A big part of being able to play the blues convincingly – like a pro – is knowing how to handle the “tops and tails” of tunes (that’s musician lingo for “beginnings and endings”). In this article we’re going to look at three of the most popular blues endings. Professional players will hear the opening couple notes of any of these blues endings and instantly know what needs to be played. Learning these 3 blues endings will help advancing players acquire the blues vocabulary that will make them better players at jam sessions and help develop that authentic blues sound.
We’ll look at all of these blues endings in the key of F and in the context of a 12-bar blues form. Each example will include music notation as well as an audio file. Be sure to practice these endings in various keys so as to improve your transposition skills and be able to use them in live performance situations with other players.
Blues Endings #1: The Walkup
Blues ending #1 is perhaps the most common of all blues endings. It’s a classic that all blues players need to have in their repertoire. The way this ending works is by walking up to the “V” chord (in the example below the “V” chord is treated as a dominant 7 sus4 chord). Then it puts a little “V to I” stamp on the final resolution, except that instead of playing a true “V to I” (which in the key of F would be C7 to F), it uses a tritone substitution (thus the Gb7 to F).
Blues Endings #2: The Walkdown
Probably second only to blues ending #1 is blues ending #2. Virtually the same idea as blues ending #1 except that instead of walking up to the “V” chord, this example walks down to the “V” chord. Once it gets to the “V” chord, it uses the same “V to I” resolution to F by inserting the tritone substitution of C7 (the Gb7 chord). In this example we’re using the regular dominant chord for C7 as opposed to the C7sus4 chord as in the example above. Of course, either can be used as desired.
Blues Endings #3: The Walk-down (or Walkup) with Right Hand Blues Scale Run
This ending sort of combines the classic walk-down blues ending #2 with some right hand flashiness. In this example your left hand will play the same left hand bass line walk-down as in blues ending #2. However, the right hand will simply play a descending blues scale in 8th-note triplets. Here, we’ve started on the root (F) and resolved to the “A natural” in the second measure, but you can start the blues scale anywhere and resolve to whichever note you prefer. Of course, you could use the walk-up bass line with this right hand idea as well.
Make sure to learn all three of these classic blues endings and transpose them to at least a few different keys. Happy practicing!