1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Question about "Building Walking Bass Lines"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by The Hansenator, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. The Hansenator

    The Hansenator

    Jul 6, 2018
    I'm trying to go through the book "Building Walking Bass Lines" and am a little confused about something that's probably really basic but I don't think the book adequately explains.

    On the exercises where it gives the chords and only slashes on the staff, the first being a root notes exercise, I'm not clear on where to play the lower root note or the octave higher. Also on the fifths exercises, do you play the higher or lower fifth and which octave do you play before it? Is there a "correct" way to do this or is it kind of bassist descretion?

    I hope this isn't a stupid question but I feel like I could use a little hand holding here.
  2. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    This is actually a very important question so I’m going to give you a much longer answer than you maybe expected.

    Without looking at the book I will comment.

    You are not going to play just roots and fifths in reality so this is just an exercise to familiarize yourself with the location and sound of them. My answer is all of them, all over the neck, in every position. Don’t just play a note in one place if there’s the same note on a different string. Focus on the sound of what you’re doing and letting your ear guide you. Once the chord progression is in your ear then do the exercise without the book. Even if you have to slow down the cords and search for the notes by ear asking is this the root? Is this the fifth? Once you find the root the fifth is easy. Just searching around by ear and learning to recognize without your mind telling you “the root is C” is the most important thing. I only make mistakes when I listen to my thoughts about what the note should be instead of actually listening for it. Your ear will never lead you astray. Heck, sing them!

    Now go listen to recordings for what they do.

    Latin music and country both have lots of roots/fifths. A samba pattern tends to be root, fifth above on the and of 2, octave below that on 4.

    Unchain my heart by Ray Charles has a very interesting bass line that plays with the bass pattern and makes great use of varying the 5 above or below to fit the song. Can’t describe it, you just have to listen.

    Country can be tricky in when to use the fifth or just stay on the root. It’s very simple but can make a big difference.
    Border and LiquidMidnight like this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Two things to keep in mind about "walking" bass lines are (1) they are typically improvised, so there by definition isn't a right or wrong way, except insofar as (2) they are intended to have "motion" -- "walking," right? -- rather than randomly jumping around. Study his examples carefully to see and hear the kind of motion they create. In Exercise 6, for example, notice how he starts on the high F, works his way down (via the 5th in between) to the low F, then heads back up to through the low Bb to the high Bb, then heads back down.... Occasionally he makes a big jump, but usually he's following a serpentine pattern: ascending for a while, then descending for a while, etc. You might want to skip ahead and take a sneak peek at some later exercises, such as #20, where you can see these patterns more clearly because there are more note choices (beyond root and fifth). After studying each example, try first to replicate exactly what he did, and then try to find every kind of variation you can think of: At any point in the line you should be able to either keep going in the same direction or reverse direction.

    @craigee is right that you eventually want to be able to do this all over the neck. Ed's examples are all written in the lower registers, and I think it's a good idea to start out by restricting yourself to the first 5-7 frets. But once you're comfortable improvising over a particular progression, you can try extending the range little by little by ascending a little farther up the neck before turning around, or starting on a root way up on the fretboard and working your way all the way back down.

    Does that help?
    craigie, GastonD and LBS-bass like this.
  4. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    A good rule of thumb in country is not to play a 5th if the root of the next chord is enharmonic. For example, if playing a progression from G Maj to D Maj, then the more appropriate choice is usually to play two beats of the root G rather than the 5th D.

    Of course, some players violate this once in a while.
    CalBuzz51 and saabfender like this.
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    succinct! nice job! :thumbsup:
    juancaminos and Lobster11 like this.
  6. Minus


    May 22, 2011
    The first exercise is as you note, is getting you used to playing the root notes as a starting point with the fifth. The octave is fair game as well, noted in the book as 8va. Mix up the 5th, experiment with upper 5th and lower 5th. Try as an exercise, just upper 5th one time, then just lower 5th the second time then mix it up. Root and 5th is a real staple in walking lines which I think is the gist of the exercise. Try patterns such as R,5,R,5 for each chord.

    Have fun, walking bass is a fun study.
  7. IMO a C is a C and works in any octave. I use R-5-8-5 all the time.

    The following gets a little deeper than the original OP's question, however...…. here is my take on a "walking bass line".

    Bass lines and Walking Bass Lines ----- I do not consider the ole tried and true root five being a "walking bass line". It's a basic bass line, the walking come in when we play a note that walks us into the next chord. For example; next chord is a D so our bass line from the old chord, lets say it was the C --- the last note in the C's bass line would have something that helps us "walk" to the D chord. R-5-8-walking note.

    The dirt simple way of doing this would be the last note in our four note bass line for the C would be a C# or a D# or one note above or below the targeted D. The 5th of D would also walk you into the D. Do a Google on secondary dominants...

    My point; a "walking bass line" walks us into the next chord. A basic root-five is working with and for the current active chord. Nothing is being done to move us into the next chord.

    If we are talking about Ed Friedland's book he goes into detail on this. When I moved to the home I gave away all my theory books so can not quote page number.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    Border and brianmharrison like this.
  8. Minus


    May 22, 2011
    The OP is asking about a specific example early on in a specific book regarding roots, octaves and 5ths. Not approach notes, etc.
    SLO Surfer and FenderHotRod like this.
  9. The Hansenator

    The Hansenator

    Jul 6, 2018
    Lots of great information, thanks!

    It sounds like a lot of it is up to the bassist's discretion but try to make it a "walking" bass line and not a jumping around bass line.

    This is starting to sound like a more in depth topic than I originally thought and that you could put a lot into developing it. I think the suggestion to experiment and try the exercises different ways seems like a good one. Get familiar with where the notes are and how they sound when played different ways.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    What you are describing, I would call a walk up or walk down. These are common in country music when the bass line infers a 2-feel, but the time is 4/4. A walk up or walk down might involve playing quarter notes on beats 3 and 4, or playing quarter notes through the entire measure preceding a cord change 1,2,3,4. The notes lead to the root of the next cord and the player lands on a root and goes back to inferring a 2 feel.

    A simple definition of walking is when the bass plays quarter notes in a 4/4 swing tune. Under this definition, consistently playing root and fifth would be walking in my book, and also playing just the root. Moonlight Serenade is an example of this type of simple walking line.

  11. Minus


    May 22, 2011
    Don't think ahead yet. Ed has roots, 5ths and octaves first for a reason. This is exactly where I started. Get comfortable with just this first. In my experience there is a progression to learning walking bass that works, but start here. With just roots, octaves and 5ths you can create a very solid line I can assure you, then progress from there.
    Wasnex and Lobster11 like this.
  12. Minus


    May 22, 2011
    I was thinking a little more about this topic in regards to roots, 5ths and octaves in walking lines so I recorded a couple chorus of a jazz blues against iRealPro using only the root, 5th and octave of each chord. As others have mentioned, there are other components you'll add to this as you progress, however roots and 5ths are powerful notes to get under your control. See what you think.

    Attached Files:

    The Hansenator likes this.
  13. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you really want to learn walking bass lines, transcribe the bass lines and chords from people that know how to do it. That will get you farther faster than all the books and videoed combined. Just my opinion.
    CalBuzz51 likes this.
  14. BD Jones

    BD Jones

    Jul 22, 2016
    To answer your actual question...
    If you are talking about pg. 14, #4, then you play the root in any octave. In fact it literally states, "Play through this using only roots and octaves." When it comes to the fifths exercises, the same would hold true: play them in any octave. The point of the exercises is to get you familiar with hearing these intervals (as well as familiar with the fretboard). However, I would follow Ed's advice on making sure your 5th leads to the root of the next chord in these exercises. While I disagree with his assertion that "this pattern will always occur with this type of progression", is it quite common and again it gets your ear trained to listen for and to think about where you are going (which is SUPER important in creating an effective walking bass line). But, there is no right or wrong way to do this (only better choices) and it is really at the discretion of the bassist.
    The Hansenator and Wasnex like this.
  15. EarnestTBass


    Feb 3, 2015

    The best teachers prompt you to ask the right questions. You are on your way.

    I went through Ed's walking books (the first time) about 25 years ago. The purpose of the slash charts and CD tracks is to give you the opportunity to explore what happens when you try different things. In this context, there are no mistakes, just opportunities to learn.

    If something works well, then ask yourself why. Maybe more valuable- ask why when something doesn't work.

    It is the difference between "knowing" what a horse is after seeing one in a book- and really knowing what a horse is after riding one.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    True, but to answer the question...either choose higher or lower fifth based on which you think will sound best in the context of the song. It's a judgment call made by the player. Typically interval jumps are constrained to be less than one octave. But you can string intervals together to cover however much range you feel is tasteful.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.