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What Blues Tunes To Learn?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by WillPlay4Food, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I'm lookin' to hit some blues jams soon, some open mic, some with an old buddy I just ran into for the first time in years. I know 12 bar blues and 1-4-5 and stuff like that, but what I don't know is, what would be considered standard blues tunes that everyone should know?

    I mean I know I have to learn Mustang Sally, but what other blues tunes should I learn? Help a fellow basser out, would y'all?
  2. I'm not too sure that "learning some blues tunes" is the best approach to playing in a blues jam.

    Personally, I have always gone into those situations with my "busking" hat on and, if that's the case, it's a great opportunity to further develop that particular musical muscle.

    IMHO, to go in having actually formally "learned" the material would make the entire experience fairly pointless, not to mention mind-numbing. :D :D

    Go on, just hold you nose and jump in - you KNOW it makes sense. :) :) Seriously though, as long as you know what key you are supposed to be playing in, you can't really go wrong as all the stuff is fairly derivative in my experience.

    I just noticed that you quote Mingus as an influence. You MUST know some blues already, surely? :confused:

    Good luck anyway. ;) ;)
  3. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Yes I do know some blues already, but I just don't know what songs I 'should' know if I were to go into a jam situation. Yea, I'm sure I could wing it, but having never played out before I'd rather have some stuff down solid so it would be one less thing to get nervous about. :)
  4. I think what I'm trying to say is that, given that you are familiar with the blues "structure" and that you are unlikely to encounter anything at a jam session that will depart too far from "the rules", you won't have a problem and, even if you do, nobody will die> :D
  5. Born Under a bad Sign (Great bassline)

    Stormy Monday Blues (Allmon Brothers style)
  6. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    strangebrew (cream)
    crossroads (cream) this is a pretty hard song if done right IMHO
    redhouse (hendrix version?)
    since i've been loving you (led zeppelin)
    cold shot (stevie ray vaughn)
    ball and chain (janis joplin)
    tush (zz top)

    I dont know if these are standards, but man, they rock!
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    You can learn 1,000 blues tunes in a few minutes. Blues are a form. There are a few basic forumlas. If you know the key, the feel and the form you can transpose it to 1,000's of tunes. Perhaps we can talk about it next month
  8. I just went to one and I can tell you that you can get away with playing the root all night.You know, just C for 4 bars F for two. C for 2 than G for one. F for one than C for two more. Thats in the key of C. Than I was advised to just try to add stuff that is within the key. Like instead of the root for the first 4 bars, play 1, 3, 5, 6, or some thing. It'l sound good . We did "mojo working" but it was so fast that I just stuck to the root. Thats a good song to practice.
  9. I agree 100% with Mike Dimin's post - that is what I was trying, and obviously failing, to say. :meh:
  10. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I understand what you and Mike are saying, but I still wanted some actual song names so I can get the feel in my head.

    Besides, not everything is straight 12 bar blues, which is the blues form I'm most familiar with. For example I was listening to a Buddy Guy tune yesterday (Where Is The Next One Coming From) and its form was more like 4 bar intro, 12 bar verse, 6 bar chorus, then 12/6/12/6 for the rest of the song.

    If I was playing this song for the first time ever I'd think it was straight 12 bar blues until I got lost after the first 6 bar chorus. So yes, it follows a form but I'm not familiar with all the different blues forms which is why I wanted a list of standards. This way I 'll have a basic idea of what songs are straight 12 bar blues, what songs may be a mix like the Buddy Guy song above or other forms that I haven't run across yet.

    Besides, I wouldn't mind adding some new stuff to my music collection. :)


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    I completely agree with this! Blues is one of those genres that doesn't stray too far from a common structure. Once that's down, blues is basic enough to add your own embellishment.

    Having said that, I'm really surprised to be the first to mention Bobby "Blue" Bland, Etta James, and of course B.B. King, among countless others.

    (a Blues thread and no mention of the standard-bearers? :confused: :eek: :rollno: )
  12. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Here are some standards you can work with - for the most part you can fake your way through a standard I-IV-V 12 bar progression, but there's lots of blues tunes that have signature licks/progressions/turnarounds, etc....such as the following list.

    Also know what the band leader means when he calls "Shuffle in A...on the 5".

    Good luck and have fun....and for god's sake DO NOT PLAY Mustang Sally. :mad:


    Crosscut Saw
    Killing Floor/Long Grey Mare
    Five Long Years
    Hoochie Coochie Man
    Born Under a Bad Sign
    Need Your Love So Bad
    Phone Booth
    Sittin’ On Top of the World
    I Want to be Loved
    You Can’t Judge a Book…
    Love In Vain
    Too Hot to Handle
    I Just Want to Make Love to You
    Need Your Love So Bad
    Let Me Love You Baby
    Back Door Man
    She’s Gone
    Highway 49
    Payin’ the Cost to be the Boss
  13. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    What does "Shuffle in A... on the 5" mean? I know what shuffle is, and A but what is 'on the 5'?

    I don't wanna play Mustang Sally but every blues band I've ever seen live has played this song.
  14. Blues is deceptively simple much of the time. Sure, some of it is repeated 12 bar stuff, but that doesn't mean you have to play it in the same old predictable way. That's the difference between good and less than good execution in blues. (at least in my experience)

    Know your instrument well enough and keep your ears/mind open to use more flowing type patterns in more of a swing style. Try playing just barely behind the beat. Done correctly it really makes things hit that groove that makes everybody say "YEAH!". The Rolling Stones and Fabulous Thunderbirds use this extensively and it's very cool. That "everything is about to fall apart" feel. Last and probably most important - listen and lock in with your drummer brother. If the rhythm section ain't cooking, it's unlikely anything else will.
  15. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    That means you start off with the turnaround, E-D-A then to the main form.

    Don't over-analyze things. Blues is more about feel and playing off what the other players are playing. Most of the blues jams that I have gone to are monopolized by Stevie Ray wannabes who barely know anything beyond riffs in E. If you are lucky enough to have someone more sophisticated there, they will most likely tell you the changes. I'd be more concerned with who ends up behind the drum kit and whether or not they know what a shuffle is...

    Trust your ears, relax and pray for a decent drummer!
  16. KPJ: Absolutely!!

    That again is what I'm trying to say but I guess that if someone is determined to "learn" dozens of blues tunes, there is little I can do to prevent them. :meh:

    Personally, I think your time would be better spent "jamming". That is, after all, what most blues jams are about - not just trotting out one blues song after another. ;)

    Anyway, that's my take on it - I'm sure you will do whatever you think fit. Good luck with it anyway. :)
  17. I think you probably have gotten the message by now that blues is a form or format and not just a list of songs. I can walk into any musical scene where people are playing "real" blues and play with them. Blues "songs" change and mutate every time they are played but the format stays pretty much the same. DirtDog gave you a list of songs and GSPLBASSDC mentioned a three excellent people. Derivative "white boy" bands from Texas or England don't count if you want to learn to play blues (and I fall into this category myself). Here are some more people to learn from. Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughn, Victoria Spivey, Little Walter, Willie Dixon (a bass player), Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, early Ike and Tina Turner (pre Proud Mary). Get cds or download on to your computer and practice to these people. You will learn the format. Finally, Mustang Sally is not the blues.


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    A great list of artists, Aaron!

    and +1 on Mustang Sally...bluesy sound, but very homogenized.
  19. Well it probably isn't a college credit history of the blues class, so I'm guessing derivative white boy bands from Texas and England will go over pretty well. :D

    I don't have a lot of techincal background or music theory, but I play a lot of blues gigs, and the thing that never fails to impress upon me is the amazing range of emotion and soul that can be drawn from the same basic three chord progression depending purely on key, tempo and drive. It's really an amazing form of musical expression more than it is a vehicle to show off one's chops - if done right. Definately a music form where what you don't play is at least as important as what licks you can wow and amaze people by performing.
  20. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    Blues could be looked at as a form but in this context I would consider it a style.

    Some basic stuff you may want to learn to make a possitive impresion would be.

    Learn as many of the terms that some one who's describing a tune to you on the band stand will use.


    "Kansas City"

    "How does that one Go?"

    "March in G,Quick Change,on the 5 ,Watch the Stops. 1,2,3,......"

    There's a bunch of basic vocabulary that the guys will use to lay down a arangement before you start. Learn that stuff.

    Then there's a bunch of tunes that have stock bass lines,patterns that are expected to be played if the tune gets called.


    Born under a Bad Sighn.