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What you need to know to be in a BLUES band!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mattsk42, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. Well there was some great advice (and it's still coming) on the country thread here: (READ IT) http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=284128

    So, why not do the same thing for (somewhat) blues?

    Again, jokes are ok if you actually contribute after the fact, or if they're a joke in the form of what not to do, etc. Otherwise, I just don't care. This is sort of like a "For Dummies" book, but maybe more advanced.

    I'm thinking blues as in pop-blues, just like the country thread was pop-rock-country. Here's a couple songs that I'm talking about:

    Tracy Chapman - Gimme one Reason
    Eric Clapton - Change the World, or a lot of others by him
  2. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    I don't like that pop-blues stuff very much. I like Texas and Chicago-style blues. Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, SRV, Elmore James, etc.

    I did like the work Clapton did on "From The Cradle". But, that's all old-school stuff, there.

    One of my fave blues songs to play with my current band is "Little By Little", as done by Susan Tedeschy. Also, "Just Won't Burn".

    Cherie :) :bassist:
  3. sedan_dad


    Feb 5, 2006
    Killin Floor-Howling Wolf
    Bright Lights, Big City Lyrics - Jimmy Reed
    If you have a good harp player , that would be a big plus.
    Some other folks to check out would be....
    Elmore James
    John Lee Hooker
    Hound Dog Taylor
    John Brim
    Albert King
    Buddy Guy
    Son House
    Robert Johnson
  4. sedan_dad


    Feb 5, 2006
    I think thats really more of a folk music thing to tell you the truth.
    Except for Clapton.
    Have you heard him do "Key to the Highway"?
  5. That was a great thread, and i particularly liked Jeb's post:

    Settings? I've been doing a country gig for over two years now and when I started, I liked the growly', edgy tone that I do for most other stuff I play. I've evolved into a warmer "low mid" emphasis to my tone, but still with a little edge! I don't know how to tell you set your tone, I'm not that technical. But the bass should be very prominent in the mix for country music, it really does drive the song.

    I do get growly when we move more to the funk side. But I NEVER lose the bottom.

    Also, hearing some of the earlier stuff we did, I was way too notey and choppy for the music. Sounds much better to define the chord with less notes that sustain instead of alot that don't, imo. I love thirds and approaching the major third from a half step below sounds pretty cool in country.
    I always define upcoming changeups with prominently walked approach notes to let the band know we're (at least I am) on our way there and they follow (most of the time!).

    Also true many times in Blues. I've learned to let notes ring more.

    Timing? I follow the bass drum. I play with a solid, predictable drummer that makes this easy and the song sounds tight because of that.


    Let the guitar player do the stylish pickin' and just support the song without getting overly busy. I have to really resist the urge to overplay on ballads and waltzs, but these songs sound bad if overplayed imo. The honky-tonk stuff you can walk all over the neck especially in the instrumental parts where you have the freedom to do more of that. A five string is a good tool especially for flat keys.

    Same applies. Yeah, I've got chops but my role is to support the song. I'm not opposed to elegantly (hopefully) sneakin' something in.

    Appearance of your gear? I don't know. Does it really matter?

    Neat and functioning.

    Appearance of you? If your appearance is one of casual, confindence: like you've done a two chord song a thousand times before and you're lovin' it anyway, then thats pretty good I'd guess. We have a steel player and do Rainy Day woman. I have two chords to define and he's jammin away. Dance floor is full, bar owner is happy. What could be better than that?

    Maybe a cowboy hat?

    Uh, I don't think so. Maybe go old school with a pork pie. Don't get too gimmicky and don't draw more attention than your frontman/woman

    Attitude? I try not to have one! Have fun, everyone else usually is. Its a hoot most of the time. And try a tip jar! The patrons in a country joint are some of the nicest people I've ever played for and they'll take care of you if you take care of them!

    The same applies to most blues clubs we've played. Many fans are actually listening to what you're playing. So that means be careful if you're doing a well known cover. Oh, and depending on where you play, you may encounter "purists" who may have comments on your treatment of "standards". So if you do your own arrangement, make it yours and do it well!

    Many of these tips could apply to almost any band situation.

    I've been playing for years, and I'm still learning.
  6. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    I really do enjoy playing blues. I dunno...it just makes me feel really, really good to make a blues tune come to life.

    I'm trying to get our singer to cover Koko Taylor's "Juke Joint Jump". What a FUN song to play!

    Cherie :)
  7. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    I think you need to know that; blues sounds great when everybody in the band is great...just like anything else. If your guitar player is drunk and crappy, your band will sound drunk and crappy. Most serious blues people are good though. And if you've never played in a blues band, it *could* get old pretty fast, so be prepared to play variations on the same I-IV-V all night long.
  8. mrmoonjam


    Apr 17, 2006
    Here, Now
    I love to play the blues, too, and I say "AMEN!" to that. And IMHO, that needs to be our challenge, to find and use the best variation for each song. Variations in the bass lines will accentuate or even define the difference between one blues number and another. Finding and repeating a little variation in rhythm or a note pattern that fits a song really well helps bring out that song's distinct identity. [Obviously, that's true for the other instruments parts, too, like Clapton's signature guitar lick on "Crossroads." ]
  9. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado

    Yea, I agree. And for me, if they're blues covers, I'm gonna listen to the orignal artist version and check out what that bass player does, at least for good ideas. Most of the time I couldn't top what they did, so I copy it.
  10. I take a totally different tactic when covering a blues song.

    I try to stick to the original bassline and tone note for note on rock songs, but blues songs I think come from a different place and need to be more organic, so I try to keep to the original intent, groove and feel of the original bassline - but don't try to copy every single original variation of the progression, and instead feel for my own.
  11. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    I'm with you on that. I listen to the originals, and covers of them, for ideas, but I try to allow my blues lines to be pretty organic.

    Cherie :)
  12. Luckily, my band likes to play blues tunes that are a little different then the straight I-IV-V.

    Blue Shadows by Freddie King has one of the all time great blues bass lines.

    Cross Cut Saw by Albert King were the rhythm guitar and bass double on the riff.

    Messin' With The Kid. Cool walk down as the turn around and a great sixteenth note bass line.

    The Thrill Is Gone - B.B. King. Good slow blues with an unusual chord progression and a lot of room for bass fills.

    The only I-IV-V root note shuffle song we play is "Tore Up Over You by Hank Ballard as covered by Jerry Garcia. I don't mind the root notes since I sing it!
  13. arbarnhart


    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    I am currently a garage jammer, but my guitar weilding buddies have my coming out party planned for a local blues jam with the short set including some or all of the following:

    Big Boss Man
    Life by the Drop
    Mustang Sally

    One thing that one of the guitarists (who is pretty much our leader even though I host our weekly jam) told me is that I need to pick one and learn a short bass solo for it. He said the main reason for that is to step into the spotlight for a minute to be acknowledged and that playing something simple well is best.
  14. We are a bunch of guys in our 50's (except for the late 30's singer) and we play 80% originals and 20% covers. Our songs are Chicago-style and West Coast swing/jump We rehearse regularly and our songs are all arranged. The blues doesn't need a bunch of guys who feel the need to make every song into a 20 minute wankfest. Lock in with the kick and you'll get the butts wigglin'. I'd suggest listening to Willie Dixon, Larry Taylor and Tommy Shannon. Mix up the rhythms; nobody wants to hear a whole night of mid-tempo shuffles. We do rhumbas, shuffles, swings and boogaloos. Learn to vary your turnarounds.

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