12/8 Basic Grooves

A introduction to playing grooves in the time signature of 12/8.

Make sure you've read through our lesson on Time Signatures before working through this lesson.

12/8 is a compound time signature that is the equivalent to two bars of 6/8. It is counted '1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12'. Even though it is a compound time signature, it has more in common with 4/4 than other compound time signatures such as 6/8 and 9/8. It is often used as an alternative to writing 4/4 in Swing Time when a lot of triplets are used as it is a cleaner method of notation. A bar of 12/8 made up entirely of quavers would be played exactly the same as a bar of 4/4 made up of Eighth Note Triplets. This means the two bars below would be played the same:

Comparing 4/4 triplets to 12/8 quavers

Whilst 12/8 can be used for any style of music, it is most commonly used in Blues.

Listed below are several examples of 12/8 grooves. For this introductory lesson I have kept these as simple as possible, the point here is to familiarize you with the time signature, you'll get clever with it in later lessons.

Example 1

A 12/8 groove

Example 2

A 12/8 groove

Example 3

A 12/8 groove

Example 4

A 12/8 groove

Example 5

A 12/8 groove

Example 6

A 12/8 groove


  • Learn the grooves above up to a tempo of at least 130bpm.
  • Think about fill construction in 12/8.
  • Create some 4 bar phrases in 12/8. For now, use three bars of a groove followed by one bar of a different groove.