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How would you play this, walking

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MicceO, Apr 11, 2009.


  1. MicceO

    MicceO

    Aug 12, 2004
    Hi, I've just started to lear how to play walking bass lines. So, my question is a very simle one, I quess.

    My aim is to use chord tones on strong beats (1 and 3) and passing tones on weak beats (2 and 4). I try to create a line where there are only half steps or whole steps.

    So, I have two chords, Cm7 and F7. I go from Cm7 to F7 and back.

    I start from the root of Cm and play: c, d, d#, e, f, g, a, bb, c, b, bb. Sounds ok so far but this is where the problems begin. How do I go ahead? I've tried several alternatives, but I'm not quite happy with them.

    So, I would appreciate if someone could help a bit.
     
  2. kingbee

    kingbee

    Apr 18, 2006
    There are loads of options. Here are a few of my favorites.

    |C D Eb E | F A Bb B |

    |C Bb A G | F Eb D Db |

    |C Eb G Gb| F G A Bb |

    You can mix and match the first halves and last halves for a little more variety.

    If you're trying to create lines with stepwise motion (only whole or half steps), it's going to be hard to come up with a line that has only chord tones on 1 and 3. The more important thing is to hit the root on the 1 and then make sure there's a strong sense of direction leading to the 1 of the next measure.

    Also, be careful of using a B natural in the Cmin7 measure. It really clashes with the b7.
     
  3. Rudreax

    Rudreax

    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Like the above poster said, avoid that natural B like the plague in the Cm7 measure. Only play it on weak beats, and even them only use them as little as possible. The same thing holds true for a natural E in the F7 measure.

    I don't have any of my own examples to share, but I will say that one that F7 bar you will want to put an Eb on the third beat. How else will listeners know that you're playing over an F7 chord?
     
  4. Rudreax

    Rudreax

    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Also, another thing I noticed is that playing the major 3rd over a minor chord on weak beats still makes the chord sound major, even if you were to play the b3 right after it. So, do NOT play natural E at all over the Cm7. Only play Eb.

    This might just be my ears hearing this though, so I might be wrong about it.
     
  5. The best advice I can give is experiment with different ideas. Try going up another octave: c, d, eb, e nat, f, eb, d, db, c. You should get a real book and start trying to walk through standards. And finally, there's transcription, transcribe some basslines from Paul Chambers (I recommend "If I were a bell" from "Relaxin'"), Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford. You can even transcribe basslines from Jamey Abersold play-alongs. Once you get those lines down you can analyze what they are doing and even what chords are being played and what's being left out. You'd be amazed how a little transcription can help in big ways.
     
  6. The e natural is a perfectly legit passing tone. Play one beat four going to the F on the next measure. Or if it's two chords per bar play the passing tone right before the F of the F7. It wont have a negative affect and most players will know what's happening. I would suggest pedaling an e natural over a C minor chord, but as a passing tone it's great.

    Sometimes it's those kind of messy sounds that make jazz what it is.
     
  7. kingbee

    kingbee

    Apr 18, 2006
    I've been studying and playing jazz bass for a while and you can absolutely use the E as a passing tone over that Cm7 if you come at it from the Eb. You'll notice that in my example it's being used on the 4 as a neighbor tone to the F, which is a textbook walking bass line that works equally well for major and minor chords. Bassists have been playing that iconic phrase since all the way back in Walter Page's day.

    What you want to avoid over a minor chord is playing a bop-style walk up that hits everything except the minor third. In C that would be |C Db D E | F ... That line only works on major chords.
     
  8. Rudreax

    Rudreax

    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Ah, ok then I see. Thanks for clearing that up for me.
     
  9. kingbee

    kingbee

    Apr 18, 2006
    No worries. Jazz bass depends so much on context that it's hard to have hard rules. Even the few that we do have can all be broken under the right circumstances.
     
  10. MicceO

    MicceO

    Aug 12, 2004
    Thank you all for your replies and good tips!

    Maybe still an additional question about chromatic passing tones: why is it that sometimes they sound good even if they are not from the key center and sometimes they don't? Any principles there?
     
  11. MicceO

    MicceO

    Aug 12, 2004
    Thank you all for your replies and good tips!

    Maybe still an additional question about chromatic passing tones: why is it that sometimes they sound good even if they are not from the key center and sometimes they don't? Any principles there?
     
  12. Well, the best explanation I can come up with (which isn't very good) is that sometimes the note in question is an "avoid" note. Like a natural 4th on a dominant or major 7th chord. In that case you have a minor second relationship between the major third of the chord and your note.

    Like I said, it's not a very good explanation.
     
  13. kingbee

    kingbee

    Apr 18, 2006
    Well, it's all about creating motion and resolving tension. When you go |C Eb G Gb| F... , the Gb is an unstable tone that demands resolution. (Theorywise, it's called a tritone and is in the dead middle of the C octave.) But the unstable tone works there for a couple of reasons. First, it's on a weak beat of the bar. Second, it's the only note between G (the fifth of Cm7) and F (the root of the next chord).

    It's the same thing with the D and E in |C D Eb E|F. The D and E are not part of the chord (and the E isn't even part of the key). But they both work because they lead into strong chord tones and preserve the overall direction of the bassline.

    The general rule would be that it's okay to use non-harmonic and non-chord tones on the weak beats for scalewise or stepwise movement between chord tones on the strong beats. Don't use them so much if you're skipping around the chord. So for instance, in a line with larger leaps like this |C Gb G E | F... the Gb is kind of okay but the E natural is just bad. They seem to be doing the same thing as lower neighbors to the chord tone you want, but the E natural comes out of nowhere and clashes with the Eb in the chord.
     
  14. PocketGroove82

    PocketGroove82

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chicago
    Hey MicceO,

    Once you find some interesting and personally appealing ways to navigate your ii-V7 (C-7 to F7), it would behoove you to learn that same pattern in all 12 keys, and also learn the same pattern only over minor the ii-7b5 to V7b9...where you would adjust your line to fit those chords. (ie. flat the 5 of the ii chord in your line) and then learn that in all 12 keys. That way you will begin creating a bag of "go-to" lines that are yours to pull out when you see a major or minor ii-V7 in any set of changes.

    There are a bunch of standard formula or clearing patterns for ii/V7, but after learning some of the obvious ones try to construct ones that are really "yours". Think about someone 50 years from now transcribing YOU because that want to cop YOUR lines and vibe. What is your sound? What do you have to say in your line that is distinctly you?



    When you go back and start transcribing old recordings you will find tons of mistakes, wrong/different chords being played by piano/guitar/bass players. With basslines, and solos, "wrong" notes on strong beats can sound totally fine as long as they reinforce the strength of the line or melody. Ron Carter gets away with everything, because his lines are so strong.
     
  15. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Of course, we've been taught that the 4/4 measure has two strong beats (1 -3) and two weak beats (2-4) but, when building a walking bassline, the "strength" of a beat is dictated by harmonic changes. I mean, if you are following a chord chart and you see a measure with just one chord at the beginning...

    Chords01.

    ...that first beat is the only strong one there. On the other hand, if you have a different chord per beat...

    Chords02.

    ...each beat becomes a strong one.

    So, for the first example, you aren't obliged to play a chord tone on beat 3 if there's a different one that favors the melodic flow of the bassline. For something similar to the second example, you are supposed to play chord tones (or the annotated alternate bass for beats 2 and 4, in this particular case) on each beat.

    Another important point to consider (IMO) is that, as probably you already know, it is not an obligation to play the root on the strong beat 100% of the times. It is the first and foremost option, but sometimes you can also play the third of the chord, for instance. The following example may not be the best for the piece's first measure, but it's perfectly fine in the middle of a flow of quarter notes in half and whole steps:

    Walking.

    I think it is not that problematic when played on a weak beat and on a not so low register of the instrument. Of course, assuming that that note really favors the melodic flow of the line. If the progression weren't Cm7-F7 but Cm7-Fm7, there's nothing wrong with playing something like this:

    Walking02.

    Hope this helps (YMMV, of course).
     
  16. MicceO

    MicceO

    Aug 12, 2004
    Thank you PocketGroove and Alvaro for your replies, they are most helpful!

    What I've noticed to be very important is listening. Concentrating too much on theory and thinking only gets me confused. So, maybe some day someone somewhere trancribes my lines!
     

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