Applying Root, 5th, Flat 7th and 8 to the Blues
12-Bar Blues, the Dominant 7th Chord, and the R-5-b7-8 Pattern
An early and simple pattern I like to get students playing on the blues is the R-5-b7-8 pattern. If you haven’t studied this common bass pattern or the dominant 7th chord pattern which we'll discuss here, I suggest you do so before continuing with this lesson.
Blues and the Dominant 7th Chord
Traditionally, the dominant 7th chord is applied to each of the three chords (I, IV, and V) used in the blues.
The flatted 7th note of the dominant 7th chord is a key component of the blues sound. And, subsequently, the flat 7th is a big component in rock, jazz, funk, and many other styles.
Emphasizing the sound of the flat 7 in a blues bassline is very common.
The Blues and the R-5-b7-Octave Pattern
The R-5-b7-8 pattern is just a subset of notes found in the dominant 7th chord pattern. All you are leaving out is the 3rd of the dominant 7th chord.
That is why the R-5-b7-8 pattern works perfectly over each chord in the blues it outlines the strong chord tones of each chord. Remember, outlining the notes of chords is your big responsibility as far as what notes to play when creating basslines. Scale notes and other notes revolve around and serve to enhance those supportive chord tones.
Mix It Up
In the exercises for this lesson I'll show you some ways you might apply the Root-5-b7-8 pattern to the blues. Something important for you to do is create your own basslines applying these patterns I’m showing you.
The nice thing about the R-5-b7-8 pattern is you can’t play a bad note. As long as you emphasize the root (or any octave of the root) on beat 1 of each bar and play with steady rhythm, you’ll have a pretty solid bassline.
The more often you make up basslines, the larger your own catalog of ideas will grow. Plus, you will start to hear these ideas in your mind and your fingers will get comfortable executing them.
Practice! And, practice your creativity!