Welcome! In today's blues bass guitar lesson I'm going to show you how to play the legendary blues song ‘Before You Accuse Me’. Over the course of this lesson, we will talk about different blues sequence that is present within the song.
The track uses the classic 12 bar blues sequence with some distinctive ‘ideas’ coming from the bass and the rest of the musicians in the band.
The bass line is largely improvised and Nathan East explores many different ways to play around the blues sequence… but there are also a few ‘ideas’ that stand out to me too. In this lesson I’m going to take apart 3 core ideas which will show you my approach to learning this song.
The 3 Core Ideas (& Bonus Idea)
Here are the 3 ideas we are going to cover:
A bass riff that will work across the whole blues sequence.
The turnaround that appears at the end of each blues sequence.
The unison phrase the whole band plays every time in the 12 bar blues.
We are also going to cover a bonus idea which Nathan East uses to create a killer sounding blues bass line.
The 12 Bar Blues Sequence
Before You Accuse me uses the classic 12 bar blues structure in the key of E. It contains a ‘Quick 4’ change in bar two and the last 4 bars use the extremely common ‘V - IV - I - V’
Get super comfortable playing this sequence just using root notes on the E string to begin with. Ensure you can play it 100% from memory and always know where you are in the 12 bar blues sequence before moving on.
The Basic Blues Bass Riff (Idea 1)
When I learn a blues song I always look to pick out one core bass riff or idea that I can return to time and time again… even if the bass line feels largely improvised.
In ‘Idea 1’ I’ve distilled a basic blues bass riff from the live version of this song which was performed at the great charity rock concert ‘Knebworth ‘90’. Watch the show here: https://youtu.be/NpuUoiPbCu0
You can hear Nathan East playing this riff time and time again and it’ll work perfectly across all 3 of the chords in 12 bar blues sequence.
The ‘minor 3rd to major 3rd’ concept used on beat 2 of each bar creates a very strong ‘bluesy’ sound. You are welcome to play these as two individual notes but personally I prefer to either slide or hammer them on.
The Blues Turnaround & Intro (Idea 2)
It is very common to do a ‘Turnaround’ phrase in bars 11-12 of the blues sequence. A Turnaround emphasizes the end of the blues sequence to give the 12 bars a distinctive musical shape.
‘Idea 2’ is a classic blues turnaround every blues bass player should have in their library. It is played on every 12 bar sequence in Before You Accuse Me.
I’ve also added the introduction because this uses the last 3 notes of the turnaround in the bass line (written in bar 3). There is also 1 bar of the riff before the blues cycle starts on the second line.
Adding The ‘Bar 10’ Unison Phrase (Idea 3)
When learning any song I always try to hunt out interesting bass lines or musical phrases. In most songs there often are ideas or details which aren’t essential to the overall structure or harmony of the song but if they are added will definitely elevate the song.
In Idea 3 there’s is a wonderful unison phrase that whole band in bar 10 of the blues structure in Before You Accuse. It’s clearly no accident because they play it every single time!
I would encourage you to take this one bar apart very slowly one beat at a time. For me it works best if you start it on a 4th finger. Again, I would encourage you to experiment with different fingerings to see what feels comfortable for you.
Building Blues Bass Lines
As I touched on in the beginning of this lesson there are many ideas that Nathan East improvises over in this song. ‘Idea 1’ is just one concept I pulled out. Here is another ‘Bonus Idea’ that I found in the solos in the middle of the song.
It’s a very strong 1 bar bass line that is built on the ‘Box Shape’ or ‘Minor Pentatonic’ with a ‘minor to major 3rd idea’ on the last beat of the bar.
Again, you may wish to experiment on different fingerings for the last beat of the bar. In the last example I’ve built the one bar phrase out over the first 9 bars of the blues sequence.
Lesson Wrap Up
As you may have heard me say many times learning blues bass is one of the most important things a beginner to intermediate bass player can get down.
You’ll find the blues sequence in virtually all styles of modern music - Rock to Funk, Jazz to Latin, Country to Folk.
You’ll also learn skills like how to play over sequences / forms and structures, how to transpose, how to play different ‘feels’, genres or styles.
That’s why I recommend every bass player should learn blues bass guitar
If you like help learning blues bass right from the ground upwards make sure you check out Rookie Blues Bass Intensive inside the Bass Lab PLUS membership.
The RBBI is 6 week or 6 module intensive course that teaches everything a bass player needs to get up and perform at a blues jam session.
That’s right… blues is also a perfect style to start jamming with other musicians.
Good luck and get stuck in!
P.S. If you'd like to grab the backing track used in this lesson you can find these in the Bass lab PLUS Membership.