8 Bar Blues For Beginners
In this lesson Jon gives us an introduction to the 8 bar blues, including the form, left hand patterns, right hand voicing techniques, and the feel and groove.
If you are new to the 8 bar blues, spend some time to fully absorb the basic chord changes and form presented in this lesson. It’s important to have a solid understanding of the basics before we move onto the chord substitutions and reharmonisations presented in the next lessons.
8 Bar Blues vs 12 Bar Blues
There are lots of different ways of playing the blues and one of those is the 8 bar blues, commonly played in New Orleans. It has a different dynamic sensibility to the 12 bar blues and can be played straight or with a triplet feel. It’s also a form that invites chord substitutions – it can be very simple or as harmonically sophisticated as you choose.
Junkers Blues Left Hand Pattern
An early 8 bar blues tune is Junker’s Blues and looking at this we can see the basic harmonic structure and a useful left hand bass pattern:
Practicing this left hand pattern is a useful hand independence exercise for playing the blues and more specifically New Orleans style blues piano.
Right Hand Chords & Voicings
The right hand in this tune makes great use of the 5, in this case C, as a pivot to move from one chord to another. The right hand chords are voiced either side with the 5th which strengthens the sound of the right hand:
This style of right hand voicing is also found in Cuban music and other styles from the Caribbean.
Hand Independence & Coordination
Putting the left and right hand parts together is a great way to start getting some coordination between both hands. It’s worth remembering that the piano in this context is a percussion instrument and the left and right hand parts simulate a drummer.
8 Bar Blues Introduction Lesson Notation File Type: pdf
Both the triplet swing feel and the straight feel work well for the 8 bar blues and it's helpful to practice material in both feels.
If the triplet swing feel is new to you it might help to play chords in triplets in the right hand while you play the bass line, as Jon does at 5:36.
The notation presented in the video is a simplification of what Jon is playing - particularly his right hand. Feel free to copy the phrases he is playing once you are comfortable with the fundamentals.