From: (Bass Line)
Subject: Re: Help with blues!
Date: 22 Mar 1995 01:16:26 -0500

Most blues bass lines consist of chord tones, blue notes, and other passing tones from the blues scale. Here is one way (of many ways) of thinking about the blues scale, the blues chord progression, and 7th chords that I've found helpful.

The blues scale can be viewed as a major scale with three notes added to it, The b3, the b5, and the b7. Those three additional notes are often termed 'blue notes'.

The scale would be: R   2   b3   3   4   b5   5   6   b7   7   (8)
e.g., in C:         C   D   Eb   E   F   Gb   G   A   Bb   B   (C)
or in G:            G   A   Bb   B   C   Db   D   E   F    F#  (G)

If you look closely, btw, you can find both a minor pentatonic scale and a major pentatonic scale 'hiding' in that blues scale. Oh, sometimes you'll hear blues players hit a b2 note too, but that's fairly rare except in things like song endings... I wouldn't consider it part of the scale. A typical Chicago style 12 bar blues chord progression, with an example in the key of C is:

Bar #          1         2         3         4
Chord          ||:  I7   |    IV7  |    I7   |    I7   |
In C:          ||:  C7   |    F7   |    C7   |    C7   |

Bar #          5         6         7         8
Chord          |:   IV7  |    IV7  |    I7   |    I7   |
In C:          |:   F7   |    F7   |    C7   |    C7   |

Bar #          9         10        11        12        Ending
Chord          |:   V7   |    IV7  |    I7   |    V7   :|   I    || 
In C:          |:   G7   |    F7   |    C7   |    G7   :|   C    || 

Notice that they're all 7th chords.  The chords note out as: 
I7 -- C7 R 3 5 b7 <-- Notes referenced to the blues scale I7 R 3 5 b7 <-- Notes referenced to the chord C7 C E G Bb <-- Notes IV7 -- F7 4 6 R b3 <-- Notes referenced to the blues scale IV7 R 3 5 b7 <-- Notes referenced to the chord F7 F A C Eb <-- Notes V7 -- G7 5 7 2 4 <-- Notes referenced to the blues scale IV7 R 3 5 b7 <-- Notes referenced to the chord G7 G B D F <-- Notes
Good note choices during any measure are:
  1. Any note from the chord being played. Keep in mind that the I7 (C7) and the IV7 (F7) chords contain 'blue notes"
  2. Any of the "blue notes" not included in the current chord. (The b5 of the scale will always be outside the chord tone).
  3. Any other note in the blues scale.
One technique to get some variety into a simple riff is to start moving the roots to different octaves, and, after playing the root, play the rest of the riff below the root. Here is an example of the technique using only the R,3,5,b7 tones in each chord. It's in E and would fit well in a song like Sweet Home, Chicago. I'd play the first verse or two pretty straight, with ascending chord tones, then switch into this riff in about the third verse. In this tab, (hope it formats ok) each pair of notes would be sounded as a dotted eight and a 16th, as in a blues shuffle beat:

     I7   [E7]         |   IV7   [A7]          |  I7   [E7]           |   I7    [E7]

     IV7   [A7]        |   IV7   [A7]          |  I7   [E7]           |   I7    [E7]

      V7   [B7]        |   IV7   [A7]          |  I7   [E7]           |   V7    [B7]
(wasn't sure how to best show that last bar in tab ... mess around with the timing, it'll make sense.)

There are more ways to play blues than there are blues players, but this should get you launched in a good direction. Let me know how things work out for you.

Back Porch Blues Club

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