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Christy Bannerman

Guitarist, Musician and Teacher

Blues Guitar Backing Tracks

Practicing and jamming with backing tracks is one of the best ways there is to improve your playing – especially when it comes to blues guitar. 

There are lots of good backing tracks available on Youtube, but it’s not always easy to tell what key they’re in, what tempo they’re at, whether they’re major or minor, etc.

To save time and help you have more fun and productive jam/practice sessions, I’ve made a list of free blues backing tracks and included all the key information you need to see at a glance.

Have fun, and if you find a backing track you like, be sure to bookmark the page and pop over to the creator’s channel to leave them a like, a comment, and/or subscribe to their channel.

Quick navigation

The backing tracks are split into two groups – Dominant and Minor. The differences between each type are summarised in this post, along with reference diagrams for their progressions and variations. To skip straight to the backing tracks, click the links below:

Dominant Blues Backing Tracks
Minor Blues Backing Tracks

Dominant or 'Major' Blues

The Dominant blues is the ‘standard’ form of blues, i.e. the classic blues sound. It’s common to call this a Major Blues, to differentiate it from Minor Blues, but the musically accurate term is Dominant.

Dominant blues songs use 7th chords (Dominant 7th chords to give them their full name, hence the term Dominant Blues). In lead guitar, in a Dominant Blues, you can combine both Minor AND Major Pentatonic/Blues scales in all sorts of cool ways.

Dominant Blues uses the standard 12 Bar Blues progression, with a few common variations, which I explain below.

First, here is the original 12 Bar Blues progression everything is based on, in the key of A. It’s a cycle of 3 simple chords in a 12 bar pattern, where each box represents one bar or 4 beats:

The standard 12 Bar Blues

Variations on the 12 Bar Blues

Once this progression is firmly established, there are two main variations on it that you need to know:

Turnaround Bar: The cycle ends with a V chord in the 12th bar (e.g. E7 in place of A7, in the key of A), pulling back to the I chord and setting up the progression to repeat again. (The V chord may also enter the final bar a few beats late, which has a nice effect. I call this a Half Turnaround Bar.)

Quick change: The cycle has a IV chord in the 2nd bar (e.g. D7 in the key of A). This variation is particularly common in Slow Blues, where the tempo is very low and the immediate chord change in bar 2 adds some extra interest to the first section. (Red House by Jimi Hendrix is a really nice example, in the key of Bb).

These two variations can appear individually, or be combined. Here is an example blues with a quick change and a turnaround bar:

The blues backing tracks below all use combinations of these essential progressions in different keys and at different tempos. Understanding the 12 Bar Blues structure and these two variations enables you to play with any style of dominant blues!

Dominant Blues Backing Tracks

Style: Traditional Slow Blues
Key: A
Tempo: 70 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Traditional Shuffle
Key: A
Tempo: 105 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Heavy Shuffle Blues
Key: A
Tempo: 115 bpm
Turnaround Bar: No
Quick Change: No

Style: Medium Shuffle
Key: G
Tempo: 105 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Jazzy Shuffle Blues
Key: B
Tempo: 120 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Slow Blues w/ Organ
Key: B
Tempo: 60 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Slow Blues
Key: E
Tempo: 60 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change
: Yes

Style: Texas Blues
Key: E
Tempo: 122 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change: No

Style: Heavy Shuffle Blues
Key: E
Tempo: 86 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Half
Quick Change: No

Style: Heavy Shuffle Blues
Key: A
Tempo: 73 bpm
Turnaround Bar: No
Quick Change: No

Minor Blues

The Minor Blues is the other form of blues, where, at a basic level, the Dominant 7th chords are substituted for Minor 7th chords. This gives the classic 12 bar progression a more subdued, low-key mood.

Here is the basic 12 bar pattern, but it uses Minor 7th chords (shown in the key of A):

(PS You’ll notice that the numerals indicating the chord numbers in the minor 12 bar blues below are lower case. That’s not a mistake – the convention is to use upper case for major-type chords and lower case for minor-type chords, so that you can instantly tell them apart on a chart.)

In contrast to Dominant Blues, in Minor Blues, you generally want to avoid the Major Pentatonic scale (unless of course you know what you’re doing and are going for a specific effect).

The best fitting scales for Minor Blues are the Minor Pentatonic and Minor Blues scales, and, if you want to start adding a little extra spice, the Dorian scale. (The Natural Minor can also sound extremely good, but you need to use it well.)

Minor Blues has lots of possibilities, owing to the fact that there is more than one type of minor scale. All sorts of variations can be stacked upon each other, ultimately taking things so far away from Blues that you start to move into the realm of Jazz.

However, when it comes to Blues, there are a couple of main minor-key variations you need to be aware of that happen so often as to be standard. These are:

Major or Dominant V Chord: The V chord in a minor key is naturally a Minor 7th, however, in Minor Blues, this is frequently substituted for a Dominant V chord – a common minor-key variation that comes from the Harmonic Minor scale. Dominant V chords in a this context sound slightly more sophisticated, and increase the sense of ‘pull’ back to the home chord.

VI-V Chord Turnaround: The last four bars is where the most common Minor Blues variation takes place. Instead of the classic V then IV in bars 9 and 10, the Minor Blues substitution is for a VI followed by a dominant V in these bars. The descending effect of the progression is similar, but the mood is a lot more minor sounding. In the key of A, this would be F to E7, than back to Am7 for the final bars 11 and 12. This variation is used in B.B. King’s famous rendition of ‘Thrill is Gone’.

These two variations are typically combined together:

As already noted in the section above, a Minor Blues may also have a Quick Change variation, or a Turnaround Bar variation. If so, this will be marked below the track.

Style: Slow Minor Blues
Key: Am
Tempo: 60 bpm
Turnaround Bar: No
Quick Change:
Major V Chord
: Yes
VI Chord: Yes

Style: Chicago Minor Blues
Key: Am
Tempo: 100 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change:
Major V Chord
: Yes
VI Chord: Yes

Style: Smooth Minor Blues
Key: Cm
Tempo: 65 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Half
Quick Change:
Major V Chord: Yes – 7#9, see 
The Hendrix Chord.
VI Chord: Yes

Style: Minor Blues
Key: Gm
Tempo: 90 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes
Quick Change
Major V Chord
: No
VI Chord: No

Style: Chicago Minor Blues
Key: Am
Tempo: 105 bpm
Turnaround Bar
: Yes
Quick Change:
Major V Chord: No

VI Chord: No

Style: Pink-Floydy
Key: Am
Tempo: 55 bpm
Turnaround Bar: Yes – 7#9, see The Hendrix Chord.
Quick Change: No
Major V Chord: See above
VI Chord: No

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About Me

I’m Christy and I’m a musician and guitar teacher from Scotland. I help aspiring players unlock their natural talent and reach their musical goals through no-BS articles, videos, and online lessons.

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