12 Bar Blues with Diads

12 Bar Blues with Diads

The 12 bar blues is usually played with three chords – a I chord, a IV chord and a V chord. These chords are often played as dominant 7 chords.

This post explains how to play a 12 bar blues in D (D – G – A) using diads. Diads are two note chords, in this case we will use just the third and the flat 7 of each chord. Amazingly each chord uses the same shape on the same strings!


First let’s have a look at the shapes that the diads are derived from:-

Diads 1

The D7 chord is derived from the ‘C’ shape, while the G7 and A7 are derived from the ‘E’ shape – The cut down versions are shown. The diads we use are shown in the next chord box. The squares form the G7 chord, The filled circles form the D7 chord and the unfilled circles the A7 chord.


The Chord Shapes used are shown below.

Diads 2

Note that none of these chords have a root – the bass player can supply this! (NR stands for no root)

Also notice that the I chord (D7) is a third then the flat 7, the other two chords have the same chord tones, but the other way up.


One very useful things about these little diads is that they are great for sliding around and sound great approached from a semitone (1 fret) below. E.G. playing the horn line in “I Feel Good”, by James Brown.




  • Here is a basic 12 bar blues progression to try these diads out with.

|D7       |D7        |D7       |D7       |G7       |G7       |D7       |D7       |A7        | G7          |D7        |A7       ||


Have a play with them and have fun!


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