The I Iv V Blues Chord Progression
The Professor
Aug 15 2013, 03:27 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
The I IV V Blues Progression

If you’ve played the guitar for even a few weeks, or have never played and just love modern music, then you have no doubt come across the term “I IV V Blues.”

The I IV V Blues is one of the most commonly used forms and chord progressions in modern music, as you can find it in Rock, Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul, R&B, Pop and Country music, especially on song written by or featuring guitarists.

In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking into how you build and recognize a I IV V blues tune, 10 songs that use this form and then test your theory chops as you work through a few transposition exercises with this common musical form.

What Is A I IV V Blues?

The I IV V Blues is built in a similar fashion to the I IV V chord progression that we looked at earlier in this series of lessons.

But there are a few main differences that we need to take a look at.

First, is the type of chords used in each of these progressions. Normally, you would build the I IV V chords of a key by taking the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of the parent major scale and stacking 3rds on top of these roots to form the chords.

You can see an example of this here, where I’ve spelled out the I IV and V chords of a C major scale, producing the chords Cmaj7, Fmaj7 and G7.

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But, in a blues the chords are slightly different. What we do here, is use the same root notes, the 1st, 4th and 5th of the parent major scale, so C-F-G in a C blues, but every chord is a 7th chord, so C7-F7-G7.

Here is how those chords look on paper.

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As well, the form of a I IV V blues is 12 bars long, with a semi-strict ordering of the chords, at least for the basic blues progression as you can see here.

In this case, the I7 chord is in bars 1-4, 7-8 and 11-12. The IV7 chord is in bars 5-7 and 10, with the V7 chord in bar 9 only.

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Try playing through this progression on the guitar to get the sound of the form, and the three 7th chords, into your ears and under your fingers before checking out some of the famous blues tunes below.

10 I IV V Blues Songs

Here is a list of 10 classic songs that use the Blues form. Though some of these songs were written by earlier musicians, which you should also check out, I’ve included the names of the most well-known recordings and covers so you can check those out as well.

As the blues form and chord order changes with every player, and sometimes between covers of the same song, this list contains “pure” I IV V Blues songs, as well as songs that use variations of that form to check out.

1. Crossroads - Cream/Robert Johnson
2. Dust My Broom - Elmore James
3. Stormy Monday - T-Bone Walker
4. Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan
5. Sweet Home Chicago - Buddy Guy/Robert Johnson
6. Red House - Jimi Hendrix
7. I Can’t Quit You Baby - Led Zeppelin/Otis Rush
8. Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
9. CC Rider - Mitch Ryder/Ma Rainey
10. Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac

Do you have a favorite I-IV-V Blues song? Share it in the comments section below.

Test Your Theory Chops

After you have checked out the examples above, and learned about how to build a I IV V Blues Progression, you can test you theory chops by writing out the blues in A, E, D, G and B.

Here is a blank form that you can use to do your work on, and you can post your answers in the thread below, just use the “spoiler” tag on the left of this screen to hide your answers.

Here are the answers if you want to check your work.

A7 D7 E7
E7 A7 B7
D7 G7 A7
G7 C7 D7
B7 E7 F#7

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Do you have any questions about the I IV V blues? Share your thoughts in the thread below.

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