several questions about walking bass in jazz

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Aor82, Apr 15, 2017.

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  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?


    Attached Files:

  2. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    I did not look at your file, but when walking think arpeggios, not scales. Without looking, I'd say your file probably is chord tones with approach notes to other chord tones for the most part
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
    Aor82 likes this.
  3. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    Now that I have looked at your file, not knowing the source, I can say by the note choices probably from David Baker? Not my favorite walking lines. Ron Carter has a method that is great. Basically you start out with only chord tones, gradually add approach notes either chromatic or diatonic. Walking is much more about chords and chord tones than it is about scales
    JRA, jallenbass and Aor82 like this.
  4. Aor82


    Apr 15, 2017

    Newthanks for your answer!
    but as you know, a walking usually involve scale notes that are not present in the chord,
    so I would like to know what kind of scale should I apply for these chords.
    as for the file, it contain a non-chord tones the are in the strong harmonic beats (1+3) and jumps above second interval toward non-chord tones and from non-chord tones. totally different from what I have learnt about walking
  5. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Amen, Brother!
  6. Harry Monkley

    Harry Monkley

    Jan 16, 2016
    Try recording yourself playing completely unaccompanied through a standard, then listen back and ask yourself - does this make musical sense and sound like a good jazz walking line? does it still make sense and sound good if you sing the melody over the top?
    csc2048b and ERIC A like this.
  7. Aor82


    Apr 15, 2017
    what book of David Baker you recommend?
  8. Aor82


    Apr 15, 2017
    Thanks great advice!!
  9. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    If I play non-chord tones (other than 1/2 step approach notes) in a walking line I thinking more about the key signature than about specific scales. This is a generalization but is a good starting point. Knowing what notes are in the melody should also inform your note choices.
    mtto, Aor82 and JRA like this.
  10. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Hi Aor82 — I recognized the walking examples cuz' they're from my book, Bass Notes. I did that book about 25 years ago, and actually the lines that you posted were originally from Jamey Aebersold's handout on how to create walking lines (When I originally talked with Jamey about putting this book out, he suggested I include the handout that we used at the Summer Jazz Workshops). The entire book is transcriptions of lines that I play on standards (with a playalong), and I give analysis of each line—why I play certain notes and rhythmic embellishments.

    Fun fact: The notation copy work in the book was done by composer/bandleader Maria Schneider :)

    Regarding the two choruses of blues you posted: Out of context, some of those notes might look weird, or not like the "best" choices theoretically (I'm looking at you, @Don Kasper :)

    Those examples were also passed out as part of my handout package at countless workshops around the world, so you might just have the bass lines on a handout, without the benefit of the explanation in my Bass Notes book (hint, hint).

    The preceding choruses on the handout of "how to create bass lines" show all of the typical, chord tone, scale tone, and leading tone approaches. The two choruses you posted show a bass line that meanders chromatically through the changes, and hits various target notes — the root, 3rd, or 5th, one beats 1 and/or 3. Chorus 8 demonstrates a point I was trying to make about possible uses of chromaticism in a bass line. Lots of typical patterns in there, along with a few chromatic sidesteps.

    Looking at chorus #9, bar 1 shows a typical Ron Carter thing — he tends to play R, b2, 2, 3 — rather than the often-played (and much-loved) R, 2, #2, 3 into a target note up a 4th.

    Chorus #9, bar 3 is what some call a "double upper chromatic" approach . . . you play a note one half-step under the target, then come down from 2 half-steps above the target. Very common and useful.

    Chorus #9, bar 6 has an "enclosure" on beats 3 & 4. Those two notes surround the target note F in the next bar. The Db in bar 7 is a chromatic approach note to the note C, the 5th of F7. In bar 8, there is an odd thing — the chord symbol says D7, but the bass line outlines A, C#, D, F#. This is just adding the secondary dominant (A7) before the D7, which bass players often do . . . I'm guessing that @Don Kasper will not like this part either . . .

    A lot of chromatic pivoting happens in bars 9 & 10 of chorus #9. That's just a root, or target note (G on the Gmin7), then up a half-step and back down. Then the root of C7; up a half-step and back down. The F7 in the next bar is preceded by a chromatic approach note — Gb.

    The theory behind all of this is that the lines put a chord tone on beat 1 and maybe also on beat 3. The notes in between the chord tones in these choruses are often outside of the chord, and function by leading into the next target note chromatically.

    It sounds like you're trying to understand everything theoretically, which is great. Bass lines can only have chord tones, scale tones and chromatic passing tones. Stable, clear bass lines often have roots on beat 1, probably another chord tone on beat 3, and a leading tone on beat 4. More melodic bass lines might use chord tones other than the root on beat 1. Melodic bass lines (Israel Crosby with Ahmad Jamal) might meander more chromatically than "root-always-on-beat-one" bass lines.

    You'll be well served if you listen to real recordings of bass players playing walking lines on the blues. Make a playlist: Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Sam Jones, Doug Watkins, Oscar Pettiford . . . those players will align your ears to what sounds good. The answers are in the recordings, and then the theory comes later.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
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  11. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Thanks for spelling my name correctly, John!
    I still luv U, man. (U a Viking. Not in a "weird" way.)
    John Goldsby likes this.
  12. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Name-checking someone twice in a post on TB is a sign of respect . . .
    Don Kasper likes this.
  13. Thanks for taking the time to do the detailed explanation of your own examples, and I personally agree with your thought above that it's in the ears first and then the brain... much as the engineer in me generally tries to approach it in the exact opposite direction. :)

    To the OP's original question re: modes: just my (limited) experience but when I do approach walking from a purely theoretical point of view I generally find that by the time I sort out chord tones, passing tones, approach tones, and enclosure tones there's generally little space left to worry about a mode to overlay... and my ears fill in the missing notes, weighing what the melody is doing, the other comping musicians, etc. :)
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The bolded statement pretty much sums it up.^^^^

    I did not realize that there were two essentially identical threads going on at the same time. Normally this would call for merging the two threads, but since they are both so far along, that would disrupt the flow of replies. So plan B is to close the smaller one with a link to the bigger one. The bigger one is here: questions about walking bass in jazz

    Please feel free to carry on the discussion there.
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