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Walking/Swing Bass 2s and 4s Emphasis

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jbassguy, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. jbassguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Okay, maybe I should know this -- having played bass (mostly rock) for many years, but could someone help me out? When playing walking bass/swing bass lines (such as the instrumental bridge to Tower of Power's Ball and Chain), should I be putting deliberate emphasis on the 2s and 4s, or should I just play the line with no emphasis, but precision?

    I'd love to know, seeing that I've had musicians give me contradictory opinions (2s/4s vs just precise striking).
  2. bludog

    bludog Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2012
    Brooklyn 11217
    If you have another player, like a guitar or keyboard comping on the 2's and 4's then you really don't have to put any additional emphasis in the attack. Just make sure you hit the feel correctly. It will all come together as a band.

    On the other hand, if you don't have anyone supporting the 2's and 4's then you could add some emphasis. Good example would be if you're playing as a duo with a horn player. In that situation you have to be the drums too. Your 1's and 3's are like the kick and the 2's and 4's are like the snare.

    If you're practicing solo with a metronome a good trick I learned from Steve Bailey is to set the tempo to half your desired tempo and then use the clicks as just the 2 and the 4. It can be tricky to jump in because you have to start in between clicks but you can do it by counting 2 on the beat and then put 3 in the gap, then count 4 on the beat - when you get to 1 you're basically counting right where you need to. I know that's odd to understand, (it's hard to explain without showing) but it is great practice for getting the swing feel without other players.

    EDIT: Adding an edit here after thinking about this some more. When I use the term "emphasize" I'm not necessarily saying play them louder or with a harder attack. It's more about emphasizing the feel of the 2 and 4. It' that push/pull swing feel that you need to hit.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I disagree, that can really start dragging the music down rather than propelling it forward.
  4. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I almost always practice jazz with my metronome clicking on 2 and 4--I learned it from Bruce Gertz myself, over 20 years ago. At the same time, I don't think you want to deliberately emphasize the 2 and 4. You might do that in a bar here and there, or maybe a few consecutive bars for a sort of "rhythmic ostinato," but by and large each beat should be struck with equal force and equal duration.
  5. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    Equal strikes...

    I think the "emphasize 2 and 4" ethos comes from trying to break players of the habit of emphasizing 1 and 3 as some players tend to.

    When in doubt, especially when copping a particular recording, listen to what 's happening on the record and emulate.
  6. Reddog01


    Nov 3, 2013
    Georgetown, TX
    Take your cue from the drummer. See what he/she is doing and support it. The answer to your question is sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.
  7. jbassguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Thanks to all who took the time to reply; my aim will be more towards watching and feeling what the drummer does. Mostly, by default, I will look to be precise and AWARE of where to place a subtle emphasis as needed.

    This is my first post and I intend to reply correctly and with appreciation.
  8. jbassguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Thanks; I like the simplicity of your answer in particular, but have benefited from the others' opinions.
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This. Pay attention to this.

    On a related note, guitar players are often told to comp swing "like Freddie Green - straight quarters, with emphasis on 2 and 4." Lynn Seaton once told me "I toured next to that guy for years, and I never heard him accent 2 and 4."

    Play straight quarters.
  10. Leo Smith

    Leo Smith

    Oct 21, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    This -- I would like to footstomp and belly-flop this.... meaning I agree.

    Pay attention to this, what Ed F said and what Jon are adding. Over the years I've tried many times to keep guitars players from accenting the two and four. Too many of them laid back on those beats and it just killed any semblance of a groove.

    So to the OP, just keep all the notes even and cookin'. When there is a need to place an accent, some cue in the music will tell you where that should happen.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Thanks for the affirmation; this IS one of those times that being able to HEAR what someone sounds like would be useful, but I couldn't find soundfiles or video for anyone else.
    It's not to "prove" anything or engage in measuring for length or distance but, if I am proposing a certain approach to improvising or timefeel or WHATEVER, it's good for whoever has posed the question to be able to hear how that sounds, so that they can assess whether or not that's the direction they want to take. "Oh, what he says sounds reasonable, but I sure don't want to sound like THAT! Maybe I shouldn't take that advice.." or vice versa.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    PAC has some soundfiles accessible, I was mostly talking about us folks what had posted prior...
  13. Roshen


    Jul 25, 2011
    Dear all,

    I apologize for my late post in this thread. I’m not the most clever bass player struggling with this topic for a while now. About walking basslines a while ago I started to emphasize on the 1 and 3 for a simple reason. The 1 is at the beginning of each bar and because of counting in half steps, ie. quarter steps, the second note to emphasize is on the 3. The metronome is set in half time only emphasizing on the 1 and 3 and so I study my walking basslines.

    Kind regards,