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How To Play A 12 Bar Blues On The Bass Guitar – Easy Lesson




bass tabs blues

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Learning bass guitar can be an incredibly rewarding experience, especially when you learn how to play a 12 bar blues progression!

Working with bass tabs to guide your notes and rhythm is a great way to get started.

Through bass tabs, blues players gain an understanding of the harmony and basic structure of classic blues tunes.

Start by learning the chords in various keys and then how to apply those chords to a 12 bar blues bass line.

Memorizing key progressions while keeping time is essential for confident playing, so work on both your rhythmic foundation and chord knowledge to master the 12 bar blues!

Handy Resources For Download – Bass Tabs Blues PDF

Download this blues bass tabs PDF for three examples of walking blues bass lines to play over a standard blues.

Learn How To Play Blues Bass From Scratch

There are many ways to come up with a bass line that works over a blues.

You can play walking bass, a root note with a simple rhythm or find your own lines and riffs by using the major scale, playing a pattern or using chord tones.

However, there are some common tricks and techniques that the best bassists use.

Let’s look at them in more detail.

Quick analysis

A 12 bar blues is a popular style of music found in the genres of blues, rock, and jazz. It has a unique structure and sound that makes it instantly recognizable.

Looking at harmonic analysis from a theoretical point of view, the basic musical structure can be divided into three distinct parts.

The first four bars introduce the tonic chord on which the piece is based; this builds tension until it resolves on the dominant chord in bars 5–8.

By contrast, bars 9–12 create a sense of closure by returning to the tonic chord and reinforcing its position as anchor to this style of music.

Each repetition is just one element in how the 12 bar blues becomes so catchy and recognizable – by playing around with repetition and resolution between tonic and dominant chords, even those unfamiliar with its inner workings can recognize its sound immediately.

Blues Bass Line Patterns

Using a simple pattern built from the minor pentatonic scale is a great way to create a blues bass line.

Your riffs will work with many popular practice tracks or just about any blues backing track you can find too so there’s plenty of opportunity to practice!

Let’s look in detail at some examples of patterns that work in a blues bass line.

Blues Bass Pattern for the Dominant 7th Chord

If you want to play a great blues bass line then you’ll need to know how to play over a dominant 7th.

This video will give you some great ideas.

Using Chord Tones In Blues Bass Lines

Playing chord tones is a great way to add emphasis to your blues walking bass lines.

The notes in the chord structure of a blues progression are the backbone of the music, so playing them while you’re walking can add both texture and clarity to your lines.

Plus, since these notes are easily recognizable through their harmonic relationships, they help bring out the emotion in each song section and make it easier for your band mates or audience to follow along.

Ultimately, playing chord tones as part of your walking bass offers an effective technique for enhancing your blues performance.

Blues Bass Turnarounds

No blues bass line would be complete without knowing a few turnarounds.

Check out this video for an explanation of what a turnaround is and where to use it.

Action steps

Practicing a 12 bar blues is an excellent way for bass players to gain some new experience.

The most important factor for a successful practice session is setting specific goals and action steps.

Chord & Arpeggio Patterns

Firstly, it’s beneficial to start by studying simple chord patterns that match the tune.

Once you feel comfortable enough you can move onto learning how individual notes fit within the progression.

Backing Tracks

Secondly, playing along with a backing track is another great way to keep up with the tempo while exercising your fingerwork and timing skills.


Lastly, if you have access to other musicians then playing together in an ensemble can be especially worthwhile; this will not only help solidify your knowledge of scales, chord progressions and dynamics but it’s also fun.

Spending time on these steps will soon have you able to perform a 12 bar blues with confidence.


Blues is a great style of music to learn.

Knowing it will provide you so much knowledge and experience.

So why wait?

Start learning today!

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