Walking bass playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Jay boogs, Jun 6, 2017.

  1. Jay boogs

    Jay boogs Inactive

    Feb 21, 2017
    I recently started to look into walking bass and improv bass playing but I wanted to know when playing chord tones is it OK to play any notes from the chords or is there a specific pattern needed? I also what to know why is needed when playing an improv basslines
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Nothing is "needed" and any of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale is "OK" to play.

    The important thing is to sound like you are "speaking the language" of walking bass. The best way to do this is to listen to famous bassists who are good at walking bass. For example, if you are learning "Autumn Leaves" you could make a playlist of several famous recordings of this song, listen to them, transcribe the walking bass lines, and then perhaps go through your transcription and circle all the chord tones, so you can see at a glance how various great bassists have approached this question. Do you have any favorite bassists that you think are particularly good at walking bass? Go learn their songs! :)
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
    LeeNunn and old spice like this.
  3. Brother Goose

    Brother Goose The Process IS the Reward!

    Dec 4, 2013
    Syracuse NY
    God Is Love
    I just shared this in another thread. I'm a funk/R&B dude with lots of ingrained tendencies that impaired my walking over the years.

    Studying with Danny Ziemann has broken me down to the building blocks I should have learned BEFORE copping a zillion funk licks that (pleasantly, I feel) poisoned my playing...

    Learn to walk chord tones 4 to a bar and the rest will happen!

    Good luck and hard work!

    Amazon.com: the low down: Books
  4. Jay boogs

    Jay boogs Inactive

    Feb 21, 2017
    I like the way James Jameson improvise and would like to improvise in that style
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Great! Which Motown songs are you currently learning? Let us know if you have questions about a particular chord progression or note choice. :)

    One of the keys to understanding Jameson's style is learning how to read the type of sheet music he used in the studio. Usually the songwriters and arrangers would give him a "lead sheet" showing the song structure, chord progression, and suggested bass line. If you look in "Standing in the shadows of Motown" there is a cool comparison between a written lead sheet vs what Jameson actually played.

    Do you know how to read lead sheets, chord symbols, and standard notation? How many times a week do you jam or perform with other musicians, playing improvised music from a lead sheet? Those are important skills to practice, if you want to follow a James Jamerson approach to musicianship. He played all day and night, 7 days a week, surrounded himself with the best musicians, was a good sight reader, and could play by ear.
  6. Jay boogs

    Jay boogs Inactive

    Feb 21, 2017
    I am good when it comes to learning chords and baselines by ear
    Mushroo likes this.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    That is the most important skill any musician can have, in my opinion. The more Motown songs you learn by ear, the bigger your musical vocabulary will be, to come up with your own bass lines "in the style of" James Jamerson. A good educational goal is to learn to read, too. Then you can see how the notation on the page correlates to the musical sounds you are hearing. :)
  8. I'll speak about improvised bass lines first. I play from fake chord sheet music where I'm given the lyrics and the harmonizing chord's name. I compose my bass line from that. The bass line I decide depends on the song. Praise is roots to the beat. Country is roots and fives with chromatic walks to the next chord. Rock is a little different, but, very similar. That's all I play so the other guys will have to address the other stuff.

    But lets now talk about why is the chord there at that part of the song? To harmonize the melody being played at that part of the song. It's the sharing of like notes in the treble and bass clef that let harmony happen. So if you play notes of the chord the songwriter placed you have a great chance of harmonizing with the melody line - and sounding good. How many notes of the chord? One per measure gets harmonization - that's why just pounding roots work. Two would be better and three are probably not needed as one got harmony. Read that again...

    As you know more, sure, you can bring in some of the non chord tones.
    Start with roots to the beat. When that flows add a 5 - R-R-5-5 or R-5-R-5 what ever order you like, perhaps R on the 1st beat and the 5 on the 3rd beat.

    When roots and fives flow bring in the octave 8. My old stand by is R-5-8-5.
    When that flows bring in the correct 3 & 7.
    And when all that flows you can start bringing in the non chord tones - 2, 4 & 6. I know you want to know where. Where ever they sound good. Use them as passing notes. I like the 6 with a major chord - R-3-5-6.

    OK Walking bass is on top of all that. I do not consider a full jazz bass line like R-3-5-7 as being a walking bass line. Yes it has provided movement much more than R-5-R-5, however has done nothing to walk you to the next chord. You do that many ways. I use chromatic walks 99% of the time. Target the next chord's root then miss it by one, two or three frets then walk to the targeted root one fret at a time and land on it for the chord change. There are a zillion different ways to walk, that is just one. Ed Friedland has a good book on the subject.

    Have fun.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
    Jay boogs likes this.
  9. Jay boogs

    Jay boogs Inactive

    Feb 21, 2017
    My style is usually roots, fifths, there's with some octaves and chromatic movements and I like to follow the kick drums
  10. That will get you asked back in any good ole boy band in East Texas...
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
    Jay boogs likes this.
  11. 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 23, 2022

Share This Page