Learning blues, need advise

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ian_logsdon, Nov 19, 2004.

  1. ian_logsdon


    Jul 14, 2004
    Columbia, MD
    I've been playing bass for awhile but have just recently started lessons.
    I've really come to like the blues stuff we play around with, but im wondering if anyone has any advise as to what i should start practicing to be getting toward writting my own bass lines and in general getting better.
    i want to be able to start up a blues band at my school, but i dont know enough yet.
    any input would be very much appreciated.
    as well, i would eventually make the leap to jazz and intend to eventually join a jazz ensemble at my school.
    any ways, i appreciate the help.
  2. blues is so fun to play!! i pley in a bluse/rock band i love it!!

    basically if you are going to be doing a bunch of 12-bar blues stuff than bassicaly it is 1-4-5 chords,

    so if you are playing in G then you would play ther for 4-bars and then go to the C play there for 2 bars, then go back to the G for 2 bars, then to the D for 1, the C for 1, and the G for two bars. i think that right i might have explained it wrong

    my advise to you is to listen to alot of SRV, buddy guy, bb kind and there is jsut so much more blues music to listen to.
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    You are taking lessons so have your instructor illustrate for you the twelve-bar blues format and well known variations. You will need to know what is meant by I, IV and V chords, for starters. Have him teach you what a "turnaround" is and show you some common turnarounds. There are also intros and endings to consider. There are other formats, such as the eight-bar blues and 16-bar blues progressions, too.

    You also need to know what a shuffle is, learn to identify both "straight" and "12/8 shuffle" feels, a walk, learn what a quarter note walk is, and learn some other commonly played bass patterns such as the Bo Diddley pattern, the "Fever" pattern and the "Cross Cut Saw "pattern. There are many others, but you can learn a few for the beginning.

    You should also learn the blues scale and the minor pentatonic scale. As far as chords go, it would be a good idea to learn the I-IV-V chords in very key.

    You will develop your ability by listening to the best known blues artists and blues bassists. Tommy Shannon is a favorite of mine. His shuffles are spectacular.I also admire Roscoe Beck, but there are many, many other capable blues bassists. Duck Dunn played on Blues Brothers recordings. He is another one to learn from. BB King's bassist does some fabulous walks. Nathan East plays on Eric Clapton records.

    Listen to blues every chance you get, so that you can develop an ear for the style of bassline and what progression is being followed. Soon you'll be able to identify that immediately.

    Another way to enrich your playing is to learn the history of blues and who the great early bluesmen were. Each one contributed something unique in technique and style. Many of their classics are still played today even though their creators are long dead and gone. Sadly the few who are left may not be with us very long.

    Good luck in exploring this genre of music. It will also be very helpful to you when you switch to jazz because you will have a foundation from which to build.
  4. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
    Some good advice Boplicity:
    Suggest listening different styles of blues as mentioned above
    with their respective bassists:

    Texas: Stevie Ray, Johnny Winter, etc & Albert Collins- my favorite.

    Chicago: Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, etc,
    Freddie King,Little Milton & Otis Rush- my fav's

    New Orleans: Prof. Longhair, etc Dr. John & Meters, both my fav's

    Delta: Robert Johnson, etc

    Modern: Bonnie Raitt ?? , Robbin Ford, Eric Johnson, etc

    And of course:
    Etta James
    John L Hooker
    Memphis Slim
    Ray Charles- Atlantic recordings
    T-Bone Walker- my fav.

    A cd I recommended to another thread; band mgm & perf. blues bands BG.
    was: BB King- Spotlight on Lucille. Flair Records/ Virgin Records, dunno if its still in print- has different styles of
    blues & features BB as an instrumentist.

    On History: I think there was Ken Burns Special on the blues on TV sometime ago. :confused:
    5 or 7 days about 3 hours each?? directed by different famous directors on their visions on the blues. Martin S, the man- Clint Eastwood!! , and others..
    And it might be available on DVD now. - I 've seen the Jazz
    one around. Suggest looking at that too as overview on the
    blues scene from 1900's?? to now. Some great stuff- I learned a lot from it..too.
  5. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Good advice from all above...

    I'll add that you should get the book "Building Walking Basslines" by Ed Friedland. It really helps lay out the concepts of what's happening in a cool walking line. That, and a study of Texas Flood and you should be wel on your way!
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Yes, that book and his second in the same series are excellent instruction in the art of walking. Another book that has been an invaluable aid to me in the study of blues is the book/CD set "Mel Bay's Complete Blues Bass Book" by Mark Hiland. It has some walking instruction in it,too, but not nearly as complete as Friedland's. Both books will give you a top notch foundation for playing blues and even starting into jazz.

    Roscoe Beck has an instruction video for blues bass players also. I don't know if it is still available but it is certainly worth checking out.
  7. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    Listen, as closely as you can, to as much blues music as you possibly can (perhaps for 3 or more hours a week for as many consecutive months as you can).

    Then try to cop the bass lines you're hearing and create your own lines.

    Having the target sound in your head is a huge part of playing a particular genre authentically.

    Good luck.
  8. KPJ

    KPJ Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    I second this. Listen to songs that you probably won't even play. Get to know the genre. You will sound more authentic in your playing. When I got a blues gig ten years ago, that's exactly what I do. I got a gig with a country band a couple of years ago and did the same thing. The drummer and I had played together previously and joined the band together. We had different methods of learning the material. The drummer just listened to the songs we were doing. I listened to as much as I could tolerate! :D

    The lead singer/rhythm guitarist told me after one gig "I can tell you're actually listening to country music, and it's obvious he (the drummer) isn't"

    Just remember, a particular style of music isn't just certain notes or rhythms, it's a feel and a way of doing things. That's what makes the difference between a band playing the blues and a BLUES BAND playing!
  9. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Can you please elaborate or give some examples of what that is? I've never heard of it. (probably heard and played it just never realized it.)
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    The pattern is named after ALfred King's famous song "Crosscut Saw." Robben Ford has also played an especially attractive version of the song.

    It is also known as a rhumba/Latin feel. Use the root, major third, fifth and sixth degrees of the chord. The chord progression is typical blues. The overall feel is based on straight eights, but there is a syncopation that gives this pattern its distinctive sound.

    I am sure you recognize the sound immediately if you can find a copy of the song.
  11. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
  12. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Hmmm...let me edit this.

    The stuff I would recomend would not be the early Delta acoustic blues or the more modern stuff by SRV, Chris Duarte, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, or Robbin Ford etc., it would be the Chicago Blues era, including Albert King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, BB King, etc as listed in a post above.

    The electric guitar Chicago Blues era stuff seems to be the stuff I hear in "blues" clubs, or the root of the stuff I hear in "blues" clubs.

    Sometimes in a "blues" club they will play Delta songs, but since they are doing it on electric instruments, it is more like early Chicago Blues.

    Off topic, and just for fun, right after the Chicago era, and in the early days of what would become rock were:

    A Hard Road by John Mayall
    The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
    Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton
    English Rose by early Fleetwood Mac
    Then Play On by early Fleetwood Mac

    Lots of people do not know about thost albums that were greatly influenced by Chicago Blues, but not yet "rock".

    And these albums seem to always be on the "best of" lists:

    The Sky Is Crying by Emore James

    Live at the Regal by B.B. King

    The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East
  13. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003