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!
Birmingham Institute of Jazz presents Leah Pogwizd performing a written bassline on ubass, electric, and upright (“Fly Me to the Moon” @ 140 BPM). Analysis video coming soon!