What Are the 3 Blues Chords You Need to Know?

Blues music has its own distinct sound and many are familiar with the 12-bar blues progression – an excellent place to begin learning blues guitar.

Blues chord voicings typically incorporate 13ths, 9ths or other color tones to produce that characteristic blues sound. Furthermore, they often exclude their roots – only playing three, five and seven of each chord as part of its expression.

Table of Contents


C7 is one of the three blues chords featured in a basic 12-bar blues progression. As a dominant 7th chord, which adds a lower seventh scale degree to its matching major chord, dominant 7ths provide an interesting contrast to major or minor chords; offering contrast between key tonic (C7) and other chords in progression (D7 and F7 etc).

Typically, each chord in a basic 12-bar blues progression has its own scale associated with it, yet one scale that works across them all and allows you to switch easily among them without losing a distinct and clear sound is the blues scale.

As a guitarist, it’s vitally important that you understand scales and their relation to chords you play – this allows for more informed decisions about which chords should be used in your music.

The C7 chord is an ideal starting point when beginning to play blues guitar, being both accessible and simple to learn. It provides an excellent opportunity to start learning the other chords in the progression while serving as an excellent foundational skill for learning other dominant 7th chords such as D7 and F7 – two examples being Hank Williams’ use of it on “Hey Good Lookin’,” creating tension for an song about relationships that might be headed for trouble; also used by The Supremes (“Baby Love”) and Eric Carmen in “All By Myself”.


F7, commonly used in blues music, but can also be found across genres like rock and pop music, is the dominant seventh chord in C key. This chord stands out among its peers due to its distinct sound that sets it apart from others seventh chords – often used to build tension before resolution occurs – making an impactful statement about itself and generating emotion with classic tunes such as Hoagy Carmichael’s and Johnny Mercer’s “Lazy Bones”, or modern hits such as “Moon River”.

An ideal 12-bar blues progression comprises each chord being played for 12 bars (also referred to as measures). Each bar in 4/4 time contains four beats and blues musicians often use these changes as opportunities to improvise and develop their unique style of blues music performance.

Starting your blues education off right can be challenging, but starting off by playing I-IV-7-V in C is an excellent place to begin. These chords are easy to pick up and provide a solid basis for playing songs in other keys as soon as you master I-IV-7-V in C – from there, experiment further to see how similar chords transform themselves when played differently across various styles.

One chord progression frequently used in blues music is the iim7-V7-IV turnaround. This variation on the basic blues progression can often be heard in jazz music; its use by artists like BB King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy have resulted in them creating their own styles of blues music using these basic chords.


The G7 blues chord is another of three dominant seventh chords you should learn if you want to play blues. Its versatility makes it an excellent chord to learn as it works well with different rhythms and strumming patterns; experiment with straight 8ths, shuffles or 16th note patterns for added variety in your playing; just ensure that all appropriate chord shapes are used, without leaving out any notes that don’t belong there!

G7 blues chord is less accessible to play than C7 and F7, since its chord shape does not contain a root note. While this makes it slightly harder, G7 remains one of the most prevalent blues chords used today and can be heard in many popular songs.

G7 chord is another excellent one to master as it serves as a returning chord back to Am in an Am7 – F7 – G7 progression – an essential staple of blues music but also frequently found in country and other genres such as pop.

Motown music often utilizes this chord, such as Diana Ross and the Supremes’s “Baby Love,” featuring this chord over a D7#9 sound (Jimi Hendrix chord), to add tension and resolve progressions in songs. Understanding this type of progressions is worth your while as they provide classic ways of creating tension in songs and offering resolution for them.


Addicting a minor 7th to any major chord gives it that blues sound, setting apart blues chords from plain major ones by their tension-ridden structure – this explains why blues has such an immense influence over other musical genres.

E7 chords are among the easiest of blues chords to learn as only two fingers are necessary. Use either your index or middle finger to fret the low E string while leaving other strings open; this allows you to mute all bass notes while still hearing your chord. Essentially this same technique applies when fretting B7 chords as well; just without B string mute.

This E7 chord can be played either using an Eb7 root-based version or rootless Gdim chord; therefore it offers great versatility. I recommend beginning with one version before expanding your repertoire later.

Use dominant 7th chords to compose a standard 12-bar blues progression in the keys of A, C, and D. While this may not seem like much, it will do enough to impress your friends and have fun playing blues! Plus these chords provide a great foundation to create other genres!


This chord is an integral component of blues progressions. However, it can also be found in various genres of music like pop and rock; mastering it will enable you to play an array of songs.

As far as melodic considerations go, A7 dominates among dominant 7th chords for being open-sounding and stable melodically. Additionally, its distinct sound derives from its tritone interval (the distance between root and 5th). This produces its distinctive dissonant tone – another reason it stands out so distinctively and is so common.

A7 chord is an integral component of major blues scale. It can often be found as the dominant chord and is frequently decorated with chord or lead phrases for added dimension and melody. Sometimes known as a “Dive Bomb” chord due to its frequent usage in middle of progressions where it creates an ominous vibe ideal for dark and dramatic blues progressions, the A7 makes an essential addition.

A7 chord is also an excellent choice for practicing ii-V chord progressions as it can easily be moved up and down the fretboard without changing keys, giving you maximum value out of every session with your guitar! Doing this gives you maximum efficiency in terms of chord learning! Furthermore, playing these progressions provides great mileage as an investment in new tunes quickly!


Blues music is beloved and well-recognized genre, easily identifiable by its characteristic 12-bar chord progression that follows a set pattern. One of the first things a new blues player should do when learning this form is internalizing these changes so they always know which chord comes next without having to think too hard about what chord is coming next – something especially essential if playing live blues is your goal; you must keep up with beat and not miss any chords!

Blues chords often utilize 7ths, 9ths and 13ths to achieve their signature sound; however, any dominant chord can be used in a blues progression.

One of the most commonly played blues chords is B7, also known as a B dominant 7 chord. This chord has the same root as E major chord but uses an additional flat 7 to create its distinctive sound and can even be played using minor pentatonic scale to add tension and dissonance into a progression.