Bass player
Primer
Blues Course

  1. Blues Origin
  2. Twelve bar Blues Form
  3. Basic Blues harmony
  4. Blues in C
  5. Blues chord voicings for keyboard
  6. Triad Blues
  7. Swapping 2s
  8. Bb- and Eb- instruments
  9. How to learn more about the Blues
  10. Blues Quiz - Quiz Answers
  11. Downloading Bay
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blondy BL 1 - Blues Origin

The Blues is the most important musical form in Jazz and Jazz-related music.

The Blues started in the 19th century as a form of folk music developed by the black slaves in the United States.

Originally blues were very loosely structured songs performed by individual singers, guitarists and banjo players. The lyrics were usually sad and dealt with every day issues of slave life.

When the blues spread from the country side to urban centres their content included more happy aspects.

By 1920 three distinct blues formats had developed : the 8 bar blues, the 12 bar blues and the 16 bar blues.

From these three the 12 bar blues quickly became the most popular form.
It is still the most common blues form used by contemporary musicians.


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BL 2 - Twelve Bar Blues Form

The 12 bar blues consists of three phrases. Each phrase is four bars long.

In its original vocal form :

the 1st phrase makes a statement,

the 2nd phrase repeats this statement,

the 3rd phrase resolves or completes the statement.


For example :

"From dawn to dusk I work the fields all day ....

Yeah, from dawn to dusk I work the fields all day ....

But when the sun is down I rush home to sweet Mae."

Repetition of melodic or rhythmic phrases or motifs is also very common in many instrumental blues , although it is not essential. Repeated motifs are commonly either 2 bars long or 4 bar long.

The blues can be played in any key. The most common keys are C, F, Bb, and G.


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BL 3 - Basic Blues Harmony

The basic harmony of the blues contains three different chords :

they are the I Chord, the IV Chord and the V Chord.


These are the Primary Triads, the chords built on the 1st (tonic), the 4th (subdominant) and the 5th note (dominant) of the major scale in any key.

In the key of C the chords are : C major (I) , F major (IV) and G major (V).

Audio 1
C Blues chords

(Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) represent individual scale tones or chord tones. Roman numerals (I, IV, V, etc.) represent chords.)


In the key of F the chords are : F major (I) , Bb major (IV) and C major (V).

Audio 2
F Blues chords



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BL 4 - Blues in C

The most basic chord progression of the 12 bar blues in C is :

Audio 3
Blues in C

Each 4 bar phrase can be divided into two 2 bar segments.

The last two bars of each 4 bar phrase (bars 3 and 4, 7 and 8, 11 and 12) are all harmonised by the same chord : I (C for the blues in C)

The differences in harmony occur in the first two bars of each phrase :

  • The I chord (C) covers the first two bars (1 and 2) of the 1st phrase.

  • The IV chord (F) covers the first two bars (5 and 6) of the 2nd phrase.

  • The V chord (G) covers the first two bars (9 and 10) of the 3rd phrase.



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BL 5 - Blues Chord Voicings for Keyboard

Triad Blues is in the key of C.
The rhythmic motif is a simple 2 bar pattern, repeated every two bars. The melody consists entirely of chord tones.

In Triad Blues only the C chord (in the LH) is played in root position.
The F and G chords are both played in 2nd inversion.

This ensures smooth transition from chord to chord without jumps for the left hand.

Audio 4
Chord voicings

(Compare this with Audio 2 , where all three chords are played in root position.
Can you hear that the voicings jump too much up and down ?)

Always play a closed position chord (= all chord tones fall within one octave) so that the lowest note of the chord lies within the following range :

Left hand range for keyboard



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BL 6 - Triad Blues

1.
Triad Blues is a twelve bar blues. The melody consists of chord tones only.
The rhythm of the melody uses a simple 2 bar pattern which is repeated six times.


Melody
triad Blues

Play the song until you have memorised the melody.

2.
Play the chord root tones of the blues chord progression only.
Hold each note for 4 beats (one bar), like this :

Audio 5

| C

| C

| C

| C

|

| F

| F

| C

| C

|

| G

| G

| C

| C

:||


Play the above until you can play and sing it from memory.

(Bb- instruments use the notes D, G and A, while Eb- instruments use A, D and E. )

3.
Improvise over Triad Blues using chord tones.
Use one of the two 4-bar rhythm patterns below for improvisation. This helps you to keep track of where you are in the song's chord progression. Use chord tones for improvisation. Not every note needs to be different, repeating the same note can be very effective.

Rhythm patterns


(You can do this alone, or with a group as a 'Jam Session'. This will always sound good, for everybody (hopefully) plays notes from the same chord.)

Download a backing track Midi file of Triad Blues to play along with.


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BL 7 - Swapping 2s

Swapping 2s or 4s is often included as a special feature in performances by many small Jazz combos. It is especially popular with Trad Jazz groups, but can be just as effective in a modern Jazz ensemble.

Rather than one performer improvising over an entire chorus (or more), two or more soloists take turns playing only 2 or 4 bars at a time.
Each player reacts to what the previous player just has played. This is great fun and can produce a fresh and unpredictable outcome.


Each lesson in the Blues Basics Email Course (and in the Improvisation Email Course) includes play-a-long midi tracks for swapping 2s or 4s. These can be of great benefit to your development so make sure you use them.
Play in all the 2 bar- (or 4 bar-) gaps as indicated in each lesson.

Use the chords or scales discussed in each lesson.
In this lesson for example improvise using triad chord tones only. I have done the same here.

Basic Blues in C : Swapping 2s (complete track)

  1. Track 1 (9 choruses) - : I play the first 2 bars of each 4-bar phrase, you play the following 2 bars.

  2. Track 2 (9 choruses) - : You play the first 2 bars of each 4-bar phrase, I play the following 2 bars.

    Improvise using triad chord tones only.     Play all quavers in swing style.


Use the swapping tracks in the following 5 ways :

  1. LISTEN
    Play each gapped track several times, just listening to it. They contain many rhythmic ideas ('licks') you should absorb so that they gradually become part of your own vocabulary. The spaces between each phrase nicely highlight each idea in isolation.

  2. WRITE
    Write out some of the ideas on paper as 2- or 4-bar rhythm patterns.
    The more you involve yourself actively with music elements like these the more you learn and absorb them.

  3. SING
    Sing the rhythm pattern of each phrase segment in the gap immediately behind it. Like "deeeedadadadit -dedaaaah".

  4. REPEAT
    Improvise on your instrument. Use your own note selection but try to repeat the rhythm pattern of each preceding phrase segment.

  5. COMPLEMENT
    Improvise on your instrument. Use your own note selection and rhythm pattern and complement in your own way the phrase segment before (or behind) it.



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BL 8 - Bb- and Eb- instruments

permanent/bl1jd1.jpg
Lino cut by Jane Dennis

Bb instrument players
(trumpet, clarinet, soprano- and tenor-sax)
To match the 'concert key' of keyboards, flutes etc. play in the key 2 semitones higher.

For example for the Blues in C : play in the key of D
For the Blues in F : play in the key of G



Eb instrument players
(alto- and baritone-sax)
To match the 'concert key' of keyboards, flutes etc. always play in the key 3 semitones lower.

For example for the Blues in C : play in the key of A
For the Blues in F : play in the key of D




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BL 9 - How to learn more about the Blues

Michael If you like to learn more about Blues improvisation, then join our Blues Basics Email Course

To enrol simply

If you have any questions ask me. Happy practising !

Michael



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BL 10 - Blues Quiz

A.
1. How many bars are there in the basic blues form ?

2. How many phrases are there in the basic blues form, and how many bars is each phrase ?

3. How many different chords make up the chord progression of the basic blues, and which are they ?


B.
1. Which chords are there in the chord progression for the basic blues in the key of F ?

2. Which chords are there in the chord progression for the basic blues in the key of G ?

3. Which chords are there in the chord progression for the basic blues in the key of Bb ?


C.
A music student is learning the guitar.
So far he has learnt to play the following chords : C - E - D - G - A - F - Bb
In how many keys can he play the basic blues ?


D.
Transpose the melody of Triad Blues in the key of F.


E.
Transpose the melody of Triad Blues in the key of G.

Quiz Answers



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BL 11 - Downloading Bay

File Name Contents Size
bl1fac.gif Blues Basics 1 - Facts sheet 15K
bl1so.gif Triad Blues - Lead sheet 15K
bl1som.mid Triad Blues - Demo 15K
bblc.mid Triad Blues (in C) : Play-a-Long 15K
bblf.mid Basic Blues in F : Play-a-Long 15K
bblg.mid Basic Blues in G : Play-a-Long 15K
bl1sw2sa.mid Swapping 2s - Track 1 25K
bl1sw2sb.mid Swapping 2s - Track 2 25K
bl1sw2sc.mid Swapping 2s - Complete track 25K



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