Rock and Roll Rhythms

Rock and Roll Rhythms

One common way to spice up a basic 12 bar blues progression is to use a 5 chord and it’s associated 6th and 7th. You have heard these sounds a million times – think of the classic Status Quo sound. A particularly great example is Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin, with a more modern example being Rocks by Primal Scream. This approach is also familiar both as a classic blues and a basic rock and roll sound for the guitar.

There are thousands of examples, but you will recognise the sound when you hear it.

Check out the video to hear the basic sound in a rock context.



Let’s start by considering a common 12 bar blues sequence in the key of A:

|A        |A        |A        |A       |D        |D        |A        |A        |E        |D        |A        |E        |

We can play the whole sequence using open 5 chords:

Five Chords


A five chord consists of just the root note and the fifth, this gives it a neutral sound. The chord is neither major nor minor, this is because it does not have a third in it.

To spice things up a bit we can add the 6th and/or 7th of the chord to this basic shape:

adding the sixth and seventh


I recommend using your first finger to hold down the 5, the third finger to hold down the 6th and the little finger to hold down the 7th – This follows the “one finger per fret” rule.

We can use these chords to play a 12 bar blues in many different styles.

The video below gives basic demonstrations of 3 basic approaches, a slow blues, basic rock and roll and a sort of 70s rock approach.


Once you are familiar with the rhythms, experiment with your own ideas. These chords and ideas can be used in many situations and of course can also be used just as easily with E and A shape barre chords, but more about that another time.

Have fun.

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