questions about walking bass in jazz

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Aor82, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Aor82


    Apr 15, 2017
    Hi All!

    I have several questions about walking bass in jazz:

    1. in jazz standards, when I create a walking over m7 and maj7 chords, should I apply modes over them for the walking purpose? or is it enough to relate a major scale(Ionian) for maj7 chord and minor scale(Aeolian) for m7 chord?
    for example, when I create a walking over gm7 chord in Cm scale, should I apply a phrygian mode over it? or just a minor scale(Aeolian) over it?

    2.regarding dom7 chords in minor scale, Could I use a (normal) mixolydian mode for any dom7 chord even in minor scale for the walking purpose? Or should I apply a mixolydian b9 b13 mode or another variation of it for dom7 chords in minor scale?

    3. I attached a document with 2 instructional walking bass choruses with chromatic approach over blues standard. what is the theory behind them? what are the scales/modes and rules behind them?


    Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 9.05.11 AM.png

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2017
  2. A chord is only a subset of a scale. The problem is to find out which notes are not part of the chord but part of the scale. Usually there are a lot of options, but one scale that fits best in a traditional way of chord progressions.

    To point 1:

    All scales are modes of something, but not necessarily of the major scale. There are other scale structures like melodic minor, harmonic minor and harmonic major (= major with a b6) and Halftone-Woletone. The modes of the Wholetone scale are identical to the scale itself. And there are some more special ones like dominant-phrygian (8-tone) and some gypsy/Indian scales with more than one augmented second in them that are usually not used in different modes.

    To answer your question, it is not correct if you always use aeolian on a m7 chord. In fact in many cases dorian is a better choice, but it might be phrygian or another scale not derived from the major scale but a different one (but this is seldom the case).

    On maj7 it could be either lydian or ionian (major), but also harmonic major in its first mode is possible.

    To point 2:

    It gets more complicated in minor, since modes from melodic and harmonic minor (basically the fifth mode on the dominant) are used. That's your b9 b13 for harmonic minor fifth mode or b13 for melodic minor fifth mode.
    But a lot of options are possible as long as the scales contain all the notes of the scale. Keep in mind that all musicians need to know which scale should be applied and use it. So you might need to change your mind on the fly when you hear your co-musicians play their chords and melodies if it doesn't fit your assumptions.

    If you play stuff up to bebop, you need to find out the current root note. Easy if you find a IIm-V7 progression, but that only works for major. And often enough the tonality changes every two chords (sometimes even from one chord to the next), specially in bebop. So you either need to analyze the chord progression or try to hear the next note before you play it. If it sounds strange, use the other note possible (usually a halftone away from what you wanted to play).

    To point 3:

    I cannot help you with point 3 much, since my internet connection is really bad and I cannot open your file. For me the major blues scale is mixolydian that can float to Dorian and back, but it's more complicated, since the root of the blues scale is a neutral or floating third. Use the minor third before or after the major one to show that, but otherwise omit the minor third in your lines. And don't end a chord on the minor third when changing to a new chord.
    Aor82 likes this.
  3. Aor82


    Apr 15, 2017

    Thank you very much!!!!!!
    a (normal) mixolydian mode is another option to choose when I play walking on dom7 chord in minor scale? or it is not correct? (of course I'm talking about the tension notes in the mode. not the chord notes)

    is it not correct to apply an Aeolian mode for Em7 chord in C scale (phrigyian degree) or in A minor scale?
    should I use Phrigyian mode for this chord is these scales?

  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Rather than worry about mode names too much, I would recommend being aware of the chord tones of each chord and simply knowing that there is a non chord tone between all but the 7th and root. There is a lot of written theory about these notes, and it can be very confusing to think about. For a different approach, try experimenting with the different "in between notes" as you practice and make mental notes of which sound best to you in different situations; always use the ones that sound best to you even if you can't explain why. Later, you can go back and figure out (if you wish) why you chose the notes you chose and how to explain what they are and why they work.

    Remember, music theory is basically the labeling of sounds that have already happened for the purpose of being able to more easily make them happen again when you wish. I attached your file to your post so others can chime in about your question.
  5. If you have opinions about the harmony, use the chord tones and other added notes to express those opinions. If you do not, stick to roots, fives, leading tones and chromatics to keep the line moving and push root movement over outlining chords.

    Just knowing what notes are in each chord, scale or mode and playing them is not helpful unless you are trying to make something happen.
    DrayMiles and Mushroo like this.
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Why is there no key signature for this? It's 12-bar blues in F, so there ought to be the key signature of F major, no?

    The E-natural in measure 11 isn't a note I'd play like that - leaping into and out of it makes me want to hear a chord tone there.

  7. SLO Surfer

    SLO Surfer

    Jun 3, 2009
    Los Osos, CA
    In many educational books they will go back and forth with using key signatures and not. 1.) it helps practice seeing and reading accidentals and 2.) it helps you see all the notes in relation to each other in the piece. I don't know what book this example is from so I cant say exactly why there's no key signature. I teach middle school band and my standards of excellence book constantly does this. It keeps me and my kids on our toes, but I think we are better off for it because they learn to constantly check for the key signature.

    The E natural on beat two fits in to measure 11 because he's implying (I think) a C7 chord leading to the F7 in the next bar. In theory a maj7 over a dominant 7 chord is "wrong," but that whole line as an example of chromaticism sounds awesome! (I think)
  8. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    (I think you meant "3rd measure past Rehearsal #9" or, "bar 3 of the second chorus", above?)
    I agree, wholeheartedly!
    Thanks, Steve.

    Someone should start a Thread entitled:
    "What IS, (or ISN'T!), the key signature of a 12 Bar Blues in F?"
    SLO Surfer likes this.
  9. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Yes, third bar of #9.
    I will do that right now.

  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    This should be FUN!!!
    Thanks, Steve.
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I hear the E natural in question as simple enclosure leading to the F on the downbeat of the next measure from both below and above. As always, EEMMV
    lurk and SLO Surfer like this.
  12. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Would you play, or have you played, that particular line on those particular changes? (Gee, I sound like Joe McCarthy!).
    Thanks, Chris.
  13. +1. Learning how every note sounds (chord and in-between notes) is incredibly useful for your playing, AND for hearing what fellow band members are playing on the bandstand. Definitely a skill worth developing.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
    Chris Fitzgerald and Tom Lane like this.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    No idea if I have played that line before, but I play chromatic enclosures often, so if that was a line I heard in a particular moment I would play it. It's the blues, which means the first 4 bars have been reharmed a million different ways by a million different people. That one sounds like it implies F7--> Bb7-->C7-->F7-->Bb7, which doesn't disturb my ear at all. As long as the line led to the Bb7 in bar 5, I wouldn't have much problem with it in the abstract.

    I think it's pretty routine to "unharm" (i.e. - remove or ignore changes from) common progressions that lead to a more structural goal in the real world. But we've had this sort of conversation before, and obviously we're coming from different perspectives on the issue. Neither way is right or wrong; it's just two different ways of looking at the subject of harmony and harmonic progression. For instance, a line that went F-C-Bb-Eb/Db-Ab-F#-B/A-E-D-G/C-Eb-F-A/Bb would also make perfect sense to me because of where it leads to - especially in a later chorus of a solo where the soloist is stretching. It would be a chore to describe, but sonically I think it makes perfect sense as an alternate path between the two bigger goals. Like everything else, it's really all about the context of what's going on at the time.

    EDIT: In the context of this thread, though, I think maybe taking this tangent too far might not be helpful to the OP, so if people really feel like pursuing it, perhaps a new thread would be appropriate.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
    SLO Surfer likes this.
  15. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Yes. We have.
    I agree. I don't think we need to rehash this.
    Yes. I agree. I was referring to the context of the 2 written choruses, with quarter notes and chord changes indicated, (not what else may or may not happen or be happening.)
    I'm assuming that this information (the 2 choruses) is intended for players who are beginning their journey.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I remember being on the beginning of my journey and using bass line transcriptions as one tool in the box. There were a number available from Aebersold press with transcriptions of Ron Carter and Rufus Reid (among others) showing everything the bassist played on particular playalong recordings. Heck, for all I know this could be one of those. But one thing that I found particularly helpful about these transcription books was watching how the bassist played as the track went on chorus after chorus. I would have found chorus after chorus of the same basic outlining kind of disappointing, but I rarely found that in the transcriptions.

    I heard from Jamey that sometimes someone would be playing a solo over the changes that only the players recording the playalong could hear - an interesting concept, to be sure! Anyway, in this example it is pretty clearly choruses 8-9 of a transcription of a blues bass line by unknown player X. For choruses 8 and 9, I'd say what we can see is pretty straight ahead. Would be interesting to find out who the player is and what was going on around it if possible.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  17. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Actually, John G. identified these 2 choruses earlier today in a parallel post:
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  18. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I remember when I played in a big band, getting a chart from Thad Jones - no slouch and tremendous respect and admiration - that specified the bass line note for note rather than just specifying the chord symbols and noting "bass walks". It was obvious Thad wrote out the line on the piano because it 1) was nearly unplayable on a double bass and 2) didn't flow the way most bassists would craft their lines. Pianists should NOT write bass lines, IMHO.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  19. Going back to the OP's questions and link of thinking: As a general guide I don't thinks it's worth the mental energy to think of 7 note scales when we as bassists are only playing 4 or 2 notes per chord.

    If you want more, I find the "chord tones + extension" thinking to be more practical than the "what scale to use" thinking. You could think of every chord as a 13th chord and get your 7 notes that way. Or also useful is to limit the "Scale" to tetrachords, 4 note chunks. And here we can have one tetrachord for the bottom 4 notes, and another tetrachord for the top 4 notes that doesn't necessarily go with the bottom, because 4 quarter notes later, the chord has changed already :)
    ONYX likes this.
  20. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Interesting — there are two parallel threads parsing two choruses of this bass line from a book that I wrote 25 years ago — Bass Notes.

    My response in the other thread is here.

    @Steve Freides I didn't use a key signature, because that's often the case with jazz tunes. Yes, you could have a key signature of F with one flat, but you don't need it and I think the line is clearer without. Glancing through chorus #8, I think there would be one accidental less if there was an F major key signature. Since the point of these bass lines in my book was to demonstrate where to put chord tones, scale tones and chromatic tones in an F blues, I used the key signature of "C" to make the construction of the lines more clear. In other transcriptions in the book, I use key signatures (Ab major / 4 flats for "Lover Come Back To Me"), or in the case of "All The Things You Are," I don't use a key signature, because the song changes keys constantly.

    @Don Kasper & @Steve Friedes Regarding the E in bar 3 of chorus #9, I would suggest that everyone puts down their gadget and go play that measure on the bass. Right now . . . I'll wait.

    The E clashes against the sound of the F7, but the chromatic pull of the E *not resolving* immediately to the F creates a nice tension that is resolved 3 beats later when the line comes down from G, to Gb to the F. Of course, you can play an Eb, and that would be theoretically correct — albeit with less tension in the bass line. To me, the Eb sounds correct—and vanilla, less urgent. Both work, but since this is a demonstration of chromaticism in a bass line, I used E natural. As Chris points out, this is a "simple enclosure."

    @Tom Lane Thad Jones was a trumpet/flugelhorn player (one of the greatest), not a piano player. He was also a composer and big band arranger (arguably the most influential in the past 50 years). Big band arrangers sometimes write specific lines for the bass that complement what's happening in the horn sections. Stock arrangements usually have written bass lines so less experienced players have something to fall back on. But arrangers like Thad, Brookmeyer and Holman often wrote out bass lines because they were integral parts of the arrangement.

    @Chris Fitzgerald We've been using these handouts at Aebersold since 1980 or so! When I talked to Jamey about doing the Bass Notes book, I including these 12 choruses of F blues because that was a clear explanation of the nuts and bolts of what's possible when improvising a bass line. The rest of the lines in the book are note-for-note transcriptions of lines that I improvised on standards with a rhythm section. I analyze the lines bar for bar—what I played and why.

    Regarding recording Aebersold playalongs: I've recorded a lot of them, and yes—sometimes there is a soloist playing along who is improvising (You never hear the soloist). That's why people often hear surprising things in the comping (even alternate changes), harmony, bass line and rhythm (and that's why they sound more human than Band In A Box). Most of the playalongs I recorded did not have a soloist playing along — just the rhythm section. Jamey would sometimes give us instructions over the headphones while we were playing (i.e. Last chorus, play a turnaround, vamp on the last chord), or he would even scat while we're recording. I seem to recall him whistling a solo once while we were recording :)
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 22, 2022

Share This Page