Hey, welcome! In this week’s Blues bass guitar lesson I’m going to be taking you through 4 Methods To Create Blues Bass Lines. These are the methods that are my ‘go to’ whenever I need to play or learn a blues song or tune. So let's begin.
I’m going to take you through 4 fundamental fingerboard shapes and then show you how to apply them to the 12 bar blues sequence.
The backing track we are using in this lesson is called ‘Jake’s Blues’ and can be found in the brand new ‘Blues Jam Backing Track Album’.
The blues sequence is a standard ‘Rock’ 12 bar blues in the key of G and is created loosely in the style of bands such as ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin or Free.
You’ll discover these 4 fingerboard patterns are strongly interlinked and when you get comfortable with them you’ll be able to switch between then very easily and quickly. All the fingerboard patterns are also in the key of G major to keep things simple!
Let’s crack on...
Method 1 - The Major Pentatonic Scale
This first blues bass line method is based on the G Major Pentatonic Scale. This scale is very common and only uses 5 notes which are derived directly from the major scale. Start by playing this using the ‘1 finger Per Fret’ method playing the root with a second finger. This will ensure all the notes fall under the fretting hand easily.
To make this into a blues bass line we are going to strip out the 2nd note and just use the Root, Third, Fifth & Sixth. There’s a good chance you will have heard this bass line many times before!
Method 2 - The Minor Pentatonic Scale
There’s a good chance you will have seen the minor pentatonic scale before because it is used time and time again in rock and blues music. The notes are derived from the natural minor scale.
Start this on the first finger on your fretting hand and all of the notes will fall under your hand.
To make this into a ‘blues bass line we are going to strip out the flattered 3rd (b3) and fourth (4th). This gives what I call the ‘power notes’. The Root, fifth, Flat 7th and Octave. These 4 power notes create a distinctive ‘box shape’ on the neck which falls really nicely under the hand.
Method 3 - The Major Pentatonic Forward Position
The Major Pentatonic Forward Position uses exactly the notes as Method 1 but we have changed the fingering. This fingering change also creates the ‘Box Shape’ we cover in Method 2. Think of it as a hybrid between the two methods!
The reason this shape is powerful is because it gives us the opportunity to add articulation. Articulation in this case is slides and hammer ons.
In this blues bass line I have added an extra note as a hammer on… from the flattened 3rd (at fret 6) to the major 3rd at fret 7. This creates a really common blues sound and fall nicely under the hand using this shape. We are also sliding into the 6th note of the scale.
Method 4 - The Chromatic Blues Shape
This last shape is a development of what we looked in Method 1 in the G major Pentatonic shape. We have added in the 4th, b5, (A string) and b7 & 7th (D string). This creates ‘chromatics’ which is when we play each fret one by one. This shape is also great for fretting hand technique. Once you have played a note try and hold each fretting hand finger down as you ascend through the chromatics on each string.
To demonstrate this idea we are going to use the R notes on the A string (3,4,b5 & 5). This could easily be extended into a two bar bass line by adding in the 6,b7,7,R on the D string. The ideas in method 4 can also create fantastic ‘Walking Bass Lines’ too.
Lesson Wrap Up
In these 4 lessons I’ve demonstrated my 4 ‘go to’ methods of creating blues bass lines.
There’s nothing ‘theoretical’ or ‘academic’ here. It’s all 100% real world stuff.
The important thing is to learn the fingerboard shapes and be able to clearly visualise them on the neck.
Once you are comfortable try switching between the various ideas within one blue sequence. I do this all the time!
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!
JamesP.S. I recommend practicing these ideas with blues backing tracks made for the bass guitar. You can pick up the backing track used in this lesson and 11 other fantastic sounding blues tracks here.