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What are the notes of a generic bass line for a blues in B minor? Should one just play the notes of a B minor chord?

  • I think you already have some good answers, but I'm curious: are you interested in playing a "walking bass" specifically? – Michael Curtis Nov 29 '18 at 14:31
  • I guess I should have been more specific. typical 12 bar blues with the I IV V in B minor. I just want to play something that wouldn't clash with the guitar chords ( Other than just the root notes) – John Mercer Nov 30 '18 at 16:41
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Typical blues bass lines follow the chord tones, whether major or minor. Here with Bm blues, on the B bars, use B D and F. Since it's blues, the m7 also comes into play. So that's 1,3,5,7 from the Bm scale. As extra passing notes, the other three from the scale will also work.

Going to Em, usually in bars 5 and 6, use the same numbered notes, but from the Em scale.

In minor blues, the third chord can be F# (maj. or min) or I have played G7. Again, 1,3,5,7 mainly, with 'stepping stone' notes of 2,4 and 6.

That covers it! Use all the notes! And for a bit of extra spice, most of the chromatic in between! The one avoid note on the Bm bars will be A#...and D# on the Em bars. Although that D# works fine as the last note on a Bm bar, before an Em bar.

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You need more than a collection of notes to make a good walking bass line. Good bassist don't just meander about on arpeggios. Some just play the roots and it can sound pretty good if the rhythm is interesting. If you really want to learn how to construct a walking bass line over changes (Blues included) I would recommend the following...

  1. Listen to blues tunes you line and figure out the bass line by ear, or find tab for it. This will give you an idea of how bassists think.

  2. Get your hands on books like Evolving Upward by Rufus Reid or something similar.

One frequently uses voice leading, aiming for specific notes on strong beats, to create smooth motion. This doen't mean that you must be smooth, you could slap and pick octaves, etc. To this end you need the full set of changes to work with. Are you doing a 12 bar minor blues or an 8 bar pattern? Without this info we really can't help you. But as Tim points out you do have more than one chord and the standard 12 bar blues goes something like this...

I -> IV -> I -> I -> IV -> IV -> I -> I -> V -> IV -> I -> V

This is not the only pattern but a simple starting point. A minor version of this might be the same with all minor chords. Most Jazz players would make the I and IV chords minor and keep a dominant 7th on the V for a proper resolution. If your blues tune moves to other chords then staying on Bmin would clash horribly at some point.

  • Most jazz players would use just about anything except the 'standard' blues pattern - and often plenty of other chords too!! – Tim Nov 28 '18 at 8:30
  • That's not the point. Also, not quite true. Many great jazz blues tunes use the stripped down progression. Blues aside there are one chord tunes. The point is given a sequence of chords a supporting bass line aims for them through the movement via voice leading. – ggcg Nov 28 '18 at 11:55
  • Can't think of any one chord tunes offhand. Some two chord tunes, but that's not the point either! Also, can't think of many unadulterated 12 bar blues based jazz tunes. – Tim Nov 28 '18 at 16:11
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You will need more than a Bm chord!

A common minor blues...

    i   i   i   I7

    iv  iv  i   i

    VI7 V7  i   V7

...in B...

    Bm  Bm  Bm  B7

    Em  Em  Bm  Bm

    G7  F#7 Bm  F#7

You could simply arpeggiate the chords as you suggested, normally play the chord root on beat 1. Lots of blues method provide bass patterns so try browsing through those. Keep in mind that blues piano methods often include left hand bass parts. Some will involve chords that probably cannot be played on bass, but many will be playable on bass.

  • This doesn't really give clues as to what bass lines and patterns can be. It only gives an outline of one chord sequence. – Tim Nov 28 '18 at 8:33
  • I thought the OP '...just play the notes of a B minor chord' was basically correct except for the point about the chord changes. But, I edited my answer especially to point out playing the root on beat 1. – Michael Curtis Nov 28 '18 at 15:04
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"What are the notes of a generic bass line for a blues in B minor? Should one just play the notes of a B minor chord?"

Well, you'll want an Em7 chord as well, and you can choose between F#m7 and F#7 for the third basic chord. Given that framework, you have the same popssibilities as with a major blues. Keep it simple, we're talking about a bass line, not the bass solo!

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