Funky walking bassline patterns?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by mmmmmmmmm, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. mmmmmmmmm


    Nov 27, 2017
    green bay
    I've been playing electric for about 1 1/2 years now (coming from upright), and I've only learned an "arpeggio-y" pattern (1, 3, 5, 7, 9 in any given chord/key) in terms of walking lines. As I've expanded the genres I play in, that one simple bassline doesn't seem to fit everything. I was wondering if you guys could give me some other patterns I could follow, or some tips to developing my own. Thanks!!
  2. Since you've been working on arpeggios, I will give you a fairly easy, step by step technique that you can add to that. This is about using the scale tones and chromatic approaches. A lot of people will tell you to use chromatic passing tones, etc, but they almost never give you a method to approach that problem.

    It's long, so you might wanna print it out and look it over to see if it's something you are interested in...

    Anyway. This method uses Ascending Linear and Descending Linear basslines. The main thing you need to know is whether the chords in the song are major or minor. THEN you need to figure out the first three notes of the SCALE that defines the chord. These three notes, plus a passing tone are all you will need to write out for each measure of the song. Since walking lines operate in quarter note pulses, you only need four notes per measure.

    For example, Take the chord progression CM7, E flat 7, Dm7, and G7

    In order, these chords are: major, major, minor, major.
    So for the CM7 chord, write out the first 3 notes of a C major scale:
    For the E flat 7 write out the first 3 notes of the E flat Major scale:
    E flat-F- G
    For the Dm7 write out the first 3 notes of a D minor scale
    For the G7, write out the first 3 notes of a G major scale

    So now you have 3 of the 4 notes you will need per measure. To join the measures together, use a chromatic passing tone. Previously used notes work well but you can use whatever note you want if it sounds good, so the passing tones are in parenthesis:

    C D E (D) | E flat F G (E flat) | D E F (F sharp) |
    G (one octave lower) G A (B)

    Notice there are two G notes together in one measure for the G7. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using the same note twice, either at a different octave as was mentioned or even the exact same note. The B is the passing tone back to the original C.

    Note also that the Dm to G7 is a ii-V progression that will lead back to the C major. Notice that from the root of D to the root of the G, every note is chromatic. This will ALWAYS work when you ascend a walking ii-V progression.

    This is called Ascending linear because you may have noticed how the first three notes ascend the scale.

    So the name Descending Linear should tell you that the next set of lines will descend the scale:
    So the Descending linear line will be:

    C B A (D) | E flat D flat C (D flat) | D C B (G flat) | G F E (B)

    For a song that has two chords per measure, just use either a root and 3rd or a root and 5th. Your choice.

    So, learn your ascending line down cold, then learn the descending line cold. Then, mix them up. Ascend sometimes, then descend sometimes. Take it all over the place. Believe me, this is 85% of what the best jazz guys do when walking a line. There are other approaches and techniques, but this is so easy a caveman can do it.

    After awhile, you can add other techniques and knowledge, but this will get you started.
    Strung_Low, Alex Bass, Ewo and 9 others like this.
  3. mmmmmmmmm


    Nov 27, 2017
    green bay
    Thanks so much!
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    wmmj and mmmmmmmmm like this.
  5. No problem.
    Alex Bass likes this.
  6. mmmmmmmmm


    Nov 27, 2017
    green bay
  7. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Funk is more about the rhythm than the notes. Jazz tends to be the other way around.
  8. I agree with you on that. Honestly the only "funky" walking line I can think of is I Wish by Stevie Wonder. You can put that bounce on any walking line, but you still need to make the changes.
  9. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017

    I would also add this one to the mix, but truly do also agree that walking lines don't show up that often in funk. So these are great tools for learning to walk and everyone should probably learn them but I'm not sure how much they'll help you if the goal is funky. Friedland's book is also available in paperback and with a CD.
    mmmmmmmmm and Spin Doctor like this.
  10. mmmmmmmmm


    Nov 27, 2017
    green bay
    Thanks for the help, all. I realize now, though, the thread's title is probably misleading. :)
  11. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    Walking funk? Go old school! Blood Sweat and Tears, "You Made Me So Very Happy." Old Motown tune, and BS&T bassist Jim Fielder kills it with lines that build from a Jamerson foundation, some pattern playing but also real walking, and walking smart - the walking bits sometimes make it feel easy and groovy, but sometimes they also add dramatic tension to the development of the arrangement. One of my favorite electric bass performances of all time.

    There also is a lot of chromatic walking nestled in much of Jamerson's playing.

    Modern funk? There may be walks, but I'm not hip enough to know them...
  12. lukehagerman


    Aug 2, 2012
    see Pino Palladino's line on this track...

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  13. lukehagerman


    Aug 2, 2012
    Listening to and absorbing walking bass in the context of swing-jazz (Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Ron Carter) definitely will not hurt. I'm inclined to say this is one of those cases where going back to the "source" is a good idea, even if you don't plan to be walking over Giant Steps at 800bpm. IMHO, walking bass is a very distinct "dialect" in the world of musical linguistics. Listening to the great "speakers" will aid you in developing your own "voice" and ability to produce walking bass lines in almost any context, funk included.
    mmmmmmmmm, krimo and wmmj like this.
  14. Scott's Bass Lessons has a couple good vids about this on YouTube. A nice step by step approach to adding notes to make it more complex, or keeping it simpler.

    The TalkingBass video is good too, I believe. It's been awhile. May e time for me to re-watch them too!
    mmmmmmmmm likes this.
  15. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK

    To expand a little, IME funding things up is more about articulation and dynamics than the notes themselves. Take a straight quarter-notes line and replace some notes with eighths, say on beats 2 and 4. Then play those eighths staccato. Replace the first quarter with a dotted eighth. Replace the dot with a sixteenth rest and play the remaining 1/16 as a ghost, maybe an octave or 7th up. Throw in the occasional m10. Get your right hand back over the bridge pickup and add in a good dose of left-hand damping or playing on the fret. Rinse and repeat for instant Funk.
    mmmmmmmmm likes this.
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