How to Lock Down Basic 12 Bar Blues Progressions

In the context of the guitar, 12 bar blues often refers simply to bluesy-sounding progressions comprised of three chords. Formally, the three chords are the first, fourth and fifth in a given key, written in roman numerals. So in the key of E for example, a 12-bar blues progression would be the following:

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Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps

Isn't the B7 chord just intimidating?

Checkout JamPlay's B7 chord chart: Nearly every chord looks monstrously difficult to learn - especially to the raw beginner.

That is, all but two.

Of the 12 voicings, two are decidedly easier to comprehend. One is called the "three-string" voicing and the other I'll call the "barre" voicing. Together, they give us a cozy corner to start learning our B7 chords.

We'll break the three-string voicing down to an even easier version that, I guarantee, you can play now. Eventually, we'll build it back into the full, formal version of the B7 guitar chord.

The barre voicing is good to learn as-is.

Five steps folks.

Let's get started.

1. Focus on the Two Simplest Voicings

The B7 sound can be imitated by the root note (B) and a major third interval. We can use these two elements to construct our chord.

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps

This is passable as a B7 chord. Should you play it in place of a formal B7, no one would know the difference. If you see B7 on a chord chart and feel panic setting in, just play this dyad (need help with dyads?) and no one is the wiser.

Try it a few times and move the shape to other frets until you get used to the form.

Once comfortable, you add the third note back in to give us our first voicing.

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps
The second voicing is a short barre chord with a note added on the high E. Depending on your barre chord skills, it may or may not be as easy as the voicing we just covered.

If you don't have a healthy relationship with barre chords, it's alright to skip over this voicing.

Otherwise, go for it.

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps
Simple, right?

It's just a B major barre chord with a high A note tagged at the end. That note is important, since it rounds out a bluesy, seventh sound quality.

Assuming you love barre chords, this version is straightforward.

Dare I say, beginner-friendly.

Start with one or both of these voicings. They don't demand a lot of stretching and are easy to move from one fret to another. This way you'll accomplish something and be spurred on by progress instead of getting burnt out on the more difficult versions of the chord.

2. Work on Moving and Arpeggiating the Easy Variations

Technically the B7 chord isn't moveable.

However, the two shapes we've outlined can still be moved to a different fret (where they'll become a different note entirely: A7, C7, D7, etc.). Practice that movement to get used to shifting the chord voicings.

You can also play each chord as an arpeggio (one note at a time) to get more familiar with the shape.

Here are a few exercises to start with:

Exercise 1: The Half Slide


Exercise 2: The Full Slide


Exercise 3: Full Arpeggio


Exercise 4: Partial Arpeggio


Exercise 5: Full Arpeggio


3. Add the Open B (second string)

Remember the first three-note voicing we covered?

Let's jump back to that wonderfully simple, musical building block.

We're going to build that chord into the full, formal version, one-note-at-a-time. First, add an open B note to the chord, which is easy to do with the second string. Remember, it's an open B.

Here's our chart:

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps
Make sure the open note rings out by practicing the arpeggio version of the chord and using the pick-through method.


Listen for each note to come out clean without any buzzing or half-mutes.

If you prefer to avoid the open note, play the same chord with the root note on the sixth string, like this:


Most people prefer the open version of the chord, because that last note doesn't need to be fretted. Yet this variation could be more appealing, especially if you want to be able to move the shape (open chords are not typically considered movable).

4. Add the F# Note on the First String

Ready to complete the formal version of the B7 guitar chord?

Just add an F# on the high E string. Your pinky finger should be in position to grab the note, assuming you're playing the open version of the chord on the second fret.

Here's what the chart looks like:

Learning the B7 Guitar Chord in 5 Easy Steps
You'll have to make sure that the open B note is free to ring between the two notes on either side. That can be a little tricky, since fingers tend to "slouch" and make unwanted contact with other strings.

But once again, the arpeggio method is the best way to troubleshoot.

Pick through the chord and make sure each note rings clearly.


5. Don't try to Always Play the Formal Version

Remember the two-note dyad we started with at the beginning of this lesson?

That's a perfectly acceptable way to play the B7 chord on the guitar. It'll sound fine and the interval will exude the bluesy tone of a seventh chord, even without the other notes. Now, at some point you should learn the full version, but you don't always need to use it and it shouldn't be the first B7 chord you tackle.

Learn the minimal versions first and then progress into the more difficult voicings of the chord so that you get an incremental exposure to the concept.

Ready to tackle the more difficult versions? Refer back to the JamPlay link or checkout Guitar Trick's list of B7 variations.

An Incremental Learning Style

One, lonely little chord shouldn't require an involved learning process, right? But if you break it up into segments, you can see a lot of parts that the student needs to examine.

There's a root note, intervals, open notes, muted notes, chord-changing technique, right hand technique and form. It all has to be understood and eventually memorized in order to really learn the chord.

That takes time.

And it's not easy, so we shouldn't try to do it all at once.

Instead, take it one step at a time.

Learn the root note, then the interval, the open notes and so on. Leave time for practicing each aspect of the chord until you've covered it completely.

This incremental learning style allows us to get comfortable enough with the chord to actually use it.

In other words, don't feel pressure to learn an entire chord in one sitting. Take small steps instead.

Your Thoughts

Got an idea, exercise or technique to share?

Do you think the B7 chord is stupid and that chords are jerks?

Sound off over at Twitter and Google Plus.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Feans

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.


Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Learning the fretboard notes will make your life as a guitar player far easier.

It's foundational knowledge that you desperately need.

Because if you don't know the fretboard notes, you'll be at a significant disadvantage when compared to the musicians who do and you'll have a developmental handicap when moving onto more difficult and dynamic guitar playing.

So yeah, it's boring. But if you don't learn it now, you're going to have a harder time learning the more interesting and difficult things moving forward.

Put in the "boring practice time" early and get it out of the way.

To help you do that, we've setup some infographics and cheat sheets to make the process as painless as possible.

Start With the Two Thickest Strings

We'll begin with only the sixth and fifth strings, which are the two thickest strings on your guitar.


Because those two strings are often going to be where your root note will fall, which is how you'll tell what chord, scale and key you're playing in. That's not to say that they can't fall on other strings, but a grasp of fretboard notes starts with an understanding of the ones on the sixth and fifth strings.

So start with those two strings and go from there.

If you've learned the sixth and fifth string, you're halfway there.

Keep in mind that the sixth string and the first string are both tuned to E. Therefore, the notes on those two strings will be the same. So if you've learned the sixth and fifth string, you're halfway there.

You can then use octaves to identify notes on the fourth and third strings. But we'll delve into that more later.

For now, let's focus on the sixth and fifth string notes.

Standard tuning is assumed.

Notes on the Sixth String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The highlighted blue string is the one we're identifying notes for.

As far as memorizing it, I started from the F at the bottom and worked my way up to the E at the 12th fret. It can also help to only memorize the letter notes by themselves and then work on the flats and sharps.

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
At the 12th fret, the notes simply start over again.

These notes are the most important to be able to readily recognize, as you can find your sharps and flats based on their location.

Notes on the Fifth String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
In this case, the open note is an A since we're in standard tuning. You can see that it follows the exact same pattern as before, starting at A instead of E.

Let's look at some octaves so we can identify the notes on the fourth and third string as well.

Using Octaves

Short of just memorizing the notes for the fourth and third strings, you can use octaves to quickly determine those notes provided you've already taken the time to memorize the notes on the fifth and sixth strings.

Justine Sandercoe provides a solid explanation in this video:

Here's a link to the full lesson if you're interested.

If you skip to the 1:30 point in the video he covers a basic octave shape, which is essentially the following tab:


These two notes are both the same since the interval between them is 12 steps. That means they are exactly one octave apart. Thus the note on the third fret, a G, corresponds to the note on the fifth fret which is also a G.

Now let's move the shape.


Again, the same principle can be applied. Since the note at the eighth fret is an F, you can tell that the note at the tenth fret, on the fourth string, is also an F.

As Justin goes on to explain, the same thing is true of the root notes on the fifth string, where the octave equivalent can be found on the third string.


In the above example, each note is a C.

The Rest of the Strings

I've created graphics for the fourth, third and second strings, if you prefer to memorize them that way. Just bear in mind that the sequence of notes will be the same, and different strings will only dictate that you're starting with a different open note.

The 4th String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The 3rd String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The 2nd String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Memorization Techniques

Most people combine the octave method with some raw memorization. If you decide to go this route, wait until you're really comfortable with the sixth and fifth strings before you move on.

Once you're ready, you can start on the fourth string by counting from the first fret up to the 12th and naming each note as you go. If you get stuck, use the octave method to get yourself going again and go through each string several times.

Remember that the sixth and first strings are both going to be the same since they're both an open E.

Other Helpful Resources

Klaus Crow of Guitarhabits outlines a 16-day method for learning the entire fretboard, while Joe Walker of DeftDigits takes you through it in nine days.

Both articles are worth checking out, as they can each be done in less time if you want to move quicker.

I'd also recommend this memorization guide by Erik Buljan. In addition to memorization techniques, Buljan outlines a number of different exercises that will help you retain the information.

Your Thoughts

Do you have ideas, memorization techniques or exercises to share about this topic?

Get in touch with us over at Twitter and Google Plus.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of thraxil

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.