Walking Bass Tab/CD recommendations?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by C_Flat, May 13, 2001.

  1. C_Flat


    Jan 29, 2001
    I'd like to expand my walking bass abilities. My primary interest is to expand my "walking line vocabulary", especially for blues and blues-based jazz. Are there any tab booklet/CD collections that you'd care to recommend?

    Note: I've got a feeling folks might be tempted to recommend that I forget about tab,and learn to read standardd notation first, or lift lines from Ray Brown, etc, etc. I've got the Ed Friedland book (misplaced the cassette though!) and have found that standard notation does not really work for me. It just greatly slows the process. Picking out basslines by ear is a pretty slow process for me as well.


  2. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Oh boy, I'm gonna do EXACTLY what you asked not be done. ;)


    Bear with me, please, ok? :)

    Here's the deal: Like any skill, including playing your bass to start with, reading (and ear training as well) require practice. The best thing you can do is to sit and struggle through the reading. The Friedland book is a wonderful place to start.

    Further, if you take the time to read instead of the "paint-by-numbers" method of tab, you'll also get the added benefit of seeing exactly what notes work with each chord, and it will help you to formulate your own lines down the road. The simple fact is that the information contained in "place a random finger on the 2nd fret of the A string now" tells you basically nothing. A monkey can be trained to do that. But, seeing that the chord in question is a G7, and you're playing a B on the second beat of a measure allows you to see that the line in question played a chord tone (B being the major 3rd of a G7 chord) on a "weak" beat (beats 1 and 3 being "strong, 2 and 4 being "weak"). Now you've gotten both harmonic information as well as rhythmic placement of that harmonic information. The tab CANNOT do this.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Of course I agree with all that Gard has said, but would like to add that - yes it is a slow process - there are no short cuts and only by doing it will you get any quicker. You have to go though this and anybody who is a decent musician will have been slow when they started, but by putting in the time and effort they got quicker and better. I think it is a worrying trend, that everybody is looking for "quick fixes" and shortcuts - there are none. Especially if you are talking about walking basslines - you just have to keep doing it.

    I think there can be no better example of a situation where tabs are totaly useless. Walking lines are supposed to be improvised based on your knowledge of the chords/harmony - they are not about playing exactly what somebody else did. Of course, it helps to hear what other people have done when you start out, but the ultimate aim is to make up your own and looking at tabs will probably hinder this process and certainly won't help.

    Furthermore - the best way to get better at these in my opinion is to play with other people - at workshops or wherever. But nobody will give you tabs - you will be presented with a "lead sheet" or chord chart with the names of the chords and will be expected to make up a line based on the chords. The sooner you get into doing this the sooner will you start to improve - any time with tabs is just wasted time from this point of view -assuming that the ultimate aim is to play with bands. No decent bandleader is going to give you tabs - so why not get used to what you are likely to get in future, as soon as you can?
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    A walking jazz bass line just simply cannot be learned from tab. Try all you want. I have to echo Gard and Bruce, this is a gradual process. You will not become a good jazz or blues bassist overnight. You just simply must put in the time to learn standard notation and theory. You must put in the time playing arpeggios like crazy. You must put in the time reading through countless charts.

    If you want a book, put your money into a real book. Play your walking lines through those charts and try to develop your techniques that way. Also, a teacher can be a huge help here.
  5. A big ditto to Gard, Bruce, and Jazzbo.
    I used to play in jazz/blues bands constantly, walking line are great fun, should not be learned "the easy way" and can really change the feel of a song if done right. i.e. sad part of song walk chromatic down the neck, want to push the song walk up the neck. Another thing is that using you ears is a must, a lot of books deal with the common phrases of walking, these should be learned so you know how they affect the song. If you really want to get into walking you should make it part of your daily practice, it is easy for great walking chops to become average.
  6. C_Flat


    Jan 29, 2001
    ...I think I've spotted a pattern...
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    It's good that this advice is being met with an open mind. Too often someone gets advice like this, that tabs won't work, encouraging hard work and discipline, and time and effort, and it's quickly disregarded. The thing to remember here, is we really are trying to help. And some of us have found out the hard way that some things in life dont' have a quick answer.

    Good luck with your endeavors, you will get out of it what you put in.
  8. C_Flat


    Jan 29, 2001
    Thanks for all the replies. I just reordered the Book/CD of Ed Friedland's Building Walking Basslines (I wasn't able to turn the up the cassette that came with the copy I bought a few years ago)

    I appreciate the value of understanding underlying chord structure & theory, passing tones, chromatic approaches and the like, and routinely use my limited knowledge of same in my own playing. I have no issue with increasing my knowledge of the theory behind bassline construction and actually welcome the chance to do so. I'm just puzzled as to why standard notation is viewed (unanimously!) as being superior to 4-line bass tab for imparting such understanding. Guess I'll find out!

    Here's a bit of an overview of my playing situation and goals: I'm a 41 year old hack who took up guitar about 8 years ago, largely self-taught by noodling on the couch while my wife tries to watch ER. About 5 years ago I was recruited to play bass with a very gifted guitarist & blues harp player. When I told the harp player I'd never touched a bass, he told me not to worry - that all I was really playing on my guitar were basslines! Since then I've played bass or rhythm guitar depending on the status & make up of our old fart's band. Our current line up has me back on bass, and the interpersonal dynamics are so much better than previous groups that I'm quite content to stay on the bass as long as it lasts.

    I'm actually more comfortable playing bass in a group environment - its quite clear to me that I haven't got the talent (or inclination) to ever front a band on guitar. On bass, however, I am pretty comfortable with my timing, sense of dynamics, and I'm building more of a musical communication with our current drummer. I have no misguided illusions about ever being a first-call bassist in my hometown. My lack of natural talent coupled with obligations related my wife, our jobs and 4 teenagers prevent me from dedicating a terrific amount of time toward ascending the less-than-lucrative blues cover band scene in Cincinnati Ohio!

    Toward the end of a night though, especially after too many 12 bars, I feel like my lines become pretty repetitive and overly reliant on root notes. Additionally, I've never felt as comfortable playing over (under, actually) a minor progression - that flat third seems a long ways off from both the I and the V, and approaching it from the II gets old pretty quick!

    Every once in a while I'll hear a player on a CD or on the radio play an intriguing line and wish I had my bass with me so I could lift it. I recently heard a 14 year old player laying down some incredible lines, with large-though-very tasteful jumps - something I rarely pull of as well. I was hoping there was an instruction CD out there with 100 or so walking lines that I could quickly demo & then incorporate the cool bits into my own playing. In all honesty, that's probably where I'll start when Ed's book & CD arrive - demo all the tracks in the car or at work then dig into the phrases that catch my ear when I get home.

    In case there's someone here I haven't offended yet, I'll share a little tip with you: If you take an old belt (2" wide redneck-style preferably) you can cut out a Fender 351-shaped leather pick, allowing transplanted guitar players to get a decent fingertip sound while picking bass! 8^)

  9. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Cb -

    Glad to see you taking the advice with such an open mind. :)

    The reason we're all pushing the standard notation on you is that it will help you understand what the notes actually are, as opposed to just where to put your finger. This will help you to start seeing how certain notes sound and function harmonically in certain places. From there, you can take these ideas, and incorporate them into your own playing. Not to mention, learning to read the rhythmic notation will open up tons of cool rhythmic patterns to learn that you might have difficulty getting any other way.

    The Friedland books are good, and another place to get some great ideas is the Roscoe Beck video. He's THE MAN as far as I'm concerned when it comes to playing blues bass. Get some of the Robben Ford and the Blue Line CD's for and understanding of why I say that! :D
  10. Roscoe Beck yes ahh, great stuff.

    just a couple of disks with great bass to get you started.

    Paul Butterfield Blues Band
    Paul Butterfield East-West
    Canned Heat Greatest Hits
    Roy Buchanan Second Album
    Roy Buchanan Thats what I'm her for.
    Muddy and the Wolf
    Albert Collins Frozen Alive
    James Cotton High Compression

    of course there are many many more but these are the ones that all ways seem to get my MoJo Working.

  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    There's another BIG disadvantage to relying on tabs. Take it from someone who did rely on tabs as a beginner. The simple fact is that much of the best music simply is not available in tab format.

    Check out tab sites and see. Most music which has been tabbed is pop, metal, punk, some country, and some classic rock and old rock and roll.

    However, even some lesser known music or less popular songs in those styles haven't been tabbed. That's why you so often see posters here asking for the tab to this or that song they can't find.

    The Ed Friedland book is excellent, by the way, and when you finish it, he has written an advanced walking bass line book that expands the concepts even further.

    You mention you play in a blues band. There are bass tab versions of Tommy Shannon's basslines to much of Stevie Ray Vaughan's music.

    Also, not all blues bass lines are "walks." A book you may find very helpful is "101 Blues Licks for Electric Bass" with CD. That book gives you dozens of typical bass lines that will get you out of the root pattern dependency. It also has excellent intros, outros and turnarounds. In blues the turnaround is an important signal that the twelve bars are going to repeat. Interesting turnarounds spice up your bass lines.

    I can suggest several other very helpful books and videos to you if you feel you would like to learn more, but Ed Friedlan'd book has plenty of meat in it to keep you occupied.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think there is an aversion to tabs as has been mentioned because the best stuff is always written in musical notation - I would also recommend Rufus Reid and Ray Brown's books - I also think the only way is to spend the time with as many different chord charts as possible.

    Tabs give you no information about the rhythm and placement in the bar, which is crucial to bassplaying - and it seems strange to bassplayers, who are so crucial in this music to the rhythmic feel, that anyone would even consider using a system that leaves all this out??
  13. hey Cb, experiment with changing hand positions. for these minor progressions, anchor the index finger on the root note, and you can play the flat 3 with your pinky on the same string.


    like so.
  14. C_Flat


    Jan 29, 2001
    I meant it was a long ways off sonically - the fingering I can handle. I just struggle a bit coming up with smooth-sounding lines over minor chords.


  15. ah. sorry bout that.
  16. Forget all these guy's they don't know what they are talking about, tab is the easiest so it's the best. Ha Ha Ha just kidding, I just like to start trouble, learn to read music.
  17. 6-stringjazz


    Jun 1, 2001
    Abq NM
    Check out Rufus Reid's transcribed bass lines!