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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JWC, Mar 19, 2001.

  1. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    just started playing with a blues band. love the blues, but guess what? don't know where to even start. say they say just blues in E. What do I do? Notes? Patterns? Advice?
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    There are some pretty standard and recognizable bass patterns in blues that run through many of the best known classic blues songs.

    The main thing you will need to nail and nail fast is the Twelve Bar Blues which is the I IV V chord progression of so many blues songs. You should know the I IV V chords in every key. Yes, E is a very common key, but it is hard for me to imagine your band plays ALL their repertoire in E.

    They probably play A, a lot. Also, C, and G.

    Back to the Twelve Bar Blues. Not all songs have the true Twelve Bar pattern. many begin with a four or eight bar intro before starting the twelve bar pattern.

    I forgot to mention the "turnaround." That is the pattern at the end of the twelve bar pattern that indicates it is time to start the pattern again.

    Two scales you want to nail are the minor pentatonic and the blues scales. The most popular blues bass patterns have notes that come from those scales.

    Activebass.com has those scales in their "Bassics" section. You can study them there in every key. They may also have a lesson in I IV V chord progressions. Check their "Lessons" section.

    If you need to know more detailed information, please e-mail me or post here. I can give you names of some excellent books and videos that will broaden you horizons as a blues player immensely.

    You are so lucky to be in a blues band, because you will get such vital experience in improvisation. Plus once you have mastered the foundations of blues playing, you have an excellent foundation for moving up to jazz.

  3. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    If you're playing in E the pattern can be:

    E =4 bars
    A =2 bars
    E =2 bars
    B = 1 bar
    A = 1 bar
    E = 2 bars

    You can try playing a riff or some kind of groove but between chord changes you can walk up and down the scales Jason mentioned to the desired note.

    Oh yeah a classic thing to do is to go from the root to minor 3rd to the major 3rd, start messing with that...

    Eh.. good luck..
  4. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    thanks alot guys and gals. im gonna need all the help i can get!
  5. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    also, what are some typical walking patterns over chords? like over E major perhaps? 1st to 3rd to 5th????
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Well, this is just a quick one, but don't forget you do a decent amount of shifting in 4ths, so:

    I - ii - iii - III (right into the 4).

    You could use that going up from the I to the IV on the 4th bar. Going down a fourth, you have:

    viii - bvii - vi - v.

    Does that make sense? This is a real basic blues "walk-up."

    If you're in G, playing:

    G / C / G / G
    C / C / G / G
    D / C / G / G

    ...then you could use the walk up on bar 4, playing:
    G - A - Bb - B (giving you the leading tone to C).

    Okay, so that's just one of an infinite number of possibilities.
  7. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    Blues are a bit tighter and more defined structurally than rock. Working with the intervals helps - try a I-III-V-VI walking line occasionally. Between arpeggios, with 6ths added, and chromatic walkups/walkdowns, you should at least have a good start.
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Here's a two bar "walking" pattern that is so common in blues it is generic. I will give you the intervals.

    First bar: R, 3, 5, 6
    Second bar: Octave, 6, 5, 3

    Pay attention to the chord of the bar. Be certain not to make a mistake when the first bar is one chord, and the next bar is another chord.

    Here's another very common pattern.

    First bar: R, 3, 5, 6
    Second bar: b7, 6, 5, 3

    The beauty part is you can play these same patterns in any key. As you know the intervals of the chord, they stay the same. So you can play in E, A, Bflat, F, C, G or whatever. That way you can be much more versatile.

  9. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    I've been playing blues for quite a while and I thikn I have gotten fairly good at it.
    When I first tried it I played it on the Piano (which I still do), and when you play a Blues on the piano you tend to play a pattern with the left hand and use the right hand as the "voice".
    If you can play and have access to a piano, I suggest practicing on it because you get a good idea of how the bass line works, but you can also figure out how to solo with the right hand
    (which you can transit over to bass).

    I don't know if that made any sense..

  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    JWC, one thing that hasn't been brought up yet here is that the bass line in blues is only one part of the equation. You have to consider and pay attention to "feel." Not every blues song lends itself to a basic quarter note walk.

    Other "feels" include swing, boogie, shuffle, jump blues, Texas style and Chicago style, minor blues, slow blues, straight eighths, rhythm and blues, plus rock blues and more. Each of these demands a slightly different attack to the actual notes chosen in order to preserve the vibe of the particular style of blues.

    So a Tommy Shannon bassline under Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar would be different than, say, one played under B.B. King's guitar or under an Aretha Franklin vocal or a typical Blues Brothers song with Duck Dunn. And a Nathan East bassline under Eric Clapton's guitar would have a somewhat different feel than one under Buddy Guy's guitar.

    Roscoe Beck who plays for Robbin Ford has a unique style distinguishable from other blues bassists while still maintaining enough of a semblance to a blues vibe that he still falls within the genre.

    That is NOT to say that in every case there would be a notable difference, but my point is that as a blues bassist you need to be familiar with the various ways you play a blues bass line, besides just choosing the notes.

    At the very least, besides a quarter note walk, you should know how to play a shuffle. Then you'll be going to eighth notes at the simplest, and you will be employing triplets and even muted notes.

    Two peices of advice I'll offer here for you to consider or not.

    One: Listen to a wide variety of blues artists. Pay careful attention to the bass and the "feel."

    Second: Roscoe Beck has two excellent videos on blues bass. They not only show you various blues "feels" and bass line patterns, but also introduce you to the history of blues. Either video stands by itself. You need to buy only one. If you are serious about the blues, you will be glad you bought one of Beck's videos.

    Third: (Bonus Advice) As in jazz, blues has dozens and dozens of standards(widely known and played songs) that every serious blues bass player should know. They include everything from BB King's "The Thrill Is Gone" to traditional blues songs like "Saint James Infirmary" to J.L. Hooker's "Boom! Boom" , ELmore James "Dust My Broom" and many, many more. If you can develop a repertoire of these, your value as a blues bassist will be greatly enhanced.

  11. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Thank you a ton Jason. You always seem to have something in that brain of yours to help someone out. Thanks again. I am off to a great start!
  12. I'll throw this into the mix. Its easy to play mediocre blues but its really hard to play great blues. To be a great blues bass player isn't about showin' off your amazing chops. Its all about feel and gettin' in the pocket. Have big ears. Listen to the blues greats. When you rehearse with your band listen to what's being played and support it.
  13. A lot of blues basslines are walking, and a famous one is this (all quarter notes):
    This is like a major scale blues.
    Here's a variation:
    This is based on a mixolydian scale.

    What you want to try to do is mix it up so it's interesting, but also make sure it works.

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