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Learning to walk by scale tones

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by progrmr, May 29, 2012.

  1. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I've finally found a great teacher for bass and been taking lessons for a couple of months. We're doing a walking bass book that's freakin' awesome and he wants to me to write out some of my own walking lines over a 12-bar jazz blues.

    Here's the thing - I know one major scale shape. And while a lot of the walking stuff we've been studying is chromatic in nature, I really feel like I don't really know my way around the fretboard enough to walk smoothly.

    I'm thinking that if I can get the major scale down and be confident in quickly finding scale tones my walking will improve 100%.

    I'm starting to think that learning scale shapes isn't the best way to go. Maybe I need to learn the notes in the major scale for all the chords. I can't seem to memorize the shapes and apply them wherever the root happens to be that I'm shooting for.

    What do you think? Keep trying to learn the shapes or learn the notes??
  2. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    i know a lot of guys who have played for years that do not know their fretboards and i cannot understand why; it really hinders them. it should be one of the first things one conquers.
  3. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    arpeggios, not scales
  4. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
  5. Chord tones, rather than scale tones, are the key to a supportive walking bass line. The chord needs to be outlined..... root, second, third, fifth would make a good first bar... it contains three chord tones (1, 3, 5), the second is a passing note, and it leads you straight into the next bar/chord which will be the fourth of your key.
    EG: Key of F
    // F / Bb / F /etc.
    Your notes will be F, G, A, C, leading to the Bb which is the first note of the next bar.
  6. Let's take a diagram of the major scale box and a diagram of your fretboard and see if we can make some progress.
    Bass Patterns based upon the Major Scale box.

    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    If you want a C chord place the box's R over the C note on the 3rd string 3rd fret and then sound the R-3-5 from the box's pattern. You just played the chord tones of the C major chord.

    For the F do the same. BTW where is there an F? How about right above the C note - 2nd string 3rd fret. Sound the R-3-5 and you got the chord tones for the F major chord.

    Now for the G. Where is there a G note? How about right below the C. Isn't that great!

    That chord progression, C F G is the ole stanby I IV V chord progression used in a zillion songs. If you place I's root note on the 3rd string it's IV and V root notes will be above and below it every time. That was a hugh WOW for me and opened several doors. Here is something that will help you with all that R-3-5 stuff. http://www.smithfowler.org/music/Chord_Formulas.htm

    For the rest of the story:

    Have fun.
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    NOTESNOTESNOTESNOTESNOTES!!! Shapes are a crutch that get you started but ultimately hinder your abilities, as you've just demonstrated to yourself.
  8. +1
  9. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    Unfortunately the extensive post with all the theory known to man and how to make a bass line is not particularly useful. I've been playing guitar/piano/bass for some time and have a solid knowledge of theory - the problem is it's all in my head! I can't apply to the instrument fluidly.

    I think that I'm going to go by arppegios first. Start with the key of C, play the heck out of that and learn the arpeggios around the fretboard for the I, IV, V, 2/4, 2/5. I have some nice backing tracks that'll help, it's just a matter of doing and putting in the time.
  10. geoff_in_nc


    Dec 13, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    You've just identified a weakness to work on. You need to build that bridge between what you seem to consider abstracted knowledge and your fingers on the fretboard. At that point the theory will become as useful to you as it is to others. Sounds like something to take to your instructor.
  11. Alrod


    Apr 7, 2012
    Theory can be a hindrance if you over think it. I know a Bass player who knows his theory inside and out (not a bad thing). He goes to all the Bass clinics he can. He has even been to the Victor Wooten camp. The problem he has, is that he doesn't really play much. He is always wanting to talk about theory.

    I suggested that he put all his books down, stop going to clinics/camps, and just play. Pop in some CD's of your favorite players and just have at it. Play in bands with other people. Plays songs all the way through.

    Music is a language. The only way to progress is to speak it. You seem to know the words, now you just need to speak them even if your sentences are not full at first. Isn't that the way we all learned to speak as infants?
  12. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    I think by arpeggio you can outline the chord very well, but may not sound as authentic walking bass lines.

    Here is a short cut, put the root on beat 1 and a chord tone on beat 3 . On beat 2, put a scale tone which come close to the chord tone in beat 3. On beat 4, put a note which is half step up or down to the root of the next bar.

    For example the 1st bar is F7, the second bar is Bb7, the 3 rd bar is F7 again... So can be:

    1st Measure : F (roots) D (scale notes) C (5th) B (Half steps to the root of next measures)

    2nd measure: Bb(roots) C ( Scale note; 9) D (3rd) E( half step down to the roots of next measure )

    3 rd measure: F G A Gb......

    This almost work all the time.....
  13. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    One more thing... Hand shape is good for memorize position and stuff but just don't realize it too much. Don't make your playing become too mechanical especially in jazz.
  14. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    the problem with working from patterns with walking or I would suppose any practical application is very similar to playing piano with one chord shape. You don't see a lot of piano players hopping around keeping their right hand thumb always on the root note

    but just as there are different chord shapes for different inversions on piano, there are different pattern shapes for scale and chord shapes on bass. In what I've leaned so far, in almost every decent walking line there comes a time when you have to break out of one hand position and decide if you're going up on a lower string or down on a higher string to reach the next 'sequence' and how smooth that happens and how snooth it goes from there all depends
    so one pattern isn't going to always cut it, but I'm not about to abandon all pattern shapes to rely just in notes, just learn a few more patterns and relate those to what notes are under those patterns
  15. anonymous111813

    anonymous111813 Guest

    Mar 1, 2011
    While there is no exact way how to play a Walking Bass, I suggest you should take a look at my explanations.

  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I endorse this post ;) Some of the theory discussions on here get absolutely mind-numbing. The recent "Ain't No Sunshine" discussion comes to mind. Now if you need an in-depth theory discussion to figure out what to play on "Ain't No Sunshine," then you have defeated the purpose of learning theory. It is to make difficult stuff easier to play, not to make easy stuff difficult!
  17. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    I think it is not the theory discussion's fault. The problem is on the player. Every player should know if they want to acquire new stuff, they need to learn it in a logical way. He or she need to practise with discipline and intention, maybe with the help of theories. At least they can play the new stuff many times to acquire it by their ears, practise til they get it to their sub conscious level and play it. Most good musicians know theories inside out but they also know when playing, don't think.

    I guess your friends is overwhelmed by the music theories, that he hasn't completely absorb the stuff and move to another concept. Feeling insecure of knowing too little. What I mean completely acquire the concept is he is able to execute the new idea without even thinking about it. (like thinking I have to play a chord tone here, scale note here).
  18. mrbell321


    Mar 26, 2012
    N. Colorado
    Disagree 100%. More knowledge always helps. Your example of a bass player who know more theory than he has technical ability resolves itself. You even said "He is always wanting to talk about theory". So clearly, theory is more important to him than is playing.
    I'm not saying theory is THE answer. If he wants to be more technically adept, he could play more. He would be a better musician because of it. If you want to learn more theory, you could study it. You would be a better musician because of it.
    Avoiding knowledge can only limit you, never make you better.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That tells me theory can be a hindrance if you overthink it ;)

    I don't think you got what he was saying, bro. He wasn't saying NOT to learn theory. He was saying overthinking and obsessing on theory when you're trying to play music is a hindrance, not the theory itself.
  20. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    I believe mrbell321 here is referring to the content of the post. For the thread owner who may not be fluent on walking bass, maybe what he need is logical explanation of the basic construction of bass line, rather than saying over thinking or obsessing of theories can be hinderence.

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