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Fingering for walking bass lines

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by theboakster, Jan 2, 2007.


  1. I'm a beginning DB player with a reasonable grasp of theory but haven't yet been able to get a teacher. I've finally got a lesson booked in for the end of feb but feel as though I'd like to keep trying to improve until then. I've checked my hand positions and bass set-ups with the Tod Phillips DVD.

    My main problem is that whilst I've been playing along with jazz tunes, I'm not really sure of the correct fingering. I can find my way around roots and fifths (I think I'm only playing in half and 1st position) on a tune, and put in leading chromatic tones into the next chord but I think I'm not putting the right fingers in the right places. I only use fingers 1,2 and 4 but think I'm over-relying on my first finger. Also, I now want to play thirds as well as roots and fifths but I don't know how to move fingering-wise between the chords.
    e.g. I'm learning Autumn Leaves. I want to play a simple bass line such as the following: (eighth notes in brackets)

    C-Eb-G-(Eb-E)
    F-G-Ab-A
    Bb-G-F-D
    Eb-G-Bb-(G-Ab)
    etc etc

    The note choices I'm ok with, but I haven't a clue which fingers should be on which notes in which position!! Can anyone help?! I'd love some exercises that I can download to help me move around better. Should I just be learning my major scales? (I have Ray Brown's bass method book which show fingerings for scales) I'm not sure how the scales move into jumping from chord to chord though. :confused:
     
  2. joel kelsey

    joel kelsey

    Aug 1, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    Hello,
    I would get the Simandle book and a teacher. The more you practice the easier it will get. Learning scales and arpeggios will also help. A lot of the time, when I am walking basslines I am playing scales and arpeggios.
     
  3. The final goal for fingering is the least shifts possible. In other words, economy of motion. However, you need to take into account a number of other factors, such as the timbre of the strings, shifting on longer notes as opposed to shorter ones, etc.
     
  4. TGP

    TGP

    Mar 27, 2005
    Boston
    Looks like your line can be played in entirely in half position.
    You shouldn't have to shift your hand at all.

    4-1-0-(1-2)
    4-0-1-2
    4-0-4-0
    1-0-4- (0-1)
     
  5. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    PLEASE FOR YOURSELF... buy Ron Carter's Book "Constructing Walking basslines" That book is fantastic and answers your question and more! Plus correct me if I'm wrong. Isn't Autumn Leaves in the key of G?
     
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Do you mean Ron Carter's "Building Jazz Basslines?"
     
  7. TGP

    TGP

    Mar 27, 2005
    Boston
    The Real Book key for Autumn Leaves is G, but on gigs older jazz musicians play it in Bb like Miles and Cannonball.
     
  8. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Most commonly in G minor.

    The Real Book key is E minor.

    This is a great tune to start the 'play in all 12 keys' thing. Easy melody, easy changes. Personally I like this tune best in G minor. Maybe it is the way it lays on the bass. But this is one of the first tunes I learned in any key.
     
  9. Thanks everyone - really helpful stuff. I have printed off Autumn Leaves in a few keys and that was just the first one I picked up!

    If I can play this entirely in half position, should I practice that and then try and play in another position, to build up my versatility?
     
  10. TGP

    TGP

    Mar 27, 2005
    Boston
    The notes you listed lay perfectly in half position, I wouldn't mess with that, but you could see how it works in another position. It will be more difficult.
    Try it without open strings and you'll see how much harder it is
    to make it swing.
    I would continue the line trying to keep the fingerings as comfortable
    and logical as possible.
    Learning to shift your hand correctly/comfortably from half to the higher positions would be what I would focus on walking this tune.
    You should work with it in all keys, it's a basic progression that covers the major and minor II-V's.
     
  11. Thanks TGP. I think working with it in all keys will probably take me a long time... better get in that woodshed! :D
     
  12. Just found this thread on another site about which key Autumn Leaves is in. But these guys still come to the same conclusion... play it in all keys is the best way .
     
  13. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    This song gets played in a bunch of keys. The Adderley/Davis recording is in Bb (G Minor), but I think the real book has it in something like Eb, so people who learn songs from the book play it there. Singers, sing it wherever they are comfortable, horn players too for that matter.

    So, putting aside the various educational reasons for practicing a song like this through all 12 keys (or at least several), you'll get called upon to do it on stage with this song.

    It's a French song. No telling what key it was written in for accordian or whatever it was original intended to be played on.

    -tk
     
  14. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Here's the link to Autumn Leaves at jazzstandards.com.

    Cool site. Check it out.
     
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Oh I disagree. The first thing is what my teacher calls the "elegant" solution; rather than try to come up with a fingering that keeps you in one or two positions, where do the phrase fall most comfortably under your fingers? If that calls for two shifts, then you shift. Secondly, it ain't just notes. You rightly say that timbre (or tone if you will) should be taken into account, but also acheiving the most "vocal like" phrasing. And that tends to be best acheived by using as few string crossings as possible, which tends to move you through a number of position shifts. This is especially effective in phrasing melodies and/or solo material. And thirdly, patterns is patterns and it ain't the best way to approach improvising. Earnest Ingenue would be better served (in my opinion) by taking those note choices and coming up with SEVERAL different fingering options and LISTENING to determine if one was superior in conveying intent , communicating the harmony AND lays well under the hand. His hands ain't my hands ain't your hands.

    One man's meat is another man's poisson.....
     
  16. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    There is a famous story about a master cello student of Casals. He evidently had a student work one of the Bach Cello Suites with very specific fingerings until said student could play the piece flawlessly and then proceeded to play it for him with totally different ones. Granted you have to have mastered enough technicque to use alternate fingerings in the first place, but as Ed says there are a lot of different fingerings for a particular passage. You have to find one that suits you.

    Ric
     
  17. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    Yes I do; great read.
     

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