I dont know about the other teachers on this Board, but Im often approached by band directors wanting to fast-track a bass student for an upcoming festival or contest. They ask something like, Cody just switched from viola to bass in September. Can you teach him how to play a walking bass line in time for contest in December? I cant imagine what kind of shortcuts they think I know, but Id like to show the band director the following, which is how I learned (am still learning) on the slow-track to play a convincing walking bass line. Of course, this phillipic is strictly autobiographical and there's some exaggeration (not much), but it shows that even if you have good teacher, there's a lot of groundwork to lay: ____________________________________________________ HOW TO PLAY WALKING BASS 1. First, learn to play the piano, with emphasis on scales and arpeggios. It will help you with the theory portions mentioned later in this method. This will take at least 3 years. 2. Find a good teacher to show you the correct technique. Study strictly classical (arco) technique for approximately three years in order to acquire the proper left-hand facility needed to shift smoothly, play in tune and not hurt oneself. Make sure lessons include learning all major, minor and diminished scales and arpeggios. It helps to join your school orchestra and then community symphony to learn to sight-read, play ensemble and follow a director. 3. Learn music theory, including all scales, key signatures, chord qualities (major, minor, augmented, diminished) and cadences. Learn to identify intervals and cadences by ear. Learn how voices within chords lead into the next. Learn to sight-sing melodies and chord progressions. This takes about two years. 4. Join your high school and college jazz ensembles. In the charts they provide, many of the basslines are written out and have chord symbols above them. Using your music theory knowledge, study how the written-out bassline relates to the chord symbol. When confronted with a chart that has no written-out line, use your music-theory knowledge and experience playing written out lines to help you construct your own walking line. The first ones might be simple arpeggios starting on the tonic, but after a year or two of doing this, you will get a feel for how the line can flow more naturally. 5. Play with a series of obnoxious but highly skilled and experienced drummers who constantly yell at you first for dragging, then for speeding up, then for playing too far behind the beat, then too far ahead of it. Dont disagree with them because they know what theyre doing and you dont really know what they mean, but do pay attention to how they play their ride cymbal. Try to match where you place your notes in relation to the beat with when they hit their ride cymbal. This seems to make them yell less. 6. Listen to approximately 1,000 jazz recordings, paying attention to what the bass player plays. On your bass, try to copy what and how bass players you like play. Then, try to write the notes they play on music paper, then compare it to the chord progression of the tune in much the same way you did in jazz ensemble. Use some of their ideas when playing your own walking lines. 7. Carry a Real Book to every gig, and only play tunes from this book because you dont know that many tunes by heart. This will be no problem because most of the guys you play with are in the same boat. Do this for about 10 years. Then get called for a steady gig by a piano player who cant read music and does not know any tunes from the Real Book. This will force you to start learning more tunes, recognizing common chord progressions, thinking in Roman numerals rather than chord names, and in general, trusting your ears. Start leaving your Real Book at home for all gigs. Do this for about 5 years. After this amount of time, youll find that you rarely even think about the chord progression and are starting to play what you hear. This will make your walking bass lines start sounding slightly less mechanical. After about 30 years using this method, I find that my walking has gotten to a good jumping-off point. Ill use this hard-earned knowledge to get to someday get to the level of a really serious player (if I had the time to practice).