“C Blues” (Annotated Bassline)

Bassline construction is a crucial first step in learning jazz tunes and improvisation. Annotated Bassline is a series designed to help players of all instruments build this skill.

Today, we’re looking at a 12-bar blues in the key of ‘C’. Note that some C Blues (such as Duke Ellington’s “C-Jam Blues“) are more simple, just using three chords (C7, F7, and G7). Others, like Charlie Parker’s “Relaxin at Camarillo,” use more complex chord substitutions (like F7-F#dim7, etc.)

Note that the circled numbers are bar numbers, while the plain numbers are chord-scale degrees (C is the ‘1’ of C7, etc…) Red circles mean the line moves up the scale, while blue ones mean the line moves down the scale.

Bar 1 is moving from C to F (I to IV, or up a perfect fourth) and uses a 1-2-3-5 pattern. This pattern is useful when moving from I-IV or I-VI.

Bar 2 is moving from F to C (IV to I, or up a perfect fifth/down a perfect fourth) and uses a 1-1-b7-6 pattern. This pattern is useful when moving from IV-I, I-V, etc.

Bar 3 is moving from C to C (I to I, or a perfect unison) and uses a 1-2-3-2 pattern. This pattern is useful when staying on the same root for multiple bars.

Bar 4 is moving from C to F and uses the same 1-2-3-5 pattern as Bar 1.

Bar 5 is moving from F to F and uses the same 1-2-3-2 pattern as Bar 3.

Bar 6 is moving from F to C and uses the same 1-1-b7-6 pattern as Bar 2.

Bar 7 is moving from C to C and uses the same 1-2-3-2 pattern as Bar 3.

Bar 8 is moving from C to D (I to ii, or up a major second) and uses a 1-2-3-1 pattern. This pattern is useful when moving from I-ii, V-vi, etc.

Bar 9 is moving from D to G and uses the same 1-2-3-5 pattern as Bars 1 and 4, but here is 1-2-b3-5 to account for the Dmin7 chord.

Bar 10 is moving from G to C and uses the same 1-2-3-5 pattern as Bars 1, 4, and 9. Notice the octave displacement (‘5’ moves down a major sixth – rather than up a minor third – to the low ‘D’).

Bar 11 is moving from C to G (I to V, or up a perfect fifth) and uses a 1-2-3-4 pattern. This pattern is useful when moving from I-V.

Bar 12 is moving from G to C (V to I, or up a perfect fourth) and uses a 1-b7-6-5 pattern. This pattern is useful when moving from V-I, I-IV, etc.


Questions? Leave them in the comments. Wanna learn more about bass playing or bassline construction? See here for information on lessons with me. Thanks for reading!

Author: Leah Pogwizd

jazz bassist and tiny instrument instructor

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