A look at T-Bone Walker''s introductory 12-bar chorus from "I Got a Break Baby"

Welcome to our exploration of T-Bone Walker, part 2. Last month we covered some T-Bone history and ended with some classic T-Bone licks. Today, I have transcribed the introductory 12-bar chorus on “I Got a Break Baby." This is essentially an improvised guitar solo that opens the piece, and there are some fantastic classic T-Bone riffs here! An important early work, T-Bone recorded this in 1942; it’s just as fresh and inspiring today!

T-Bone shows his interest in jazz horn-like phrasing by alternating swing eighth-note phrases with double-time sixteenth note lines. His mastery of the blues scale is apparent, but mixed in are a few jazz-like harmonies, such as leaning on the A natural note at times. Other jazz tendencies include the Charlie Christian-style licks, which use the natural third (C-Eb-E-G-C), using a pure, natural archtop tone with no overdrive, and using syncopated rhythms that are very akin to jazz phrasing (especially the implied hemiola that starts on beat two of measure 5 [F7]).

The chorus immediately following this one starts with a classic double stop (notes Bb and G played together). Continue transcribing that chorus as a great ear-training exercise and to incorporate T-Bone’s vocabulary into your own!


For more on T-Bone, check out:
“I Got a Break Baby” solo on YouTube
Also on YouTube: T-Bone Walker sitting in with Chuck Berry… the “student” honoring his main influence


Jim Bastian
A clinician and jazz educator, Jim Bastian is a ten year veteran of teaching guitar in higher education. Jim holds two masters degrees and has published six jazz studies texts, including the best-selling How to Play Chordal Bebop Lines for Guitar (Jamey Aebersold Jazz). He actively performs on both guitar and bass on the East Coast.

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