Walking bass "licks" - some help for those new to walking bass lines

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Toronto Bassist, Mar 2, 2009.


  1. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toronto
    Hello TBers,

    I'm starting this thread because every now and then I see people asking either how they can make walking bass lines, or how they can get better at walking bass lines. When I was in college (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), my teacher suggested keeping a library of walking bass "licks" in order to keep my walking lines interesting and not as repetitive. Just like a saxophonist might use the Charlie Parker Omnibook so as to have some soloing licks at the ready, bassists can also use walking bass "licks" or phrases to navigate through even the more angular jazz chord progressions.

    So I decided to post some from my own collection, and I hope people learning this stuff will come up with more of their own. I'm not any sort of jazz pro, although I have played a great many of these before guys like Pat Labarbera, Don Thompson, and Charles Tolliver with no complaints.

    Some notes:

    1. Most of these (except for the rhythm changes and modal sheets) are collections of discreet, two-bar phrases. So don't look at them as one big page of continuous II-V (for example) vamps...sorry if that's confusing.

    2. Because of that, the accidentals usually reset every two bars...oops. Again, sorry about that.

    3. The naming convention is a bit weird, but I wasn't sure where to go with that. The page that's called "II-V basslines", well obviously you can also use that for I-IV or III-VI chord progressions too...I just wanted to present the different ways that a walking line can get from point A to point B.

    4. You'll notice that not all the lines start off on the root. You're allowed to do this, believe it or not! But, you have to use your ears and discretion. It can depend on some factors, like tempo, style, what kind of band you're playing for, etc. Some of the walking lines have more emphasis on making a nice "shape" rather than spelling out the chord exactly...there's stuff here that will be easier to get away with at 300 bpm rather than 70 bpm.

    5. You'll notice some repetition, mostly because my emphasis will be on getting from point A to point B, and not necessarily on getting from point B to point C.

    6. Make sure to transcribe from the masters!

    So here's the II-V licks:

    wb1.jpg

    wb2.jpg

    Here are the pages for I-II-(V)

    Bb7-A7-(Dm7) type chord progressions

    I-VI-(II) chord progressions

    IV7-#IVdim-(I) chord progressions

    Bb7-C7-Fm type chord progressions

    I-IIIm7-(VI7) chord progressions

    I7-V7-(I7) chord progressions

    Walking lines for repeating chords

    Rhythm changes (mostly eight bar phrases)

    Modal (four bar phrases

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Hopefully this thread is helpful to those needing help with walking bass lines.
     
    JonathanAa, Goui, GastonD and 3 others like this.
  2. Wow....

    Looks like a lot of good material in there to practice.

    Thanks!
     
  3. dmrogers

    dmrogers Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    Eastman, GA
    Thanks for sharing!

    This should help me with my sight reading.
     
  4. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toronto
    Never thought of that, but I guess that would be a good application too :) especially since some of them have unusual position jumps.
     
  5. dmrogers

    dmrogers Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    Eastman, GA
    Well, I've been spending more time with my instrument lately, playing, studying theory, sight reading, and trying to figure out modes (still having trouble with that one, but coming around).

    Having something different to study is a welcome addition. Especially something written by someone else and not the stuff in my sight reading book.

    Once again, thanks.
     
  6. Kimpini

    Kimpini

    May 14, 2008
    Indiana
    Perfect timing!
    I just started learning this with my teacher :cool:
     
  7. Jayhawk

    Jayhawk

    Sep 6, 2006
    Kansas City
    Good stuff ... thanks for sharing.
     
  8. WRBass

    WRBass

    Dec 10, 2006
    Houston, Tx.
    Thanks!
     
  9. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    Thanks for posting. There are a couple things to be wary of here:

    1.) Where's is your key sign, time sig and clef?

    2.) I'd be careful of that D# on beat two of the first ii-V line. That is a note I would generally avoid. Did you mean:

    D - E - F - F# to the G, like the one on the 2nd page, 4th system?

    In my hundred or so transcriptions of PC, Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Sam Jones I have never seen that line, and it kind of obfuscates the harmony of the minor chord.

    3.) There's at least one instance where you start on a F over a G7 that don't really make sense to me given the way it resolves, not that that's generally a bad thing. The one I'm looking at is the 2nd page, 3rd system, 2nd bar. I think if you called that a Dmin it would make more sense.

    The other lines look good though, at rough glance. Thanks for sharing.
     
  10. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    Actually, the more I look through this the more I'm finding some funky things.

    Again, D#s over Dmin chords; not so much.

    1st page, 3rd system, 3rd bar. Call it a D half dim and I'm sold. Otherwise playing those Ab's, and in some other places B naturals where a C would make more sense given the Dm7 label, would help in outlining dimished chord rather than straight up minor chords.
     
  11. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    and one other thing,

    before everyone starts flaming me for these "corrections"

    1.) yes,you can make any note work over any chord in "jaaaaaazzzzzz"

    2.) if you think my "corrections" are "wrong" or out of place or whatever, go ahead, play those lines as written. Enjoy yourself. I'm not going to argue with you ;)
     
  12. Dertygen

    Dertygen

    Dec 21, 2008
    A-Town, Colorado
    LoL.

    Epic.

    Thank you!
     
  13. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    I don't mean to belittle Toronto Bassists efforts. These lines are a good place to start, and his advice to "transcribe the masters" is sagacious.

    Totally righteous. Party on Toronto Bassist!
     
  14. wilsonn

    wilsonn

    Sep 26, 2005
    New York
    While I agree that not every note may be the single best choice, it seems a good starter for people seeking to learn the fundamentals of walking bass. There's not enough of this kind of stuff here. Thanks for posting.
     
  15. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toronto
    There isn't one. I wrote these primarily for myself and then provided them here as an afterthought. There's no key signature and it's all in 4/4.

    No, I meant what was written.

    I think it would only obfuscate the harmony if you sat there on the D#. It's setting up an obvious motion from the D to the F and then onwards to the G. My teacher used it and his teacher (who teaches, or at least has taught at Berklee) used it and if I'm not mistaken, they pulled it from Paul Chambers. So it's never posed any problems for me.



    If I'm reading you correctly, this is the G7 line that goes F-E-D-Db. I'm not sure what would be wrong with the way it resolves. The Db leads directly in to the C which would have been the next chord in the progression. Remember, it's a discreet two-bar phrase so although you don't see it, all of the G7 phrases are leading to C. Not sure how calling it a Dm would alleviate that.

    Granted, starting a G7 chord on F is unorthodox, but I went over that in my notes.

    I would both agree and disagree. I agree that it doesn't spell out the chord "properly". On the other hand, its whole purpose is to create tension which then gets resolved in the next bar. I think one has to look at walking over chorus after chorus with an eye towards dynamics and "storytelling", depending on what kind of band you're in. As such I think some walking lines are justified in going "out" or using dissonant pedals in order to create a certain tension and then resolve it. As Frank Zappa said, "A song that's completely diatonic is like a movie with no villains in it". That's why I emphasized context because there are some bands where you just stick to spelling out chords and there are some bands where you can be (or are required to be) more adventurous.

    Nah, no one should be immune to criticism. However, I've played most of these lines over standards to one degree or another.
     
    Goui likes this.
  16. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    "There isn't one. I wrote these primarily for myself and then provided them here as an afterthought. There's no key signature and it's all in 4/4."

    I know, just bustin you for it

    "My teacher used it and his teacher (who teaches, or at least has taught at Berklee) used it and if I'm not mistaken, they pulled it from Paul Chambers."


    which PC line? Even in the quarter note context, I'd avoid that D#. All the PC things I've seen with that kind of chromaticism go from root to second then up chromatically. I'd be curious to check out which recording that was pulled from.

    Ray Brown and Oscar Pettiford might throw in a chromatic root to flat nine to nine to three, but I've only seen them do that on straight up 7th chords, not minor sevenths chords.

    "If I'm reading you correctly, this is the G7 line that goes F-E-D-Db. I'm not sure what would be wrong with the way it resolves. The Db leads directly in to the C which would have been the next chord in the progression. Remember, it's a discreet two-bar phrase so although you don't see it, all of the G7 phrases are leading to C. Not sure how calling it a Dm would alleviate that."

    Ah, I see. I didn't quite get the "two-bar phrase thing", so yes, Db used as a passing tone resolves nicely to C. But what, pray tell, do F, E, and D have to do with outlining a G7 chord? How about a root in there bass brother from Toronto? :smug:

    "However, I've played most of these lines over standards to one degree or another."

    I'm sure you have.

    Oh, and how do use that darned "select quote" button?
     
  17. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toronto
    It's been so long that I honestly couldn't tell you. I'm tempted to say that it was from the "Blues and the Abstract Truth" album, but I couldn't guarantee it. You'll notice that page 1 stave 2 bar 2 also has G7 going to C via G-G#-A-B, and I see this as being the minor variation of that lick. We might have to agree to disagree on this one, since I've never had a problem with it. And on a tune like "Autumn Leaves", I use it a lot.

    The emphasis in this case is more on the motion it sets up than spelling out the chord exactly. Assuming that you would even start a G7 chord on F, there's a nice little direction that you can get from A to B here. Since I'm also a composer, I also tend to think keep things like linear motion in mind as well.

    And I should add that they've sounded good to my ears. To each their own, of course. Anyone who's unsure of these lines can test them out with an Aebersold track or something.
     
    Goui likes this.
  18. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    crap. I think I edited some stuff while you were responding!

    Anyway, that Oliver Nelson record is one that I've never transcribed from, but listened to a million times. I will check it out.

    Yes, we are agreeing on using flat 9s on major seventh chords, but man, that flat nine on a minor chord would ruuuuuubbbbbb. LOL. I'll try it out next chance I get and see how it goes.

    as far as that moving line goes (F, E, D, Db) I think it would work as an alto or tenor line in the context of moving voices. Again, I'll suspend judgment until I try it out, but my initial inclination would be to throw a root or even a third in there instead of a 6th.
     
  19. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Toronto
    I notice that you're from Boston...have you ever heard of a bassist named Michael Farquharson?

    Speaking for myself, I've only transcribed "Teenie's Blues" from that record - but I remember seeing the lick in a book of transcriptions. Again, it was more than ten years ago so it might not've been a Paul Chambers transcription, but I vaguely recall my teacher getting that lick from him somewhere.

    Again, I think you can get away with quite a bit when you consider motion and velocity. Oddly enough, one thing one of my cohorts was against was using (for example) C-D-D#-E when going from C7 to F. The reason being that you had a minor third on beat three of a major chord. Yet it's a pretty common line to play, it still seems to work.

    I think if your band were unorthodox enough to let you start a G7 chord on an F, then this should be pretty harmless. Either that, or they've blown through so many choruses that the harmony is pretty much established. Altos and tenors can't have all the fun, after all!

    You have to admit that some of the masters use some pretty weird note choices at times, too.
     
  20. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    no, never heard of him. boston is a mele of musicians.

    Yes, that's even more common than playing a flat 9 on a minor chord, IME, IMO, etc, etc, but I prefer the walk up C-C#-D-E. Those reading at home can try both to their liking.


    I don't think it's too unorthodox about starting on the flat seven of seventh chord. At least not as unorthodox as the flat 9 on the minor chord or some the 6ths you've thrown in to the lines above. I can think of at least 10 ways off the top of my head to make that work. For example, F-F#-G-G (leading to C), or F-F#-G-B, F-D-G-B, F-B-D-G, F-D-G-Db, F-G-Bb-B, F-F-D-G, F-A-G-B, F-Ab-G-B or, in favor of linear motion F-G-A-B.

    True. But even the masters made mistakes. For example, PCs intonation was sometimes off and some of his notes just seem a little too out there, but then, most times his note choices (not to mention his sense of time) are just amazing. i think we can agree on that much.

    Ultimately, the job of the bass player is to accompany, showing the time and harmony. I still think some of the lines you presented put the notion of spelling out the chord change second to some other interest (or perhaps they were taken out of context). We can respectfully agree to disagree, but, generally speaking, I don't think 6ths are a good substitute for roots, thirds, fifths or passing tones. In context of improvisation, anything can happen, granted, but I don't think of those instances as "licks" that will work over anything.

    Those lines are a good place to start and are of value to those beginning to think about ii-Vs, but I would encourage folks to put pencil to staff paper and start transcribing some of these things on their own.
     
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