12 Bar Blues Bass Lines
Learning to play a basic blues bass guitar line is a really useful thing to learn. It works as a lead guitar riff and is also an excellent introduction to bass playing in general.
Bass guitar is a rhythm instrument. So it's very important that you listen to the drums very closely when playing any kind of bass line. Note choice is important, but not as important as playing with a good groove. Just playing one note (usually the root note) with a good solid rhythm will generally sound better than playing lots of notes but not being well synchronised with the drums.
Listen closely to the drummers kick drum and snare drum. Also listen to the hi hat. You should aim to play your notes so they exactly synchronise with the drummer hitting the drums. This is called playing tight, or in the pocket, and is one of the most important aspects of bass playing.
Playing with the drummer is also a very important rhythm guitar skill, maybe the most important, so learning to listen to the drummer is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. Take this opportunity now to really learn to listen to the drums and every time you are playing along with a record really try and feel that you are playing with the drummer!
1 3 5 6 8 6 5 3....
Generally speaking-based players stick to playing chord tones. This would be the root note, the third and the fifth. We are going to add the sixth scale degree as well as the octave for these patterns. You could think of the shape we are going to play as a major sixth arpeggio.
The first thing to learn of course is the note pattern:
We will play each note twice, go away up and back down the arpeggio. This will take two bars. When learning this we can use a simplified version of the 12 bar blues that we looked at earlier - we are just simplifying the last four bars which is something very commonly done by the blues masters.
One Bar Each: A A A A D D A A E E A A
Of course you don't have to play every note twice. At faster tempos you would only want to play each note once.
If you have a jam by the then one of who should play the 12 bar blues pattern that we learnt in the beginners course and then the other person should try playing this new bass line. It's a lot of fun and you can experiment with the pattern as you like. Try changing the note order and see if you can make up your own!
If you want to play the regular blues sequence you would just play the first bar of the pattern (ascending bit) for the last 4 bars because each chord is just held for one bar:
One Bar Each: A A A A D D A A E D A E
As well as functioning as a bass line, it can also be used as a kind of lead guitar line in a rockabilly style.
If you are playing the blues on your own, using this kind of bass line can also break things up a bit. Using the 12 bar blues shuffle (chunka chunka) style for 3-4 minutes can become quite tedious, so breaking into a few cycles of this 12 bar blues bass line style can add a lot of interest, although it can be a little difficult to to play if you are singing at the same time.