Approach notes in a walking line.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. Ed Friedland's book, Jazz Bass, discusses how to work out the approach notes. He discusses Chromatic, Scale and Dominant methods.

    I've had a go at them all and understand how they're done, though I'm obviously not profficient.

    Cutting the story down, I chose one of his pieces and wrote the Root / 5 thing on the staff. I then wrote all the available note names on pieces of paper, cut them out, put them in a hat and drew them for the approach notes.

    The complete line sounded quite good against his drum + chords on the CD.

    Now, I'm certain to get flamed for this but I had to give it a go because (it seemed to me) each method of finding an approach note produces a different result. So I reasoned that one method's no better than another.

    OK, Jazz Gurus, flame me at your will :eek: (prolly deserve it anyway) but serious comment / help on this subject genuinely welcome.


  2. Personally,I just let my ears decide...usually an approach note is a whole or have tone above or below the next note(or root of the next chord),depending on how you want your line "shaped".
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Another thing to try-
    Read the chart from RIGHT to left.
    ...or flip the book upside down & try reading the line. Good for reading practice as your ears will help you cheat(sometimes).
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    IMO, the first key to walking is comfort. When you see a chord name, it doesn't mean you have to break down teh chord and play all over the fretboard. Work with chromatics, play the fifth, You could even do a broken triad.
  5. For me I think it's all about what you hear in your head. If you can't hear it you shouldn't play it. There are a lot of players out there who use a lot of chord tones, but to me it sounds to jumpy, I think walking should be more smooth and chromatic, that's the way I hear it. When someone tells me to do otherwise it sounds like garbage because I can't hear it and am just playing intellectually. As long as you like what you're playing and you have fun doing it(not just messing around) will sound good.
  6. OK. Thanks.

    Thing is, this is my first ever shot at jazz (and music theory / reading) in about 35 years' playing.

    From a listening point of view, the chromatic approach seems to sound best to me. I could imagine the line being difficult to sight-read because of all the accidentals.

    But, like I said, choosing notes out of a hat works too. Does it mean different songs need different treatments for the bass line, or does it usually fall on the bassist's preference?

  7. I personally never write down walking bass lines I think it tends to be better to improvise them so you can react to the soloist or whatnot, and I don't think it sounds good if you just go okay Bb chord then Eb so I'll play Bb-D-F-E-Eb-D-Bb-G, you have to listen to the mood of the song and walk acordingly. Once you start thinking too much about how you should construct a line the less creative you will be. I tried learning how to walk from books, but I was never getting it until my teacher forced me to just play what I hear. He did this by starting me out simple, just play something in Bb, no chords no scales, just with Bb being the root. The only point of advice he told me is that it should be melodic to some extent. Suddenly it all clicked and I progressed from just Bb to blues and modal, to rythm changes (by going through the changes playing whole note and half note roots, then soloing over them). I learned to internalize the sound of the chord progression so now if the chord progressions are anything like Blues or rhythm changes I can just play without thinking about anything. I guess this isn't what you were asking but I think method books on how to improvise are evil. To answer your question, choosing out of a hat will work and it will sound good, but it will be boring as hell. Play what you hear and things will get more interesting.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Of course there is personal preference and that's how it's possible to improvise and create your own style - how some bass player's are revered for their note choices...etc.

    So - there's a big difference between something that "just about works" and something that is : smooth, propulsive, inspiring, creative etc. etc.

    The thing is - as a Jazz Bass player, you will have to go round the same chord sequence many, many times - 20-30 choruses per song at a minimum - just choose random notes and it will neither involve the audience nor inspire your fellow band members - i.e. you probably won't get asked back!!

    However - play something that really grooves, fits in with the rest of the band - provides a great platform to solo over and inspires them to greater heights - then you might get asked back!! ;)

    That's not to mention the fact that you should be listening and playing to compliment the other accompanying instruments, as well as the soloist - plus, you should be thinking ahead all the time, outlining where the band is going - there are plenty of things for you to be thinking about and just playing random note choices, is never really an option!!
  9. Hello, Bruce. Thanks.

    When making the original post I was worried about belittling the issue, talking about drawing approach notes out of a hat. 'Fact is, though, when working alone and faced with stuff I don't understand it's a bit trickey.

    What would be your advice? From Friedland, it seems the jazz bassist would (more or less) be expected just to turn up and play his bass line from perhaps a chord sheet or something. Now, there's no way on earth I'd get away with that. At the very least I think I'd need some rehersal. But Friedland seems to imply Jazz isn't played like that.

    Would I be best sticking to one method of building a bass line and sticking to it till I got more experience? Or should I attempt to shoot for them all? Another way might be to build bass lines by whatever method for (say) three jaz standards. I could reherse them for myself before hoping to find an accomodating combo to let me drop into their gig for those songs?

    Dunno . . . . .

  10. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    When I was learning jazz-blues progressions, the first thing my teacher did was have me do all the progressions in the same way.

    For example, do the 12 bar jazz-blues using half-step above approach notes. Then, go back and do it all using half-step below approach notes. Play each bar as Root-third-Root-Approach, then Root-fifth-Root-approach, then Root-7th-Root-approach, then Root-Octave-Root-approach, etc.

    Then take these and mix them up so you can learn how to piece them together in interesting ways. Also, work with inversions. One of the great pieces of advice he gave me is to play the lower notes over octave higher notes when playing a groove, but go ahead and throw in octave higher notes occasionally for flavor.

    For example, say you're playing a I-IV progression in Bb (on a 4 string). So you play Bb-D-F-approach moving to Eb. Now in Eb, instead of playing Eb (fret 5, A string), G (5th fret D string), Bb (8th fret D string), play Eb (same), G (3rd fret E string), Bb (6th fret E string) so you always play from the lowest octave available. Leave the higher octaves for keyboard & guitar. This way the bass' sound is still heard by the audience and you aren't stepping on the other players.

    The above example is only for holding down the groove. You'd want to use freer (is that a word?) or looser interpretations of 'the rules' for soloing or improv.

    I think the most important thing is to, as my teacher put it, fill your toolbox with all the different approaches you can think of. Then practice them in all keys for all chords until they become automatic. When it comes time to play you won't waste your time thinking, you'll be playing from your toolbox almost instinctively.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yup - 99 times out of a hundred, I just turn up, am presented with a chord chart/lead sheet and off we go - play the song!

    At first it was daunting, but the more you do it the easier it gets - in fact the really good players don't even need the piece of paper - they will either know the tune or be able to pick it up by ear. I am a long way from the latter - although I can do a fair bit of "faking"!! ;)

    I think what helped me, was just doing it - getting up and playing with other people, who were better than me and could drag me around - the more you do it , the more you realise that Jazz is built up from similar building blocks - 32 bar AABA tunes in little phrases of 4 or 8 bars..etc. etc.

    Well - I'm a long way from being a teacher and I'm sure you're going to get better advice on the DB side - but what you're suggesting is really against the spirit of Jazz!

    So - it's not about rehearsing something on your own and then "trotting it out", regardless! It's about playing with others, responding to what they do - taking and giving inspiration. Also - a little secret - you can make slight mistakes, slightly bad choices and get away with it as long as you keep the groove going - most people only hear Jazz bass lines as rhythm...;)

    But the point is to be "in the moment" - listening to what's going on and reacting or prompting - otherwise it's just not Jazz!!
  12. chardin


    Sep 18, 2000
    I think this is a good way to learn how the different intervals sound. Once you get the sounds in your head, you can play them easier.
  13. OK. Perhaps I'm starting to see the bigger picture. Friedland is trying to get me to understand patterns that crop up regularly in Jazz so that I can go to a gig and simply play? Seems a recipe for disaster, and something a novice could never hope to do without getting laughed off stage.

    So, Bruce, jazz musicians don't reherse as a band? They're all very knowledgeable about patterns and musical theory, enough to simply turn up and play? Horns, piano, drums as well? :eek: :eek:

    Oh dear......err, I'm clearly never going to do this if that's the case. Whilst I might be going against the spirit of Jazz, I strongly feel I need to start somewhere. Nothing's going to drive me away quicker than being laughed off by audience and fellow players alike.

    Oh dear..... :(

  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well...I think Jazz already assumes a mastery of your instrument - when I go to Jazz classes, they start from the basis that you know how to play and that we're taking this further on..

    I think this is where people who are non-musicians "underestimate" Jazz - they tend to think it is all quiet pleasant and easy listening stuff - must be easy to play!! :meh:

    Whereas - when I go to a Jazz club, the musicians are all in the virtuoso class and anyone who is in any way "limited" as a musician sticks out like a sore thumb....

    Well - if they're playing standards that is certainly the case - if you look at Real Books - this is specifically what they are designed for - for Jazz musicians to coem together and just play.

    If a group are writing their own material, with a lot of arrangements that are complex and they have a whole set of this stuff - then - yes of course they will rehearse and get it right. But generally groups will come together and play familiar material "at the drop of a hat" - often certain players will be unavailable and you will have substitutes, who have never seen the rest of the band before they appear on the band stand!!

    When I go to Jazz Summerschool - the main idea is to get up and play stuff with other people - most of whom you've never played with before. So the students get together with a tutor and work on how to play together as a band, before getting up on stage.

    But there are about 20 or so tutors, who are all Jazz pros and they will get up in mixed small groups and play with no prior collusion and no music, on standards that they know - or one of them might produce a lead sheet for a tune they have written, that is a little bit different.

    Anyway - they are doing this kind of thing all the time - so to them it's not intimidating - they really enjoy it!! :)

    Well - that's right - you have to start somewhere - but I think it's worth bearing in mind where you're going and what you're aspiring to be able to do!! ;)
  15. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    It's really not that bad. A couple of pointers...

    Most audiences don't have a clue. Neither do your fellow players.

    Basic "root, chord tone, chord tone, approach note" walking will work in most cases, particularly chromatic approach notes. Start with root five root approach and slowly work in the thirds once you've got used to using approach notes.

    If you mess up (and you will), just play the root for a couple of bars, then start walking again. It actually sounds good. Just look like you meant it.

    Get a couple of the Aebersold playalongs. They've got piano and bass stereo-separated. You can isolate the piano and practice walking with that, or isolate the bass and figure out what he's doing.

    Learn Sam Jones' bassline for Autumn Leaves on Cannonball Adderley's "Somethin' Else". Look for the ii V Is.

    Don't listen to people who try to tell you that it's anything more than what it is. You are just playing chords. It can be broken down into a mechanistic thing.
  16. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    RJ - it's a shame you didn't post this 12 months ago: I was living in Nottingham and we could have worked on this stuff together!

    I've done a quick Google search and found a music teacher in Nottingham who sounds promising:

    Mr Bob Hudson
    “Jazz for beginners or more advanced students, also teach classical up to grade 8 level. Can teach jazz theory to anyone, not just keyboard players.”

    Piano: all levels
    Electric keyboards: all levels

    Even one lesson a month can be really helpful: I am taking theory lessons from a piano teacher and it's a great help. &PHPSESSID=0db110ce911e680fdfbdf6c6809ff36b
  17. OK.

    Last things first. David, thanks. Unfortunately, what with non-to-good health (an unlikely to get better in a couple of areas) I'm in some serious what's-it with the ££ as i'm unlikely ever to get back to work. Can't do the lessons thing i'm affraid.

    DLloyd, Your comments strick to give me some hope. I just couldn't think that it's not possible for a novice to get a song with a band - even if it's only 1 song - without having a PhD in music.

    Fair shot, Bruce, but if Jazz assumes mastry, how does one master the bass for someone in my position. I don't doubt you. Crikey, you're V experienced, but there just has to be a way into this for me without being some top flight guy . . .

    Like I said, I'm getting more confused, not less so.


  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Of course you can do this and play bass lines mechanically regardless of what else is going on - I'm just saying that in my opinion, that's not Jazz!

    So I would say it's playing a cover version or playing easy listening tunes, etc etc For me the essential thing about Jazz is collective improvisation - that's what makes it Jazz.

    If you don't want to play Jazz - fine, you can still have a lot of fun and it's always enjoyable to learn more about music...

    Well - I think it's all about practice at home on bass technique and then as much playing with other people as you can - doesn't have to be a gig - jams, open mic things, groups of friends etc. etc.

    I've been trying to play Jazz for about 6 years now after having played in rock/pop bands for many years - and I'm still dissatisfied with my progress and feel my walking lines should be much better than they are...

    I just think you have to accept that this is a life-long journey of learning, which never finishes and that you almost certainly won't notice improvements overnight - more like after several years!! ;)
  19. OK Bruce. Fine.

    Bruce said:
    When anyone learns a new skill (like this), putting it into practice is bound to be mechanical at first. So this is about where / how I start, not where I might end up. I may not end up playing jazz. But I like jazz and am committed enough to the idea to give it a go to begin with.

    You know I respect your views so, naturally, I listen very carefully to what you have to say. But surely, if playing mechanically at the very beginning gets me one rung up the ladder to real jazz that has to be good. It may well not be real jazz at the start but I am one rung up the ladder.

    Actually, I think your plan of open mics, etc, is V good. I'll look out for that. Although I've done a fair few rock ones, I've never done a jazz one.

    My plan always was / is to get as much home practice as I can, then I go to play. I am working quite hard on that (which I think was the actual subject of this thread!!). Perhaps my plan of a gig-let :eek: was not sensible and I am very happy to modify that idea to your open mic, etc.


  20. Quote- I strongly feel I need to start somewhere.

    For starters you should be listening to jazz to get a feel for the style and how the bass sounds
    It will help if you could learn a couple of tunes pref. Paul chambers or Ron carter and imitate not only their notes but thier note durations so you can imitate the way they play a note and transfer that to whatever youré working on in your Ed Fry book
    In doing that exercise your learning to swing the notes which IMO is an important factor in jazz
    You know the old moto "It Don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing "