key’. The other main system of chord naming (tonic, subdominant, dominant) is also covered.

The MUSICARTA 12-BAR PIANO STYLES WORKBOOK

The irresistible drive of the twelve-bar form raises the musical vitality of everybody it touches! The Musicarta Twelve-bar Piano Styles workbook offers a methodical approach to learning essential 12-bar keyboard syncopations and understanding the simple harmony that makes this timeless music so accessible and attractive.



12-bar Styles Workbook

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for only $14.95

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Browse the
CONTENTS HERE
Click through to the Mister Musicarta YouTube 12-BAR PLAYLIST here

Dominant seventh chords

If you want to know everything about seventh chords, there’s a Musicarta module just for you, but in blues music theory, just the dominant seventh chord is enough to get started. Here’s part of the theory module audio explanation.

"The dominant seventh chord in root position is a stack of major, minor, minor thirds (M, m, m) building upwards from the name-note at the bottom. To play twelve-bar music, we need a chord of this type on the three essential twelve-bar chord roots – I, IV and V.

"The important thing to notice is that the ‘seventh’ in each case is the note a whole tone (two semitones) below the name note (as demonstrated in the audio/MIDI file)."

Practically speaking, you still have to drill that knowledge into your muscle memory. Here’s a tuneful theory study from Part Two that rehearses the notes of the dominant seventh scale.



The Musicarta Twelve-bar Piano Styles workbook

So - that's how the Musicarta Twelve-bar Piano Styles workbook tackles blues music theory. The theory is an optional extra, attached to musical examples and drip-fed right across the workbooks, with a dip-in summary at the back - which you could just cram if that's your style.

Blues music theory should be theory you can use to create music right away!

Click through to the Mister Musicarta Twelve-bar YouTube playlist here and sample the workbook riffs - they're specifically designed to teach you the harmonic building blocks of twelve-bar music. 

Twelve-bar Piano Styles
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