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Bass Lesson 01 - Blues Bass in E

Note - the bass lines in lessons 1-11 can all be played with E Blues Backing Track No Bass which you can download from the Bass Guitar Lessons home page or here: mp3 wma

The Standard Blues Progression

The first bass line we are going to study is playing the root note over each chord of a blues progression. The progression is a shuffle rhythm in the key of E. Here's the chord progression we are playing over:

B A E E - C - B

You read the progression from left to right as follows;

Bar 1 Bar 2 Bar 3 Bar 4
Bar 5 Bar 6 Bar 7 Bar 8
Bar 9 Bar 10 Bar 11 Bar 12

The guitar is playing E5, E6 and E7 chords over the E and similarly over the A and B chords.

This is a standard blues chord progression that we are going to be using for all the bass lines on the introductory bass guitar instruction pages. You can download the full bass backing track on the Bass Guitar Lessons home page.

We will start out with some simple bass guitar lines and build them as we go. You can just practice each bass line one at a time. When you get comfortable with each bass line move to the next and start combining the bass lines.

Bass Line 01 - Playing the Root Note of Each Chord

Have a listen to 01 E blues bass only, our first bass line. It's the most simple blues bass line we could choose to play. It might not sound like much on its own, but if you listen to track 02, where I've added guitar, you will hear that this is a good bass line.

01 E Blues Bass only mp3 wma
01 E Blues Bass and guitar mp3 wma

That's the bottom line for bass guitar instruction lesson 01. By playing a bass line that only uses the root note of each chord, we are playing good bass that will fit in well with a band.

Let's look at the bass line in more detail.

Bars 1 to 4

The first four bars we are just sitting on the E chord with a shuffle rhythm.


The Shuffle Rhythm

A shuffle rhythm has a triplet feel to it with the middle triplet note not played.

A triplet consists of 3 notes per beat. One bar with four triplets (1 triplet on each beat) looks like this:
Music Notation for Triplets

If we take out the middle triplet (the 'an') the above becomes a shuffle beat:
Music Notation for the Shuffle Beat

That's what the rhythm looks like for each bar we are playing. So our first bar of music we are playing 8 notes using the shuffle rhythm above. All on the Root note of the E chord, which is the note E. This is your open E string.

Open Strings

That's all we are playing. Just the low or bottom string on the bass. ie the E string. We aren't fretting it - so we call it the open E.

If you play each of the open strings shown in the below tab you are playing the open E, open A, open D and open G.


Right Hand Muting

You can see in the shuffle rhythm above that there is a rest on the middle triplet. We aren't playing anything there so we have to mute the string. The first note you play with your middle finger and then you mute the string by resting your right index finger on the string (left if you are left handed).

Bars 5 and 6

In bar 5 we move the IV chord. In the key of E the IV chord is the A chord. The I chord is the E chord and the V chord is the B chord. Thus this kind of progression is also referred to as a I-IV-V progression as it uses the I, IV and V chords from a Major scale. More about that later.

The tab for bar 5 is as follows.


We are sitting on the A for both bar 5 and 6.

Note that you could also play the A using the open A string - the tab for the open A string is:


Position Choices

Although we are playing something very simple, you already have a choice to make. Where are you doing to play the A note. You can play the open A string or you can play the same note at the 5th fret on the E string. This is where you want to start experimenting. Try playing the A in both places. Listen to the difference in the sound. It's the same note but you can hear that it sounds fatter on the 4th string than it does on the 3rd string.

We're going to be doing this a lot. ie looking at the neck, moving around the neck and playing the same note in different location. The better understanding of the neck you have the more choices you will open up for your bass lines. Especially when it comes to notes you are moving to and from. You will find that you have different notes available in each of the different positions on the neck.

Bars 7 to 10

In bar 7 and 8 we are back on the E.

In bar 9 we move to the V chord, or the B chord and play the B that sits on the 7th fret of the 1st or E string.


Again you can play the B in another location. This time the B also sits on the 2nd fret of the A string shown in the tab below.


In bar 10 we move back down to the A.

Bars 11 and 12

Back to the E for bar 11 and then in the turn around we are playing the E and then walking up from the IV chord to the V chord or the A. Bar 12 goes like this.


And that's our first blues bass line. A 12 bar blues in E. Very simple but very effective as you'll hear if you play along with the E blues backing track on the home page.

Final Suggestion - Experiment

For all of the bass lines above and that you find on the Bass Guitar Lessons pages, you should learn each bass line and then start experimenting with your own bass lines. Build up your musical vocabulary by taking the ideas from this site and turning them into your own bass lines.

Make sure that you focus on the music you are playing. Listen to the rhythm and ensure you are in time with the drums. Play with the drummer, find the groove and most importantly feel the music.

Next Lesson: Bass Lesson 02 - Root Note Octaves

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