My first book recently launched on Amazon.
If you want to check it out on Amazon US you can by clicking the image below:
If you want to check it out on your local Amazon, simply head there and then type HOW TO PLAY BLUES ROCK BASS PAUL WOLFE into the search bar and you should come across it.
I haven’t yet been able to upload a sample to Amazon – so if you want to download one, you can do that right here by clicking this link:
There is a bonus (and free) web version of the book. The vast majority of the musical examples are played. To demonstrate this, the first section in the sample – ANATOMY OF A BLUES ROCK BASS LINE – looks like this on the website:
Section 1 – Anatomy Of A Blues Rock Bass Line
Let’s get started by looking at a 12 bar blues rock bass line in the key of E. This is in the style of Tommy Shannon’s great bass line to Pride And Joy – and it’s the kind of line you’ll be able to put together by the end of this book (although I sneaked a couple of triplets in that we’ll cover in Book 2):
Although this looks and sounds complex (and please make sure you sign up for the online version and watch the video of this) I want to strip it back in stages to show you some fundamental information that we’re going to use to build our understanding of what goes into blues rock bass lines and use that information to start building our blues rock Bass IQ.
The first thing to note is that this line uses a concept called ‘modifying devices,’ which we’ll get into shortly. In this line nearly all of the open strings are modifying devices.
So we’re going to amend the bass line by doubling all the notes that are on the beat. These are the fundamental notes of the bass line. Next we’ll get rid of the open strings. Finally we’ll replace the triplets with two swung 8th notes. I’ll annotate exactly how each note functions against the harmony so that we can build a picture of what devices are being used::
That still sounds like a typical blues rock bass line. Replacing the open string modifying devices used in the first example makes the devices being used to create the bass line more obvious. Let’s make them even more obvious by converting each pair of swung 8th notes to quarter notes. This illustrates a foundational concept at the same time:
The foundational concept revealed in this example is that a device can be conceived at a quarter note level but played at a different rhythmic level using rhythmic replacement by replacing each quarter note with a pair of swung 8th notes.
Also note that in Bar 12 I didn’t swap the 8th notes for a quarter note. That’s because this bass line is using a concept called a ‘Bar 12 Riff.’ You’ll find this in many blues rock songs. Essentially the bass (and often other instruments in the band) play the same idea or riff on Bar 12 to signal to the audience (and the musicians in the band who’ve lost their place in the form) that the song form has reached Bar 12 and it’s going back to Bar 1.
There’s one more example I want to show you and talk about before we move on and formally look at the first device in this book. In this example I want to draw your attention to the last note of each four note device and how it helps set up the root note that follows. To do that, I’m going to play the root notes in each bar (except the Bar 12 riff) for three beats and play the last note of each four note device so that you can clearly how the subsequent root note is set up:
This example illustrates the effect of approach notes. I added the type of approach note into the appropriate annotation: ld = lower dominant; uc = upper chromatic; lc = lower chromatic
If you’ve ever studied walking bass you’ll have learned about target notes and approach notes. There are four basic types of approach note:
- dominant approach note
- chromatic approach note
- scalar approach note
- octave approach note
In walking bass you can create a dynamic walking bass line by thinking in pairs of target notes and approach notes. In blues rock that approach doesn’t work – but what does work is to use devices where the last note of the device functions as one of the four types of approach note listed above.
By doing this, your lines won’t sound like a loose collection of ideas with no underlying organization. Instead, each bar sets up the root note of the next bar in a way that pushes the listener’s ear towards that root note and helps give your lines a compelling sense of logic and purpose.
So if you want to create blues rock bass lines you need these two main ingredients:
- the devices most commonly used in the genre
- the understanding of how to use combine those devices with the different types of approach notes
If you play lines that include these two main ingredients with appropriate rhythms – whether that’s swing 8th notes, straight 8th notes or even 16th notes – then you’ll outplay and outperform your contemporaries who don’t know how to do this.
One final thing to note for this section: blues rock bass players like Tommy Shannon, Berry Oakley and Carl Radle don’t have enormous vocabularies – so you don’t have to learn hundreds of devices – but they managed to create timeless and inventive bass lines with a relatively small vocabulary of devices. We’ll start learning the first of those devices in the next section.
BONUS LESSON FOR THIS SECTION
There’s a bonus lesson for this section looking at approach notes in more detail in case you want to deepen your knowledge of approach notes. If you want to go directly to that now, then click the link below: