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Playing the blues with feeling..

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fearceol, Apr 29, 2009.

  1. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I know this cant be taught, but would appreciate some opinions. I play in a blues band, and blues in particular as we know needs to be played with feeling. While we can all play a song fairly well, I think we are lacking in the feeling dept. I try to keep the bass lines simple, and the problem seems to be with the band as a whole. Three of us have being playing together for about two years, with a change of vocalist in the meantime. My own hunch is that we concentrate on getting the structure perfect, and dont play the song.

    I know it's an elusive thing, but should we be further on with this by now, or will it come with more time and patience ? Any other "ingredients" you can recommend would be welcome. :)
  2. Jayhawk


    Sep 6, 2006
    Kansas City
    I think you've tapped into exactly what makes playing the blues, which seems so simple structurally, so complex. You gotta feel it man ... feel it and groove.
  3. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    I think it also helps to be blue, you know... such as ... have any of you been wrongly imprisoned, recently dumped or cheated on, lost all your money in a crooked card game, evicted from your defaulted mortgaged home, been injured in a bizarre gardening accident, broke a shoelace... stuff like that. Then your blues will sound BLUE!;)
  4. Sorry about the formating. Cut and Paste did some wierd things.


    (attrib. to Memphis Earlene Gray with help from Uncle Plunky)

    1. Most blues begin "woke up this morning."

    2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you

    3) stick something nasty in the next line: “

    I got a good woman with the meanest dog in town.”

    3. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of:

    Got a good woman with the meanest dog in town.
    He got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and he weighs 'bout 500 pounds.

    4. The blues are not about limitless choice.

    5. Blues cars are Chevies and Cadillacs. Other acceptable blues transportation is Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Walkin' plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

    6. Teenagers can't sing the blues. Adults sing the blues. Blues adulthood means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

    7. You can have the blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a depression. Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are still the best places to have the blues.

    8. The following colors do not belong in the blues:

    a. violet b. beige c. mauve

    9. You can't have the blues in an office or a shopping mall; the lighting is wrong.

    10. Good places for the Blues:

    a. the highway
    b. the jailhouse
    c. the empty bed

    Bad places:

    a. Ashrams
    b. Gallery openings
    c. (weekend in) the Hamptons

    11. No one will believe it's the blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man.

    12. Do you have the right to sing the blues? Yes, if:

    a. your first name is a southern statelike Georgia

    b. you're blind

    c. you shot a man in Memphis.

    d. you can't be satisfied.

    No, if:

    a. you were once blind but now can see.

    b. you're deaf

    c. you have a trust fund.

    13. Neither Julio Iglesias nor Barbra Streisand can sing the blues.

    14. If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it's the blues. Other

    blues beverages are:

    a. wine

    b. Irish whiskey

    c. muddy water

    Blues beverages are NOT:

    a. Any mixed drink

    b. Any wine kosher for Passover

    c. Yoo Hoo (all flavors)

    15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's blues death. Stabbed

    in the back by a jealous lover is a blues way to die. So is the electric chair,

    substance abuse, or being denied treatment in an emergency room. It is

    not a blues death, if you die during a liposuction treatment.

    16. Some Blues names for Women:

    a. Sadie b. Big Mama c. Bessie

    17. Some Blues Names for Men:

    a. Joe b. Willie c. Little Willie d. Lightning

    [Persons with names like Sierra or Sequoia will not be permitted to sing the

    blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.]

    18. Other Blues Names (Starter Kit):

    a. Name of Physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Asthmatic)

    b. First name (see above) or name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi)

    c. Last Name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

    Mix and Match...
    Oddly likes this.
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    There could be some truth in this, but I'm not sure. As Miles Davis said on this very subject, "I'm rich, my mama is good looking, and I can play the blues !".

    If the above quote was the criteria, then all good blues players would be hopeless, poor, depressed and homeless gamblers. :D :p
  6. Oraflora


    Apr 18, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN
    This is my favorite thing about playing blues music. Most average musicians can play a blues song, but can they make it sound like the blues?

    The key, in my opinion, is this:


    Everyone should play at the same tempo, ie; 90 BPM, but where you as the bass player and the drummer hit that beat may differ.

    For example, lets say the drummer is playing "ON" the beat. If you play just a split second after his kick and snare hits, and do that consistently through the song, you have just added a bit more shuffle to the rhythm.

    Now if the guitar player and whomever else is playing with you do the same thing, even play ahead of the drummer by a split second, it can give the music more.....urgency? Feel? I don't know how to describe it, and there isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to do it, but if you experiment, once and a while you can stumble onto it. Eventually it will become more natural, and next thing you know, the dance floor will be full.

    Also, in terms of a shuffle, the same thing applies to the first and second note of the rhythm you are playing. Either or both can "rush" or "drag" to add to swing.

    I hope this makes sense.
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    To "JimInMo" :

    Great post, but I still have a problem with one thing. Nobody goes through life without having "the blues" at some stage, whatever that may entail (a loved one dying ect), yet not everybody can play with feeling. IMO there is that elusive "something else" required also.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Thanks Oraflora,

    Yes, it does make a lot of sense. We have being experimenting with a lot of the things you suggest. We are not very experienced players, but we love the blues and are determined to do them justice.
  9. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006
    I'm blessed to play with one of the best blues drummers in this town ... that helps way more than you can imagine!

    Here is kinda how we approach it, think of an old pickup truck going down a rutted, bumpy gravel road, the fenders jostle around and the old truck heaves and shakes but keeps going in the same direction. From a technical standpoint WC and I shift constantly but manage to keep the whole wreck on the road.


    WC and me in action


    ;) ... It's a Memphis Thang kinda hard to put it into words really, but it works.
  10. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    A great analogy :D Thanks for that.
  11. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Pay attention to the guys in your band!!!! I was the house bass player for an open mic blues jam for several years. Best training I ever got on the bass. Here's something you can try. The next time you go into practice, pick a different guy eah song to be in charge of how the song goes. I'm serious. So if it's your turn, everybody has to follow you for the volume and intensity of the music. No words can be spoken. No hand signals, no jumping around. Just listening. At least once during every song, "break it down". You know what I mean. Than the next song, follow the drummer for that kind of stuff. Keep in mind that this is just and excercise and you shouldn't run every song like that live. But I think when you are done, you will be able to finish each others sentences musically. Blues is about feeling, but when you are playing it live, you have to feel what's going on around you at THAT moment. Hope that helps. If it doesn't, sleep with your guitar players girlfriend. That'll wake up some blues in your band.
  12. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Good advice (except the second last sentence :D ). We'll give it a try.
  13. Mr. Ray

    Mr. Ray

    Feb 20, 2009
    I have played in blues bands for many years with many name blues artists.
    A few important points:
    1.) All of the members of the band have to sincerely want to play blues..if someone is just "posing" or would rather be playing Top 40 it just isn't going to work.
    2.) You need to play with educated players who have studied the blues, this makes it more natural...more feeling.
    3.) Time...the blues will become part of your sound but it doesn't happen overnight.
    4.) Feed off the other players and let them feed off you, that is what makes a "great" blues band i.e kick up your dynamics during a "hot" guitar solo, lay into a swing groove etc.:)
  14. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City

    I remember the first time I heard Robert Cray sing "I've got the blues" in some song and I immediately thought "NO YOU DON'T!" He just wasn't credible; listening to the sound of his voice I couldn't actually believe that he had the blues, that he'd really experienced enough trauma, suffering, and/or general Down On Yer Luck-ness to sincerely qualify as Having The Blues.

    Contrast that with, say, B.B. King, who doesn't have to sing a word, he just plays two notes on his guitar and I immediately think "Hey! He's got the blues!"
  15. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    What helps me when playing a blues is learn the lyrics INSIDE AND OUT.
    Really try to get to the point of the tune and internalize it.

    I find that this helps you 'feel' the song. I do this with ALL songs.

    Plus, you look super look rockin the bass, and singing away with no mic.
    Chicks dig it.
  16. emor


    May 16, 2004

    One-Eyed Willie Johnson? :bag:
  17. I was also the bass player in the house band for an open blues jam for years. I learned a lot and I taught a lot. All I can say is that playing in the pocket isn't the #1 thing, it's the ONLY thing! If you can't / don't, you will never appeal to people who know and love the blues...rock fans, maybe but never blues fans. It is easy to spot a neophyte blues band because they aren't in the pocket and they play too fast and too loud. As somebody else stated, if you work diligently, you will develop the right feel but it won't happen overnight. You can easily learn the notes associated with the various grooves but nailing the feel is something altogether different. The blues is easy to play poorly and difficult to play well but, when you're in that fat pocket, it is paradise.
  18. Stumbo

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

    Feb 11, 2008
    Cali Intergalactic Mind Space - always on the edge
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Maybe finding a blues "teacher" that can help out your band may help.

    You also might want to take a look at some of the following TB threads:
    http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/appendix/blues/Bluesprogression.html progressions explained w/ audio samples
    http://www.bassblues.com Basic Blues Bass lessons/free backing tracks by NickonBass
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=506931 Slow blues
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=529298 Basic blues bass jam tracks
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=7306516#post7306516 Blues jam terms
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=537637 Blues bass player's club

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=517439 First blues "open mic." jam 1 of 3
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=469825 2 of 3
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=517730 3 of 3
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=523050 Blues gig coming up

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=522409 Influential blues musicians (mostly) pre-1959
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues History and styles

    http://www.amazon.com/Blues-Bass-Jon-Liebman/dp/0793586682 "Blues Bass" by TB member Jonster (John Liebman)
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=502819 Blues books
    http://www.amazon.com/Razor-Sharp-Blues-Guitar-Turnarounds-Music/dp/B000PHU7J2 "101 Razor-Sharp Blues Turnarounds by Larry McCabe
    http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Rhythm-Guitar-Guide-Blues/dp/1574241389/ref=pd_sim_b_1 "Complete Rhythm Guitar Guide for Blues Bands" by Larry McCabe
  19. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    As I said in an earlier post, I'm not sure this is the real criteria for playing with feeling. Yes, it can be a help alright. John Mayall is generally regarded as the "godfather" of British blues. AFAIK he has had no more or less of a bad life experiences than any of the rest of us. Does anyone think he does not play with feeling ? ;)

    Another example would be this : Take a classically trained pro musician, not familiar with blues, who has experienced the most tragic life imaginable. Ask him/her to sit in with an established blues band. Do you think they could play with feeling ? I doubt it very much.
  20. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    The blues is about keeping your head and heart together in the worst of times. It's about making the best in a situation that is beyond your control.

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