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How to start soloing over a 12-bar blues guitar chord progression

Guitarist
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Start with a scale shape 

tab

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The minor pentatonic scale is a fantastic scale to jam over a 12-bar blues with, but by adding a few more notes you can infuse your blues with the slick sounds of virtuoso blues-meisters such as Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford and more. 

Practise the basic minor pentatonic scale first (black dots are root notes; red dots are other scale notes). When you get a feel for this, try adding in the extra non-scale notes that we’ve highlighted in green.


The progression 

12-bar

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The opener

Tab

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This lick is played over an A7 chord. Solos tend to sound much better if you can land on a note from the backing chords, so, in this case, we’re adding a 6th fret C# note from the A7 – all the rest of the notes come from the minor pentatonic scale


The change (IV chord)

Tab

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Although the chord has changed to D7 here, the A minor pentatonic notes all still work. Make a feature of the chord change by adding the major 6 interval, which is on the 4th fret of the fourth string. This is a fantastic note to add


The peak (V chord)

Tab

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The V chord is the point at which the 12-bar blues is at it’s most tense, so why not make the most of the tension and make the solo even more dramatic? The b5th interval sounds great over a 12-bar blues, especially if you save it for the V chord.


The turnaround

Tab

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The final two bars of a 12-bar blues are known as a ‘turnaround’. This is the point that we prepare to go back to the start of the loop and start the next phase of the solo. Most blues players have a collection of ‘turnaround’ licks that round off their solos.

Guitar lesson: Make jamming easier with this 12-bar blues chord generator