12 Bar Blues Piano: Easy Left Hand Technique

12-Bar-Blues-PianoWe have already touched upon playing 12 bar blues piano as we focused on scale options for improvising. Here, we will acknowledge an easy way to accompany your right hand lines.

We are already familiar with the three essential chords in the basic blues which are the I7, IV7, and V7 chords. In the key of C, these are:




Let’s look at these chords spelled out:

C7 = C  E  G  Bb

F7 = F  A  C  Eb

G7 = G  B  D  F

Playing these chords in this fashion is certainly okay. However, we can actually play them in a way that is more conducive to a “bluesy”
kind of sound. Let’s see how this works as we have fun playing 12 bar blues piano in a manner that’s relatively simple and yet sounds good…

Let’s take a look at each of these chords above and, as we do, focus on the 3 and 7 of each of these chords…

For C7, the 3 and 7 are:

E and Bb

For F7, the 3 and 7 are:

A and Eb

For G7, the 3 and 7 are:

B and F

Now, let’s take a closer look at these combinations as they are played below middle C on the piano. Play the E and Bb (for C7) just below middle C (the E is below the Bb). Next, although the 3 and 7 of F7 are A and Eb, respectively, let’s invert those so that the Eb (the 7) is played lower than the A (the 3). Doing this keeps the 3 and 7 of C7 and the 7 and 3 of F7 one half step away from each other. This is smooth voice leading. Next, play the 7 and 3 of G7, respectively, so that they are only one whole step from the 7 and 3 of F7. This all looks like this on the staff:


So, you see, all three positions of these combinations are very close to each other. Again, it’s smooth voice leading and it sounds good!

Begin by practicing at a slow tempo through the 12 bar blues form as you move from one chord to another, playing only the 3 and 7 of each chord. Not only does this sound good but it’s also a great way to practice because your focus can be placed more on that right hand as you have fun creating some improvisations. The left hand is playing with minimal effort yet what it is playing is quite effective.

So, by playing less, we actually  attain more of the kind of sound we want with that left hand. The chord voicings are thin and tasteful. Once you gain confidence with playing these combinations for the I, IV, and V in the key or C, have fun exploring them in other keys as you make playing the blues a part of your daily routine!