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FEELING the blues

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Mindabout, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. Mindabout


    Apr 11, 2004
    I'm just after some thoughts and opinions about how one feels the blues as a bass player.

    As a passive listener I feel drawn to many different styles of music. As a bass player I have for many years kept coming back to this feeling that I am drawn to the blues.

    I have spent time learning the "theory" behind the structure of blues songs - that is, for example, the chord progression for a 12 bar blues. However, I just never seem to feel the blues... to explain further: When I am listening to recordings of blues songs (particularly older blues) I often feel very deeply an emotional response... but, actually - the response is to the lyrics and the soul I sense in the voice. I sense that the bass is a driving force in these same songs... But when it comes to playing blues on my bass I don't get this same emotional connection...

    I have given thought lately to taking singing lessons as I love singing anyway and would just like to be able to do so with good solid technique... but also, I feel like singing is the only way I can get a boost into my music - to feel something... and to give out a feeling.

    Then I wonder if I am thinking all wrong... If I am singing and feeling the blues and at the same time playing the bass - would I necessarily be feeling or giving feeling through that?

    I know for sure that I don't want to give up bass to focus on singing - bass is definately first priority. I guess I feel like I've hit something of a brick wall - like my growth as a bass player is stunted and will be so until I feel a soul connection with my bass. Then again, a wailing guitar can be hugely expressive... a bass that is solid and driving - can it ever hope to be so expressive?

    When people talk about feeling the blues as a bass player are they just talking about getting into the groove or is there something more that should go into it?

    I realise this question is a bit like asking "how long is a piece of string?" but at this stage any thoughts and opinions I get back could go a long way towards helping me get some clarity about how I should be approaching my music. All thoughts appreciated! Thanks!
  2. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    Blues id all about where you are in the pocket. Lay real back most of the time.

    And most of all, less is soooooo much more in a blues bassline.
  3. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Being a bassist, guitarist and singer, I understand what you say. I also agree with Jady's comments from the bassist's point of view.

    It's like playing real blues is mainly for singers and guitarists. You can express yourself much better on those instruments than on the bass. The bassists and drummers just keep the foundation of the song without any closer emotional connection to it.
  4. louieeadg

    louieeadg uncle petey?

    Jun 13, 2007
    outer banks, nc
    Mindabout, you're thinking too much. "Older" blues as you say...well my friend, look for some Willie Reed. Wow. He was blues bass. Held down the groove and gave the bass a voice.

    Mess around with the Minor Blues scale as well as the reg. blues scale...then listen to "Dazed and Confused" and "Since I been loving you" by Led Zeppelin, and "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix, really listen to the bass, feel it, you can't just play the blues my friend. You have to use the instrument as your soul's last chance to ever be heard! It has to come from that spot deeeep down where you're brain has put every experience you've ever been through. If you're in a band, just let the singer lead you and feel his pain, feel your pain, all the while you and the drummer hold it down and give it a heartbeat....
  5. dlb1001


    Jan 30, 2007
    Watch the DVD that Kenny Shepard is coming out with, called "Ten Days Out".
  6. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    You're the driving force. You're like the inner drive that keeps a blues man walking through the night when he can't get a ride and and he's cold, wet and hungry. One foot in front of the other. Just think of yourself as the footsteps as he sings his pain out to the rhythm of his stride.

  7. low-end-jason


    Apr 11, 2007
    this is quite the interesting thread and one quite close to my heart. i'm a young guy (a half dozen moons past a quarter century) who absolutely adores the blues, who, by no discredit to them, has come under some criticism prior to playing with some more experienced blues players because of that age gap. a friend/blues mentor of mine, Sam Bass, once told me the secret to playing the blues (keep in mind he's a guitar player) is that you need to embrace your attitude while playing. flip the situation upside down, he would tell me, and make the music depend on your playing, on who you are, and take pride in your solid playing.

    i like to think of it as a generosity thing. i'm cool with who i am right now in my life, so here it is, right smack dab in the middle of this I III V VI V riff that everyone has heard a million times. playing becomes therapy at this point, and if you can lift up your friends while you play, it becomes humbling and growth at the same time.

    i hope that's not too confusing, just MHO.
  8. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane what goes here?

    Feb 23, 2003
    Denton, Texas
    The Blues ain't nothin' but 3 chords and the Truth.

    It's the Truth that everyone struggles with. But you know it when you hear it.
  9. brothertupelo

    brothertupelo Guest

    Aug 7, 2005
    just keep plugging away at it. or give up. one or the other.
  10. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Have to realize your playing is have to express the same thing the singer is, but as a band. Listen to some instrumental Blues and feel the groove, feel the song breathe. Now playing real Blues the bass is very simple, but you have to locking with the drummer and rhythm guitar so you sound like one. Some will say the bass is giving tone to the bass drum and rhythm guitar is giving tone to the snare drum. I tell you once you play with a really good Blues rhythm section and lock-in. You could just be playing roots, but it will sound and feel big. Check out some of the old Paul Butterfield records, especially his Better Days band. They were masters of slow Blues, with simple parts, but sounded SO BIG.

    Back in my guitar days a remember Blues legend Jimmy Whitherspoon doing a clinic. Some young guitarist so used to playing a million notes and saying nothing was getting frustrated, he just couldn't get it.
    So Spoon came over and put his big foot on top of the guitarist foot and when the guitarist would play too much Spoon would start leaning on that foot. Pretty soon guitarist couldn't take it and stopped. Spoon looks at the kid and ya know how your foot feels, that's what I want to hear in your playing. The kid started to get it, either that was afraid what would Spoon do next.

    It's all about playing in time with good feel. Find some old Blues records with Willie Dixon on bass. He was the master of the old Chess Blues records. Mainly writing and playing bass simple lines that made the song move and come to life.
  11. John Wentzien

    John Wentzien

    Jun 25, 2007
    Elberta, AL
    Artist:TC Electronic RH450 bass system (original test-pilot)
    Try singing along with your bass lines "ala George Benson". Richard Bona is the KING of this!
  12. It definately has alot to do with the rest of the band. Remember the bass is the bridge between the drummer and everyone else. But at the same time once that bridge has been built and a really good jam band will allow every member to cross that bridge and see what's on the other side. The bass and drummer can pur their hearts out and make the audience feel their blues just as much as the guitar keyboards and harp. Meanwhile the guitars, harps and keyboards can sit back and suck in the ambience and even feed off of it. I play bass and harp (unfortunately I haven't quite mastered doing both at the same time) and I can tell you ... other than the pitch and volume I feel just as deep with either instrument when we get a good blues jam going. In fact alot of times its the drummer and me that start the best jams we'll have for the night. But thats the beauty of being in a garage band that jams instead of doing paid gifs where people want to hear more structured stuff.
    Hear's to the jam!
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    Primary TB Assistant

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