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Eight-bar blues

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Title: Eight-bar blues  
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Subject: Blues, List of chord progressions, Twelve-bar blues, Trouble in Mind (song), Key to the Highway
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Eight-bar blues

Typical boogie woogie bassline on 8 bar blues progression in C, chord roots in red. About this sound   

In music, an eight-bar blues is a typical blues chord progression, "the second most common blues form,"[1] "common to folk, rock, and jazz forms of the blues,"[2] taking eight 4/4 or 12/8 bars to the verse.

Examples include "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Key to the Highway",[3] "Trouble in Mind" and "Stagolee".[4] "Heartbreak Hotel", "How Long Blues", "Ain't Nobody's Business", "Cherry Red", and "Get a Haircut" are all eight-bar blues standards.

One variant using this progression is to couple one eight-bar blues melody with a different eight-bar blues bridge to create a blues variant of the standard 32-bar song. "Walking By Myself", "I Want a Little Girl" and "(Romancing) In The Dark" are examples of this form. See also blues ballad.

Eight bar blues progressions have more variations than the more rigidly defined twelve bar format. The move to the IV chord usually happens at bar 3 (as opposed to 5 in twelve bar). However, "the I chord moving to the V chord right away, in the second measure, is a characteristic of the eight-bar blues."[1]

In the following examples each box represents a 'bar' of music (the specific time signature is not relevant). The chord in the box is played for the full bar. If two chords are in the box they are each played for half a bar, etc. The chords are represented as scale degrees in Roman numeral analysis. Roman numerals are used so the musician may understand the progression of the chords regardless of the key it is played in.

Eight-bar blues[5]
I V7 IV7 IV7
I V7 IV7 I V7
About this sound   

"Worried Life Blues" (probably the most common eight bar blues progression):

About this sound   

"Heartbreak Hotel" (variation with the I on the first half):


J. B. Lenoir's "Slow Down"[6] and "Key to the Highway" (variation with the V at bar 2):

I7 V7 IV7 IV7
I7 V7 I7 V7

"Get a Haircut" by George Thorogood (simple progression):


Jimmy Rogers' "Walkin' By Myself"[6] (somewhat unorthodox example of the form):

I7 I7 I7 I7
IV7 V7 I7 V7

Howlin Wolf's version of "Sitting on Top of the World" uses movement between major and dominant 7th and major and minor fourth:

I I7 IV iv
I7 V I7 IV I7  V
The first four bar progression used by Wolf is also used in Nina Simone's 1965 version of Trouble in Mind, but with a more uptempo beat than Sitting on Top of the World:
I I7 IV iv
I VI7 ii V I IV I  V
The progression may be created by dropping the first four bars from the twelve-bar blues, as in the solo section of Bonnie Raitt's "Love Me Like a Man" and Buddy Guy's "Mary Had a Little Lamb":[8]
IV7 IV7 I7 I7
V7 IV7 I7 V7

(The same chord progression can also be called a sixteen-bar blues, if each symbol above is taken to be a half note in 2/2 or 4/4 time—blues has not traditionally been associated with notation, so its form becomes a bit slippery when written down.) For example "Nine Pound Hammer".[3] Ray Charles's original instrumental "Sweet Sixteen Bars" is another example.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Riker, Wayne (1994). Complete Blues Guitar Method: Mastering Blues Guitar, p.91. ISBN 978-0-7390-0408-1.
  2. ^ Barrett, David (2000). Blues Harmonica Jam Tracks & Soloing Concepts #1, p.8. ISBN 978-0-7866-5653-0.
  3. ^ a b James, Steve (2001). Inside Blues Guitar, p.18. ISBN 978-1-890490-36-2.
  4. ^ George Heaps-Nelson, Barbara Koehler (1989). You Can Teach Yourself Harmonica, p.87. ISBN 978-0-87166-264-4.
  5. ^ Alfred Publishing (2002). Beginning Delta Blues Guitar, p.41. ISBN 978-0-7390-3006-6.
  6. ^ a b David Barrett, John Garcia (2008). Improvising Blues Harmonica, p.50. ISBN 978-0-7866-7321-6.
  7. ^ Barrett, David (2006). Blues Harmonica Play-along Trax, p.16. ISBN 978-0-7866-7393-3.
  8. ^ Riker (1994), p.92.
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