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I went to a blues jam at a local bar...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by progrmr, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I was amazed that these people had never played together before but at the drop of a hat could throw together a pretty good sounding song! Clearly there is a common foundation that they are using to create this music.

    I'm motivated to add blues instruction to my current primary focus of study: reading music. As a total blues beginner, I did some searching and discovered the "circle of 5ths" and the 12-bar "pattern".

    But what else is next? Should I just buy a book or are there some good online resources (my searching gets lots of results, but its hard to tell if I'm getting good info)? Does one start with chords and applying the 12-bar pattern? Or learn blues scales that apply to specific chords (is this even true?) and try to mix it up?

    Pretty overwhelming on one hand, but pretty exciting to be scratching the surface of something that from what I've read is must-know material for any bass player with his/her salt. Any recommendations?
  2. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    My recommendation is to buy some recordings by the greats (Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Albert King, Freddie King, Little Walter, to name a few) and play along. Using your ear is better than learning from a book, in this case. (IMHO) Even if it takes you a week to learn one song, it's better.
  3. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    Youtube-the best source for free lessons and to see some fantastic players get their groove on.
  4. cmewhinney


    Jul 11, 2008
    Concord, NH

    The blues (and all musics to a certain extent, but especially blues) is passed down orally and aurally- you can't learn authentic blues from a book.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    What Doug said. Just listen first. Get a feel for it (I prefer headphones/earbuds). Then start to play along. Good luck!
  6. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I am surprised to hear people say "play along" because I don't see how that can teach the "structure" behind the style...??
  7. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Yep, get some recordings and listen.

    Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, The King Family (BB, Freddie, and Albert), Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Keb Mo', Elmore James, James Cotton, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Johhny Copeland, etc. Also check out the Stax stuff (Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, etc.) as that kind of stuff will show up at blues jams too. Also check out some of the newer folks, like Shamekia Copeland, Robert Cray, etc. And inevevitably, there are going to be gui****s at a blues jam who think the world revolves around Jimmy Lee Vaughan's less talented and more annoying little brother Stevie Ray. Actually, SRV ain't nearly as bad as all the plethora of "Hats 'n' Strats" Stevie Ray Wannabees would make you think, so get some of his recordings too. Tommy Shannon has a great way of playing fundemental blues bass without it sounding dumb or repetitive.

    That's key, becasue it IS repetitive. You need to learn how to not sound like you're playing by rote, and the best way to do that is to get with people and play. So, get some records, talk to musicians at these blues jams, and screw up the courage to risk falling flat on your face. It'll help you immensly to put all the learning you've already done into practice!

    Good luck, and let us know about your progress.

  8. As to the structure, most blues follow one of a few variations on the same 12-bar form:
    |I7 |I7 |I7 |I7 |
    |IV7|IV7||I7|I7 |
    |V7 |IV7|I7 |V7 |

    There are some variations, but that's the basic form. I'd recommedn you buy Ed Friedland's book, "Blues Bass". It covers the basic forms, basic bass lines and turnarounds, and tunes that get played at most every blues jam.
  9. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
  10. Oh, the other thing is, before you can play the blues, you got to have the blues. Go lose your week's pay at the dog track, get thrown out by your old lady, sleep in a boxcar, and drink some cheap whiskey. Then you should be all set.
  11. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    LOL, I'm twice divorced, no kids, got stuck w/ a second car in the last divorce, and my PSP won't hold a charge anymore...does that count??

  12. guizzy


    Nov 17, 2008
    Jamming the 12-bar blues is quite easy when you know the structure; but of course it can be as hard as you want as well. The only knowledge I'd say is crucial is knowing your fretboard and having a passing familiarity with scales and chords.

    You've probably heard by now that the standard structure of a 12-bar is I-IV-V. This is how you use the 12-bar: let's say your first "chord" is a G. (Try not to see it as a chord; see it more as a scale). If you count from there, your "I" will be the G, your "IV" will be a C and your "V" will be a D. You'll be playing 4 measures in the G scale, then 2 measures in the C scale, 2 more measures in the G scale, 2 measures in the D scale then 2 measures in the G scale.

    What to play? The arpeggio notes are safe bet, but experiment; there's much more that can be done; don't be afraid to go one octave up as well if you feel game for it. When you're playing the "V" (in case of a 12-bar in G, that would be the D), you can try adding a 7th in there as well.

    There are a couple of small variations of the 12-bar. A popular one has the last 4 bars as: V-IV-I-I instead of V-V-I-I.

    Keep the blues scale for when you are the focus (a solo, or a fill). It's too attention grabbing for a groove.

    This here can get you started; the rest, you'll mostly pick up from other musicians and listening to the greats.
  13. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    As Jim said, most blues are based on that 12-bar pattern (there are variations, of course). With blues, the "structure" is NOT hard to understand. Just start to play along (fumbling in an enormously embarassing way, at first, if necessary) :) and you'll soon find the pattern that emerges. Trust me.
    (That'll get you started. Playing the blues well, and convincingly, is a fun-filled, livelong challenge for fanatics like me!)
  14. ZonGuy


    Sep 2, 2007
    "I went to a blues jam at a local bar..."

    TA DA DA DUM.....

    "I said I went to blues jam at a local bar"

    TA DA DA DUM.....

    "And all the blues bass was gone"

    TA DA DA DUM.....

    "Made me so disappointed"

    TA DA DA DUM.....

    "Made me throw my drink across the lawn"

    Deh, De deh, de Deh, De Deh, de Dum, Bit Botta Boom
  15. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Stay away from Expert Village.
  16. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    Are you hoping that by telling me not to go there, I will ?? Because I did :)

    Seriously, bad or good?
  17. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Generally bad.
  18. butchblack

    butchblack Life is short. Do good. Find and do what you love.

    Jan 25, 2007
    Waltham Massachusetts
    Blues bass relies heavily on patterns, you learn those patterns and you're halfway there. The patterns are generally simple but blues is heavily about feeling. A simple pattern, played well, with you locked into a good drummer will take you far. In a blues jam good players will know when to build up and when to back down (dynamics and feel). If you get lucky all the players will be more interested in making the song sound good.

    As many have pointed out this is best achieved by listening to a lot of blues. There are also a number of common variations like the b6, 5 turnaround (The thrill is gone, unchain my heart) 1,6,2,5 tail (last 2 measures). Learn those and the Allman bros. version of Stormy Monday as they are common blues jam staples. The bass can drastically change the feel of a song by the type of bassline played. Example, try playing Flip flop and fly as a fast flat tire ala Duck Dunn then try it with a fast walking bass line, same song very different feel. Most of all start playing it as the more you play the blues with other people the better you'll get with it.
  19. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
  20. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    That was a good magazine. There was some thread about that
    around here where a guy who had worked for them posted
    and noted he had kept all the back issues. Wish I had kept mine.

    I'd look, but I defer to Stumbo, who has become the
    Master of The Search.

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