Laymans exp. of building a walking jazz bass line

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by tommythomas, Apr 14, 2003.

  1. I'd like to get comments on my current (green but hopefully budding) understanding of building a walking bass line in straight ahead jazz.

    What you have as you approach the notes to choose is suggested by the chord progression. Looking at an individual chord within the context of the rest of the progression will suggest a mode to select notes from. Or a subset of that mode will be the chordal notes themselves.

    The chordal notes, especially the 3rd and the 7th are best to define the current chord and should be used when wanting to state just what chord is occuring at the moment. Often, when trying to communicate the progression of the song, the bass should emphasize certain chords this way.

    Other options are using chord substitutes to add interest and sonic dynamics (hopefully that phrase communicates my thoughts)

    In doing the basics above, one must choose other notes from the suggested modes that lead well into the next chord, that compliment the melody and that create a melodic line that stands on its own.

    And of course, do this while staying in the pocket and providing rock solid rythym.

    Am I starting to get this??? Be brutally honest.
  2. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I would add onto this the idea of using chromatic approach tones - which sometimes are explained as substitutions but really can often be just thought of as leading tones. In other words, one notation of a Db over a G7 might be two beats of G7b5 or the tritone (Db7) but another notation might just say its still a G7, which means the note is to be thought of as a chromatic approach tone. How rigidly this is notated depends on the person writing it down, how it is understood by the musicians, and what the melody and other musicians are doing at that time.

    I think you'll find lots of threads about this here, including a recent one about embellishing or something like that. Ultimately, the advice you will get is that there are many ways to 'pick' your notes, but ultimately you need to understand the chordal structure and melody of the tune and have a good 'toolbox' of arpeggios and scales so that you can *play what you hear* in reaction to the tune and what everyone else is doing - on the spot. The journey is endless...
  3. Buy the book "Building Walking Bass Lines" by Ed Friedland.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm not sure about this part - OK you can use these notes as part of a walking line, but I would think that when you are changing chords and trying "define" or state the new chord, the best way is with the root rather than the 7th.

    Of course the best players can do it - but I think a soloist would prefer to hear the root - often piano players in Jazz will play 3rd and 7th as they expect the bass player to provide the root and will stay away from this - so if the bass player is avoiding the root then nobody is playing it.

    If we're talking about a solid foundation and as you say a "budding" bassist, then what I've heard from Jazz educators is that the pianist would provid ethe 3rd and 7th of the chord and on strong beats of the bar, the bassist is expected to play root, fifth and then add in other chord tones and chromatic passing tones on the weak beats of the bar.

    OK - no doubt somebody will come along and say you are perfectly within your rights to make up bass lines conisting of 3rd and 7th of the chord but I would say : work with the pianist and somebody has to provide "root motion" of the chord structure - more often than not - it's you!! ;)
  5. DON`T check the thread about embellishing the walking´s totally spaced out.
    Have to get to Ohopuohopu Beach...

  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    But that's half the fun of the thread - it's self referential. You just don't like the argumentative "embellishments". How's about we start a thread on how to pronounce the name of that beach you're planning to visit?


    Here are some links to previous discussions on the subject. Approaches to walking line construction are like ***holes: Everybody's got one, and everybody else's smells funny to the nose of the beholder. Still, there are some interesting ideas to be had in some of the old argumentative threads.

    The second link is alphabetical, so scroll down to "Walking" and take your pick. Happy hunting!
  7. Chris...

    Thanks for pointing out the links. Good stuff. Some of it makes it look easy but as with much in art while the technique can be easy, mastering it is what singles out the artist.