Hey all, I've been taking lessons for the past two years, and have since learned my fair share of chord theory, scales, modes, etc... I've also learned the basics of how to walk, but recently I feel like my sense of walking has fallen apart. I know that I'm supposed to be outlining the chord but it feels like my note choices and what not are losing direction and focus. I bought a real book and have tried walking over some of the progressions at slow tempos and it still just isnt clicking for me... any help would be great, thank you! :bassist:
How to walk:
I use both; 1) just plain ole R-3-5-7 or R-3-5-b7 and then my "pulling" bass lines 2) are done, most of the time, with chromatic walks to the next chord. Target the next root, then miss it by one, two or three frets and then walk; one fret at a time to the next root, being on it for the chord change. That walk alerts everybody that a chord change is coming.
Little more to walking than outlining the chords. Perhaps a little one fret chromatic walk (above or below) the target will add what you are looking for. Target the next root and then miss it by one fret, let that one fret walk flow you into the next chord.
Classic Country three fret walk:
You can walk chromatically or diatonically your choice, it's the walk that adds what I think you may be wanting.On the G cord (4th string 3rd fret) going to the next C chord. Walk the 4th string - G#, A now go up to the 3rd string and catch the B and be on the C for the chord change. Timing becomes important. When do you start your walk to be on the next root for the chord change. Little practice is all it takes.
The song dictates the bass line it needs. For an all major progression like (I-IV-V7) I like a generic R-3-5-3 for all the chords or just the ole R-R-5-5 or R-5-R-5, even R-5-8-5 for all chords. The R-3-5-6 over major chords sounds very melodic - love those 6's. If you add the 2 you have the major pentatonic. That is using the chord's notes - outlining the chord, but, does little to walk to the next chord; or alert the guys that a chord change is coming. So -- a combination of both is needed. All kinds of ways to walk. Ed Freidland's book goes into detail.
For me the concept of walking is a mix of harmony and melody. Malcolm, as usual, as laid out a fine example of the basic theory involved. Adding to that the notes that aren't in the chord but better the chord tones fills out a line nicely. Try to keep things varied so you have a melodic line. Try to feel what builds and releases musical energy and plot that course through the phrase or section of the song. Keep the rhythm steady and with the pulse of the music (like walking, not skipping, jumping or limping).
Transcribe walking basslines of the greats - Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, etc...
Try taking one chord change at a time.
Ex: I > VI chord progression, find all the different ways to get from the I up to the VI. Strictly diatonic has a sound, diatonic with chromatic bVI leading has a sound, etc. Straight chromatic has a sound.
Then find all the ways to go down to the VI from the I. Straight chromatic is nice, go to the III then VI is really nice. I >V>I>VII>VI is a good combination of chord tones and diatonic (or chromatic if the VII is flat).
Eventually you can move past linear thinking and begin to refer to intervals used in previous measures, thereby giving your lines a melodic, call and response quality.
Exhaust the possibilities for any changes you encounter in the real book.
Great advice so far, especially taking some time to transcribe lines from bassists whose style and feel you respect.
My jazz bass instructor preferred that I always think ahead to the next chord and had a strong preference for chromatic lines leading to the next chord change. But that approach doesn't work for my bluegrass gigs.
You have to think about what the song calls for, in terms of melody and harmony. I'm also lucky enough to play with some excellent musicians, and if I listen carefully to what they're doing, it informs what I'm to do. I recall being thrilled about outlining a melodic minor scale last year--a first after playing for 30 years--when I heard how the guitarist was approaching the melody.
Thanks for the replies all! :hyper: It looks like the next step is to start thinking about chromatic notes as a sort of approach to the next chord, right? And then from there developing a sense of melody in the walking line? Whenever I think of making some more melodic I always think about how t needs conjunct vs disjunct, and thus want to make smaller increments in the note patterns, thus thinking about using more modal tones as opposed to diatonic/chormatic. Sadly, whenever I try to do that (whilst improvising) everything seems to fall apart once more... do you guys think that I should try and maybe write out specific lines for a given chord progression using the above ideas for a while before trying to incorporate the ideas of approach and modes/melody to improvisational walking? again, thanks all!
Improvising on the fly is really taking something that has worked in the past and using it now.
Improvising on the fly random notes with no structure to back it up - is noise.
The old saying; "Let the melody be your guide" is a safe way to go. Melody and harmony. Melody I think we all know, are notes from the scale. Harmony are notes from the chord used to harmonize this portion of the melody. The songwriter had a reason for placing this specific chord at this specific point in the song. If we trust his judgment and utilize that chord at this specific point - good things usually happen.
It's the sharing of notes that make both lines sound good together. So --- got to be some structure in there someplace. Follow the chords and use some of their notes is good advise. Using this method you will produce good bass lines. So in your improvising, just remember to keep melody and harmony (the tune) in mind as you fly up and down the fretboard.
Yes write out your bass lines for awhile, later you will not have to, you will be able to reach back and bring forth what will sound good at this specific time. IMO fills, runs, etc. should just happen. That does not mean that random notes follow. When we hear the need our fingers have automatically started doing what is needed.
As others have mentioned this starts with writing out what could work. It's a journey taken one step at a time.
I use Nashville numbers and fake chord sheet music. I also put the Nashville numbers over my fake chord lyrics - that way I get the lyrics to help me know where the other guys are in the song. With out that I'd mess up the chord changes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMigJlVLsdw
Notice the Nashville number system can get as complicated as you want to take it (SN flyspecks). Nothing wrong in writing out what you should play -- IMO.
Find a rehearsal band.
It's pretty easy when picking up the 'rules' for building walking lines to make 'correct' choices that don't work.
Ed Fuqua's book has a number of suggestions that I've fond useful
1) get the sound of the progression and the tune in your head even if it's only playong root notes
2) There's a section devoted to making good note choices
3) Are you playing along to a backing track or just playing to yourself? The 'right' answer is both. With playing along you can hear the support nature of your line and the interaction with the harmony and melody. Playing alone you can develop a sense of the bassline's own melody. I found that useful advice -- and it certainly is followed in teh examples provided.
If you are practicing walking over changes forget the modes for now. 3 ways to get from point a to point b: chromatic, diatonic, and chordal.
Using all chord tones does sound disjunct, it's all 3rds and 4ths (or 5ths depending on how you look at it).
Diatonic is notes from the scale of the chord you're starting from, or sometimes from the scale of the chord you are approaching. Either way, scale tones, 2nds, smoother steps. Using all diatonic walking tones is very consonant, "in" sounding, without dissonance. Very bluegrass and folk, sweet sounding.
Chromatic is any tones outside the scale, but it has come to mean approaching a change from 3 straight notes below the target usually, sometimes from above. Southern rock/blues bands use this all over the place.
Don't worry about developing a sense of melody, just drill the basics and you'll start to hear the differences.
Modal tunes or jams like "So What" , "Impressions" , etc. are a different ball of wax altogether. Different approach. For these you need to learn your scales (modes in this case) all up and down the neck so you can walk around with some variations even though you are in a static mode the whole time.
Fellow TBer Scott Devine has some great FREE lessons on walking bass lines. Check him out on YouTube or his website.
Get this http://rufusreid.com/book-dvd/the-evolving-bassist-2/ and read through the whole thing.
His section on walking is phenomenal!
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