8-bar blues

Something I often do to introduce students to improvising is play a blues accompaniment and give them small parts of the blues scale so they can start making up little melodies. (Usually in Eb and C where the blues scales are visually memorable on the piano). Prior to improvising, when i was little, I had teachers show me simple blues songs for the piano by Eric Kriss, but I didn't really start to comfortably improvise until later because of the difficulty in simultaneously focusing on playing a strong bluesy accompaniment and improvising an interesting melody.

I had one casual student who decided he exclusively wanted to play bluesy material which pushed me to dig deeper into it myself. One thing I came across that I think people in jazz don't play enough is the 8-bar blues. I first started checking out 8-bar blues after hearing Jimmy Rushing play and sing "How Long Blues" on an excellent DVD of jazz singers from the Jazz Casual series.  Check out the original version by Leroy Carr from 1928.


It follows this kind of progression



In the Wikipedia entry on 8-bar blues, it shows many variants, basically nearly any combination of I, IV and V chords into 8 bars.
 
In my own practice, I find the closest relative of a basic 3-chord 12-bar is this:



Unlike a 12-bar blues, an 8-bar is short enough that the ear might be expecting additional material or a bridge. To counter this I think a true 8-bar blues has to be at a slower tempo so it feels like a complete statement.

Click here to see an 8-bar blues I wrote called "All-Star Special"

Click here to listen to the demo recording of the song.

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