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Chord Nerd Tip #7: A Basic Minor Blues Progression

Posted by Banjolio on Thursday, March 6, 2014

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The banjo is known for its high-energy—even happy—sound. But it can also sound haunting and sad. A good way to explore this side of the banjo (and play some cool chords) is to learn the minor blues progression.

Many songs are based on the minor blues progression. The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King is probably the most recognizable.

The minor blues is similar to “regular” blues, but with some minor chords. Here’s the progression at its most basic, in the key of C, 4/4 time (four beats to each measure):

||: Cm         |                 |                 |                 |

|    Fm        |                 | Cm           |                 |

|    Ab7       | G7            | Cm           | Ab7     G7:||

You could just play Cm for the last measure, but the Ab7 to G7 works as a nice turn-around that leads you back to the beginning.

Here are some chord shapes you can use to play these chords:

For variation, you can use the 1-4 string swap on the 7th chords. You could play the one shown above for measures 9 and 10, and use the ones below for the final measure (if you want):

You can play these chords any way you want: strum, claw or pick. It all depends on what you like, and what kind of a sound you want out of it. A slow strum will sound sadder than a fast Scruggs picking pattern, but play what you like.

Here’s one way it can sound:

Now, just for fun, let’s play it further up the neck … same chords, just different shapes. Here are shapes you can try … note that the second set of Ab7 and G7 are 1-4 string swaps from the first set.

Here’s how this sounds:

Next time, we’ll jazz up the progression and use some minor 7th and minor 7b5 chords.

Michael Bremer is a writer, editor, publisher and banjo player. He is writing and publishing the Banjo GED series of instructional materials, and also writes and edits for Hal Leonard.

Banjo GED #1: Chords! Chords! Chords! teaches you everything you could ever want to know (and more) about playing chords on a 5-string banjo in G tuning.

Banjo Aerobics (published by Hal Leonard) is a book of exercises to help you gain technique and better understand the banjo neck.

Clawhammer Cookbook (published by Hal Leonard) will be  available any day now ... here's a link to it on Amazon:


10 comments on “Chord Nerd Tip #7: A Basic Minor Blues Progression”

Tatersoup Says:
Monday, March 10, 2014 @9:46:37 AM

Thank you so much!

Gordy Ohliger Says:
Monday, March 10, 2014 @11:54:27 AM

Hmmm.... Those are pretty in a bunch like that..I do this all the time on's nice to see it comin' round on a five.
It's nice to get away from my usual miner voicings. The 5-string is really grabbing me lately.Thanks

zevio Says:
Monday, March 10, 2014 @11:02:48 PM

thanks Michael - can't seem to get the graphics to display??

Theresse Says:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 @12:49:22 AM

Those were great! I always do clawhammer but this time did a little...I guess picking is the word (like classical guitar), keeping it to the more haunting scales. Fun, thanks!

Brooklynbanjoboy Says:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 @7:00:44 AM

I just got your book, though I haven't cracked it open yet. This lesson, and the musical adventure that comes from toggling back and forth across these sevewral chords, suggests I have a great read in front of me. Thanks.

Banjolio Says:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 @8:45:21 AM

Thanks to everyone for their likes and comments. I'm just happy to know that people actually read these articles, and hopefully get some fun new music out of them.

zevfink: I don't know why you're not getting the graphics this time. But I can send you a pdf that you should be able to see. Send me a private message with your email and I'll send it to you.

bjango53 Says:
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 @3:05:43 AM

Excellent, thanks Micheal

Elgar44 Says:
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 @1:11:59 PM

Many thanks this has just opened a whole new world of possibilities ELGAR 44

lami88 Says:
Thursday, April 27, 2017 @12:07:34 AM

Yes you are right.Songs are based on the minor blues progression.I'm common rail come from sensor.I want to learn more about songs...

Texasbanjo Says:
Thursday, April 27, 2017 @4:35:53 AM

Do not click on URL from Lami88. She's a spammer!

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