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Blues Bass

Look no further than the blues for your foundation of groove and musicality.

Lately, I’ve been doing groove-filled clinics with drummer, Chris Ceja, and myself. Inevitably, we get on the conversation of groove and where we think its foundations began. I’m always amazed at the blank looks I get when I answer, “The Blues.”

One of the things I always do at a Doug Johns clinic is to try and include players from the audience in a jam (which is important), and everyone usually stumbles over a simple blues change.

A lot of younger musicians seem to be afraid of the blues. They learn a few licks and think, “That’s all I need to know.” Practically everything you hear today, except classical, is a descendent of blues; rock and jazz are first-generation descendents. There’s no better way to learn to improvise and to get to know your instrument than to play over a simple 12-bar blues. Drummers, too!

To me, blues changes offer the most bang for your musical development buck. The blues offers everything: rhythm, time, feeling, foresight, and harmony, just to name a few. I’ve always looked at all music as “question and answer,” but the blues seems to be the most direct, stripped-down way of explaining that feeling. Blues is Truth, and Truth = Soul.

Cats such as the great Ray Charles, Gatemouth Brown and Willie Dixon come to mind here. If music is your passion, you had better check out these masters!

The bass is coming so far in such a short time these days, and this is great for us bass players. But, the Catch 22 to that is sometimes we get so caught up in so much technique that we leave our foundations behind. That’s why I like to stress the blues change. A simple 1-4-5 change will always keep your musicality in check, which will ultimately keep you working as a bass player!

***In the accompanying video, credit must be given to the composers of the great blues tunes I use as examples: The Allman Brothers Band (Southbound), Preston Foster (I Got my Mojo Working), and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis (The Chicken).


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