41 Free Resources for Teaching the 12 bar blues Pinterest

The 12 bar blues has long been a favourite amongst music educators for teaching form, triads, the blues scale, cyclical chord progressions and music history. Here are some of my favourite online music resources:

Background information

1. Wikipedia Blues history article.

2. The Gullah Net website includes information about the evolution of blues music and how it influenced other styles. Head to Gullah Music and then visit the Journey section for an interactive map.

3. List of blues genres on Wikipedia (there are many!)

4. The Blues music history timeline.

Blues Musicians

5. 30 key blues musicians in pictures

6. Best blues artists of all time – a ranked list

Blues Songs Lists and Listening Examples

7. Visit your favourite music streaming service (I use Spotify) and search for blues playlists that have been curated by others

8. The Wikipedia list of blues standards

9. Visit the iTunes store and search “blues” to find hundreds of blues examples. You can play 90 seconds of each track before purchasing it.

10. Clips from the 7-part PBS series The Blues.

Blues Instruments

11. A list of instruments commonly played by blues musicians

Memorable performances

Well this section could have been VERY long so I’ve chosen just a handful of songs. Most of the songs listed are in the 12 bar blues format.

12. WC Handy (known as the “father of the blues”) – Memphis Blues

13. WC Handy performing St Louis Blues.

14. Mamie Smith singing the Harlem Blues

15. Glenn Miller and his band playing In The Mood

16. B.B. King The Thrill Is Gone

17. Rock Me Baby featuring BB King, Robert Cray Band, Jimmie Vaughan,  and Hubert Sumlin

18. James Brown singing I Feel Good

19. Herbie Hancock performing Watermelon Man

Music theory

20. The Wikipedia article on how the 12 bar blues is constructed

21. Wikipedia article about the blues scale.

How-To-Play Resources

22. Lessons (mostly for guitarists) on Youtube.

23. One good example of a blues guitar lesson (by Next Level Guitar)

24. A downloadable collection of blues licks for keyboard players.  You can download a MuseScore score, a PDF or MusicXML file (which is compatible with any notation software)

Blues Dictionary

25. Having trouble working out the meaning of those blues lyrics? This blues glossary might help.  Includes the meaning of some slang terms and describes locations named in songs.

Blues Games

26. Play a little Desktop blues. Click on the Click Here button to start and then make sure to turn on the radio by clicking the appropriate button so that the backing track plays. You can then click on the coloured squares to “improvise” guitar licks and vocals. The vocals seem to work best: it’s difficult to get the guitar parts in time with the backing, but the vocals sound OK if the timing is “free”.

27. Ever wondered what your blues name is? Use this blues name generator to find out

[in case you’re wondering, mine is Curly Bad Boy Bailey].

Lesson plans and ideas

28. Discover a range of lesson plans to accompany the PBS series The Blues.

29. Soundtree lesson plan for singing the blues with GarageBand (written in 2004 so will need some adaptation)

30.Smartboard interactive whiteboard Notebook file The Blues by Mrs Alison Friedman. Visit this page , scroll down the the 4th grade section and download The Blues file from the end of the list. If you don’t have Notebook software, you can open the file using SMART Notebook Express.

31. Discover the secret code hidden in many blues songs on the Gullah Music website.

32. Learn about rhythms and percussion instruments used in blues music and then create your own “remix”.

33. If you have iPads, I’ve created a lesson called Transforming the 12 Bar Blues which you can download here

Creative Activities

34. Using a software program like GarageBand, Acid Music Studio, Mixcraft, Sonar Home Studio or the GarageBand app on the iPad, have students create their own 12 bar blues backing. They can then play or sing a melody based on the blues scale over the top.

35. Write your own blues lyrics on the Gullah Music website

36. Visit the Quaver Music website and use the QStrum tool to create a 12 bar blues backing using chords and preset rhythmic patterns. Students will need to sign up with an email address in order to use the resource, but it’s well worth it (there are many excellent music tools available in addition to QStrum). Click on Kids Enter Here and sign up (or log in) to get started. Next, enter the Studio and choose QStrum (hover your mouse over the screen until you find it!). Using the QStrum tool, students can easily build their 12 bar blues backing using rhythmic patterns and chords and you can play it back using the controls at the top of the screen (extension activity: create a bass part and write some lyrics).

Useful Images

Add some visual interest to your own prepared materials by using these images in your Powerpoint or Keynote files and worksheets.

I’ve been a fan of Philip Martin for quite some time now. He is an artist who creates beautiful clipart for teachers and he has a number of images that would be useful for a unit of work on the blues, including these ones:

37. Drummer

38. Guitarist

39. Guitar

40. Jazz

41. Fats Domino

42. You can also find a range of Creative Commons licensed blues music images on Flickr (see below) by using the search tool Compfight (ignore the few in the top section – paid advert)


Any others?

Well, I hope you find this collection useful! Any that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below.

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