Using your thumb to pick out the bass notes of a blues tune isn’t easy. It takes work and a ton of it.
Most of us pickers are naturally more adept at playing “dead bass” (also called “steady bass”) songs with our thumbs. This type of bass technique is simply when the thumb pumps out a bass note on the down beat, usually four simply notes per measure.
That should absolutely be your first goal as an aspiring finger picker. You must connect with the beat and gain the control in your thumb to pluck out a strong steady bass throughout a blues progression.
But then what?
Then you want to sound like Lightnin’ Hopkins, right? I mean….we all do 🙂
Among other incredible talents, Lightnin’ could lock into a shuffle rhythm with his thumb and keep it groovin’ throughout the tune – even while playing a lick or two. In Tuesday Blues #25, we took a glimpse at a Lightnin’ style lick played over shuffle bass rhythm.
How to Improve Your Shuffle Bass Technique
If you have trouble tackling licks like the one in Lesson 25 (like we all do at first) then I highly suggest simplifying things a bit and working through this lesson.
This takes a lot of practice, but fire up a metronome and concentrate on just the thumb for a second. Once you can feel the shuffle pulse and your thumb can keep the beat on an open string, then move on to add the simple harmony lines from this lesson.
Once you’ve worked through the entire 12 bar progression without breaking the shuffle rhythm with your thumb…
Stop for a minute and realize just how hard that is! This is a real accomplishment.
Then it’s time to challenge yourself even more and loop the progression several times until you can play the piece perfectly for several minutes. This will really help your thumb get used to the shuffle bass rhythm and it will help you tackle licks over the shuffle rhythm a whole lot easier.
Good luck and let me hear about your progress. Just drop me a comment below.