In the blues bass lessons so far, we’ve only used one common variation of the blues form. There are many different sets of chord changes used in 12-bar blues. It’s important to know, practice, and be able to play them all.
12-Bar Blues Form Variation 1
The first variation of the 12-bar blues form uses a simpler set of chord changes than the variation with which we started. This is probably the earliest set of changes to the blues. While the changes are simpler, beginners often get lost in it and that’s why I didn’t start you there.
In variation 1 the first two 4-bar sections are the same as we learned before. In the last 4 measures the first two bars (bars 9 & 10) stay on the V chord while the last two bars (bars 11 & 12) stay on the I chord. The form then looks like this:
Keep Your Place!
Where beginners often get lost is on the repeat of this variation. Since there are two bars of the I chord at the end and then 4 bars of the I chord back at the beginning, there’s a high chance you can miscount and skip a bar. Don’t! Remember, defining the harmony is part of your bass playing obligations. That means you must develop the utmost confidence in knowing where the harmonies change (the song form). This just takes a lot of practice and requires a bit of focus. Eventually it’ll just sound and feel right and you won't even think about it.
Feeling the Top of the Form
The way you shouldn’t try to keep your place is by counting six bars of the I chord when you repeat. Instead, you need to feel (mark it mentally) where the blues form starts over. The beginning of a song form is called the top of the form. The reason we started with the other 12-bar blues form variation was because the last bar is marked by the V chord to help you feel the end of the form. Now you don’t have that convenience and you have to learn to keep your place all on your own.
How to Practice the Blues Form Variations
I’ll post some basslines using this variation and others to come. You need to get comfortable with each blues form variation. A good idea would be to take any of the blues basslines from previous lessons and apply them to each new blues form you learn.
For example, for this variation you need to change the way you play the last four bars. Stay on the V chord in bar 10 instead of going to IV. Stay on the I chord in bar 12 instead of playing the V chord.
Don't get lost.
Don't forget to practice these forms in all keys.
Don't forget to practice them in different areas of the fretboard.