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Walking bass lesson 3 – 12 Bar Blues

In part three of our walking bass series, we are looking at the final changes for the 12 bar blues.

In Lesson 2, we continued to build patterns for the common chord progressions we see in blues. So far we have patterns for each chord change in the 12-Bar Blues except for one, moving from V to IV (i.e. G7 to F7).

Examples 1 and 2 demonstrate patterns for moving from V to IV, which can also be thought of as descending a whole step. It is an integral part of playing the blues, where the V chord descends to the IV chord in bars nine and ten.

Examples 1uses only chord tones and descends chromatically to the root of the F7 chord.

Walking Bass Blues Examples

Example 1: [1-5-1-b7]

walking bass 12 bar blues


Example 2 is the first half of the boogie pattern that we developed in Lesson 2, this time over a G7 chord.That pattern took us up to the b7th and back down to the root, however in this case, the b7th (F) is as far as we need to go.

Example 2: [1-3-5-6] 


In Example 3, we apply some of the patterns we’ve learned to a 12-Bar Blues progression in the key of C.  See if you can identify each of the patterns we’ve learned, especially when they are applied to different chords.  For example, we looked at C7 to G7 for the I to V movement, but these patterns are also applied to the F7 to C7 movement from bar 2 to bar 3, bar 6 to bar 7 and bar 10 to bar 11.

Example 3: Twelve-Bar Blues:

walking bass jazz blues 1

walking bass jazz blues

walking bass jazz blues 3


From this example, you can see that we can easily create a smooth, functional walking bassline just by linking together a handful of patterns over four different chord changes: I to IV, Static, I to V and V to IV.

Substitute some of the other patterns that we have learned into this progression, and see how they sound.  Some patterns will sound better to you than others, so focus on the patterns you like the most.  I recommend memorizing three patterns for the I to IV progression to get started, since it is the most common, and only one or two for the other chord changes.  Once you have picked out a few patterns you like, apply them to the 12 Bar Blues like we did in Example 3, and MEMORIZE that entire 12 bar bassline.  Having a go-to, “scripted” bassline for the blues will give you a good template to build off, as well as a solid line to fall back on.

Now get walking!

Joseph Alexander, guitarist & guitar teacher - Fundamental Changes for guitar

Author - Joseph Alexander

Joseph Alexander has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over 20 years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 200,000 copies to widespread critical acclaim. He is currently writing and publishing cutting edge-material that breaks down the barriers between learning and playing the guitar. As well as a…

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Since purchasing Joseph’s Book 1 of the Complete Guide to Playing Blues Guitar, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of the options available to me when playing the blues. He writes clearly and methodically, giving just enough information on each topic so that I can confidently integrate new techniques and expand my playing knowledge.

The book provides alternative approaches to each method to drive home the idea that you the player should experiment and find what works best in different situations based on your preference. Clear explanations of different chord voicings and rhythm options have really opened up the palette of sounds to choose from, and I look forward to continuing the series.

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