In music, an eight-bar blues is a typical blues chord progression, "the second most common blues form," "common to folk, rock, and jazz forms of the blues," taking eight 4/4 or 12/8 bars to the verse.
Examples include "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Key to the Highway", "Trouble in Mind" and "Stagolee". "Heartbreak Hotel", "How Long Blues", "Ain't Nobody's Business", "Cherry Red", and "Get a Haircut" are all eight-bar blues standards.
One variant using this progression is to couple one eight-bar blues melody with a different eight-bar blues bridge to create a blues variant of the standard 32-bar song. "Walking By Myself", "I Want a Little Girl" and "(Romancing) In The Dark" are examples of this form. See also blues ballad.
Eight bar blues progressions have more variations than the more rigidly defined twelve bar format. The move to the IV chord usually happens at bar 3 (as opposed to 5 in twelve bar). However, "the I chord moving to the V chord right away, in the second measure, is a characteristic of the eight-bar blues."
In the following examples each box represents a 'bar' of music (the specific time signature is not relevant). The chord in the box is played for the full bar. If two chords are in the box they are each played for half a bar, etc. The chords are represented as scale degrees in Roman numeral analysis. Roman numerals are used so the musician may understand the progression of the chords regardless of the key it is played in.
"Worried Life Blues" (probably the most common eight bar blues progression):
"Heartbreak Hotel" (variation with the I on the first half):
I I I I IV IV V I
"Get a Haircut" by George Thorogood (simple progression):
I I I I IV IV V V
I7 I7 I7 I7 IV7 V7 I7 V7
Howlin Wolf's version of "Sitting on Top of the World" is actually a 9 bar blues that adds an extra "V" chord at the end of the progression. The song uses movement between major and dominant 7th and major and minor fourth:
I I7 IV iv I7 V I7 IV I7 V
I I7 IV iv I VI7 ii V I IV I V
IV7 IV7 I7 I7 V7 IV7 I7 V7
There are at least a few very successful songs using somewhat unusual chord progressions as well. For example, the song Ain't Nobody's business as performed by Freddie King at least, uses a I III IV iv progression in each of the first four bars. The same four bar progression is used by the band Radiohead to make up the bulk of the song 'Creep'.
I III IV iv I vi ii V7
The same chord progression can also be called a sixteen-bar blues, if each symbol above is taken to be a half note in 2/2 or 4/4 time. Examples are "Nine Pound Hammer" and Ray Charles's original instrumental "Sweet Sixteen Bars".
- Riker, Wayne (1994). Complete Blues Guitar Method: Mastering Blues Guitar, p.91. ISBN 978-0-7390-0408-1.
- Barrett, David (2000). Blues Harmonica Jam Tracks & Soloing Concepts #1, p.8. ISBN 978-0-7866-5653-0.
- James, Steve (2001). Inside Blues Guitar, p.18. ISBN 978-1-890490-36-2.
- George Heaps-Nelson, Barbara Koehler (1989). You Can Teach Yourself Harmonica, p.87. ISBN 978-0-87166-264-4.
- Alfred Publishing (2002). Beginning Delta Blues Guitar, p.41. ISBN 978-0-7390-3006-6.
- David Barrett, John Garcia (2008). Improvising Blues Harmonica, p.50. ISBN 978-0-7866-7321-6.
- Barrett, David (2006). Blues Harmonica Play-along Trax, p.16. ISBN 978-0-7866-7393-3.
- Riker (1994), p.92.