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More Walking

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by meltsakana, Feb 10, 2003.

  1. meltsakana


    Sep 3, 2002
    Hey everyone, this is a theory oriented question. It's pretty specific. It's about walking jazz chord changes.

    I'm not at the level where I can improvise walking lines just by looking at chord changes. I have to write out lines for each chorus and walk through them...so far that hasn't been so bad, but I've come across more simple pieces lately. Like, for eight bars the changes are is just Imaj7 | iimin7... Tonic for 1 bars, Two for one bar, repeat four times.

    I could give you the key this is in, but then it'd be too easy for me...at least i'll get a transposing workout.

    This is the problem: How the hell can I keep this interesting? My walking thus far is more creative because I've been walking with complex chord changes, so i've been forced to move around a lot, but now it's...you know.

    What do you do when walking over simple chord changes for a long time? How do you imply movement to keep it interesting?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I know this probably doesn't answer your question, but it was something that came up at my regular Jazz class on Saturday, where we were playing an original piece written by one of the students who is a flugelhorn player.

    So this piece had a section in the middle of the tune where there was 8 bars on just one chord and it was quite a long sequence overall (40 bars) so I mentioned about adding "interest" and our Jazz tutor replied that you don't always have to be worried about adding interest - it's more about making a good sound overall - playing for the song/tune and really playing with the other musicians.

    So - if you can support a soloist with a good feel and strong playing, listen and react to what is going on around you - does it matter if you as bass player are playing something "interesting" as long as the band as a whole is making great music?
    Repetition can be just as valid to grab an audience's attention,for example in some circumstances and you can add subtle rhythmic variations etc etc.

    Now if you are talking about soloing, as bassist then that's another story - but anyway if you look around this site there are quite a few lessons on creating walking basslines, but I just wanted to mention that!
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
  4. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    I read the posts (as I hope you have) from the link that Chris sited and while there is much good advice there I would like to add my thoughts.

    Let us use the example of a "So What" style tune. i.e. d minor for multiple measures.

    First, playing the Root of the chord on each measure is not a bad thing. While a note other than the root on beat one will extend the phrase this process can often lead to a weak sounding line when played by a student. This is not to say that great players always play the root on the downbeat. The point here is to learn when to play a more stabe pitch.

    A practice technique for learning to play over one chord is to learn one measure phrases. Much repitition of the phrases are needed to be able to call then on command. Just as using words (when speaking) to create sentences we can use short phrases to create longer phrases.

    Here are a few one measure phrases to master. Then put them together in various combinations and hear the tension and release of your 2 and 4 bar phrases. All music is tension and release and a walking line builds tension and releases. A resolution to the root is a stong release.

    1. d e f a
    2. d f a g
    3. d f e g
    3. d (up to) a g f
    4. d (down) a c# a
    5. d (down) a e c#
    6. e d c a
    7. (low) b (low)g b c#
    8. (high) g f e c#

    Obviously the combinations are endless. The goal is to learn each word so well that it is in you ear. It is necessary to have an accompaniment of chords and rhythm so you hear the sounds in context.

    Here is a basic exercise I use with my bass labs to learn the sound of each pattern.

    I call out the number relating to each measure while the groove is happening. (and do not change patterns until the next number is called)
    Example: "Number 1" (four times through)
    No. 2 (4 times)
    No. 1 (2 times) then No 2 (2 times)
    No 3 (4 times)
    No 3 (2 times) then No 1 (2 times)
    No 3 (2 times) then No 1 (1 time) then No 2 (1 time)

    With a good accomaniment the drums and chords will be playing 4 and 8 bar phrases. It wil be quite enlightening when you play three one bar patterns in repetition.

    It takes a lot of reptition to get these sounds in your ears so you can play without having to think. Only then will you be able to improvize an eight bar phrase creatings as much tension / resolution as you want.

    Hope this helps.
  5. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire
    Transcribe one chorus of PC walking on Autum Leaves and you will clearly see how he uses small phrases over and over. Analyze the contours / phrases. Memorize the line and play it in many different keys. They will take on shapes as melodies to your ears. Get with some friends and play Autum Leaves using Paul's lines. Trust me, they are not going to say "you can't play those lines they don't sound good".

    Most of us need models to copy when learning. Learning to reproduce music that we like the sound of is a valuable step in learning to improvise. This is ear training. One can "just improvise". But that would be like me speaking Japanese buy trial and error. I could also get a Japanese language book and speak by looking up the words. This would be more successful but not very smooth or gramatically pleasing.

    By learning your instrument well and learning the language, you will develop your vocabulary and your ideas will begin to flow. When this starts to happen you won't even know which lines you stole or which ones you made up. And even better, you won't care. You are just speaking.

    Be patient but persistent. It takes time.
  6. meltsakana


    Sep 3, 2002
    Thanks for all your suggestions, guys. I'll be transcribing some bass lines and learning from them... any other suggestions are still appreciated.

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