How to count through a 12 bar blues on harmonica

Aug 23, 2017 | 12 Bar Blues, Advanced Beginner Harmonica Lessons

Hello and welcome to this week’s harmonica lesson where I am going to teach you the structure of a 12 Bar Blues and how to count through it.

Why do you need to know the structure of a 12 bar blues?

It is really useful to know the structure so that you can improvise in a logical manner rather than just trying to throw notes out there and see what sticks. It is also important to know how to tell where you are in the sequence of the 12 bars so that you can start and end in the right place; you don’t want to play over someone else and you don’t want to start to late!

What is the structure?

A standard 12 bar blues is made up of 3 chords. You won’t necessarily be playing these chords on harmonica but it’s useful to know what they are. They are;

I chord (One chord)

IV chord (Four chord)

V chord (Five chord)

For musical notation we use Roman numerals as a convention. You’ll need to get used to it!

This is the order that they come in:


I want you to practice counting through some famous blues songs while looking at the structure. To do this you will be counting four beats in every bar. To find out where the beat is just feel for where your foot naturally taps.

While counting you are going to pay attention to how many bars have elapsed. This will help you anticipate which chord change is coming next and will help your ear to start to recognise what these chord changes sound like.

12 Easy 12 Bar Blues Course

If you are serious about taking your harmonica playing to the next level and what some guidance in learning how to make the instrument sound bluesy then my ’12 Easy 12 Bar Blues Course’ is for you.

The course lasts 12 weeks and will introduce a new 12 Bar Blues tune each week for you to learn along with new techniques and theory.

Click here to find out more about it.

Thank you

If you have any questions just send me a wee email.

Thank you so much for taking part in this lesson. I hope it was useful for you. If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it with your friends.

See you again for the next harmonica video!

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