Walkin' the Basses

by Steve James

Walking Bass EXCERPT
Click to enlarge tab.

One of the most common devices in the blues guitar repertoire is walking the bass line. Here’s a pattern with a treble phrase superimposed at the front of each measure and a chord turnaround in bar 11. The bass notes are picked with downstrokes of the thumb. The single notes and chord partials on the upper three strings are sounded with upstrokes of the index and/or middle fingers. Use your index, middle, and ring fingers to fret both bass and treble figures.

Variations on this accompaniment pattern have long been part of the blues sound from the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast to Chicago. As a great bluesman once said, “You learn this lick, they’ll give you 75 cents, a fish sandwich . . . and all the moonshine you can drink.”

Excerpted from Fingerstyle Blues Songbook

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox