Walking Techniques

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by DickMcgilicutty, Mar 10, 2006.

  1. DickMcgilicutty


    Mar 9, 2006
    I wanted to know if anyone has any suggestions for ways to work on my walking technique. I know all the theory behind it and I can walk an alright line but I need practical ideas for ways to apply the theory so that I can improve. My problem is less about the rhythmic feel but more about the melodic substance. I can never seem to bring out the chord tones at the right times when improvising which makes for a sloppy sounding improvised line. If there are any threads where this has been discussed before, I would appreciate it if someone could point me in that direction.
  2. Is there something that you can play along with that has the walking line you're talking about? Practicing along with recorded music is a great way to pick up the feel of a bass line. Having a chart of the music helps, too, since you can see what's coming ahead. Combine that with locking into the timing and the walking will come to you.

    Paul Mac
  3. Transcribe walking lines from players you like. You'll see so much that you'd otherwise miss.
  4. I can tell you this, for the 11 years that I have been playing, and no lessons, walking has been the easiest thing for me. I learned how to walk by using Buddy Holly's Oh Boy and proceeded from there. The key for Oh Boy is in G so the walking is actually really really simple. All you have to do is apply the knowledge you have gained from your theory and practice. If you wish, I have a website that might be helpful for you in regards to walking Bass Walking with Chords.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I couldn't stop myself laughing when I read this.....:D

    Maybe I shouldn't but....:bag: a guitar site!!
  6. tappingtrance

    tappingtrance Cooke Harvey Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    To emphasis the chord think about two separate approaches - heavy chord tones on 1 and 3 with passing tones on 2 and 4 then the opposite.

    Approach 1 on a Cmaj7
    beat 1 C beat 2 E beat 3 G beat 4 B

    now what I prefer to do is hit leading tones on the 1 and 3 so on the same chord think beat 1 - B beat 2 -C beat 3 G beat 4 E. This gives the line more motion - it creates tension and resolution .

    Take one or two chords in a vamp and just keep it slow and simple.

    Also think about the tune you are playing and where the target phrase begins and ends - meaning if you see a 4 bar pattern with a lot of chords/ii - V progressions don't think you have to outline every chord - think KEY, Mode and arpeggio and augment the idea of heavy and light chord tones over the 4 measures.
  7. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    The best way to learn how to walk is by transcribing, as Mike has said. I guarantee that if you learn what Ray Brown (or Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, etc.) played on a 32 bar tune or a blues and memorize it, you'll learn more than reading ten theory books. This is because it is in context and practical to what you are doing, and not just a disconnected exercise or pattern.

    Transcribing is difficult to do and many people avoid it for this reason but it is one of the most worthwhile things you can do to further your knowledge of music.

    Good luck!
  8. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    I've always thought leading type things were supposed to happen more or less on 4.. and a roots on 1. Like if you were doing Cmaj7 to Dm or something, you would do:
    C G C C# D etc etc etc.

    That's how i've been doing things.. I realize there is no 'right' way to always do it... but i thought generally you wanted roots on 1 and leading tones into the next chord.... Although i've been "playing" for 11 years (only maybe 4 or 5 of them seriously) I'm not terribly happy with the motion of my walking lines all the time.. Have i been doing it wrong?
  9. Theory, blah, blah blah. Approach tones, blah, blah, blah. It's important yes, but the best thing you can do is transcribe walking lines. That way you'll see alla this stuff in practice and hear what it sounds like. Start out with an older piano trio recording (these usually have a good spilit piano one side bass the other) and learn the bass line then analyze it to see how this theory is being used. Plus you get the advantage of working it up to tempo and playing with the recording.

    The other part I love about the transcribing process is that it reminds me of when I had my first EB and I would sit and learn all my favorite bass parts and play with the records.:hyper:
  10. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Serious? :)

    Most of us do not want to drown in theory, but it is Essential, while dissecting music, to understand where the note is coming from, whether it's a chord tone, scale tone, or passing tone/approach tone. You Have to define pieces of music in some manner like that to be able to mix it up and make your own line. It's just like learning words before you make sentences.

    Learning to walk and improvise is definitely more than listening and imitating. You Have to be able to identify the vocabulary used to make the line.

    Right? :cool:
  11. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    I think Mike is being a bit facetious. I can tell you from personal experience I've learned a hellova lot more from transcribing than from any book. You can't learn a good time feel from a book. Learning a bass line and playing along with a great record is a great way to do that.
  12. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
  13. All I meant is that until you get an idea of how it all sounds it doesn't mean a thing. You could look at a million books or just go straight to the source your CD collection. Learn it all as sounds rather than concepts, then go back and learn the theory.

    After all you wanna play what you HEAR, not what you see.
  14. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Transcribing lines is a good thing to do, but you also need something to practice and to play in the meantime...

    Let's take a tune like "Autumn Leaves" the first 8 bars or the "A" section:

    | Amin7 | D7 | GMaj7 | CMaj7 |

    | F#min7b5 | B7 | Emin | Emin |

    It's almost just the cycle of fourths altered in the 5th bar by a half step so that it cycles back to the Amin7.
    A couple of simple patterns, huh???, what??? That to me sounds good for the first four bars is this:

    R 2 b3 3 ascending, which consistenly leaves you a half step away from the next chord, until you reach the F#min7b5, it's root will be a whole step away. You can then return i.e. descend with another pattern, R 7 6 5 until you reach the last Emin and use the R 2 b3 3 pattern on that last Emin to leave you a half step away from the root of the Amin7. You can also use a R 2 3 5 pattern ascending as well. You can ascend 4 bars descend 4, ascend 3 bars, descend 3, and so on and so on.

    This of course isn't the end all or be all but more of just a place to start so that you can play and hear something, while you're transcribing lines, writing out your own lines on paper to see the contour of your line and then play those line to hear if the notes outline the changes, ultimately your own ear is going to determine what approach you may use.
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    It's easy to forget that this is the point of the whole activity. Learning the grammar of theory helps you learn and use the language of music. Learning some new insights into theory may help you discover new stuff for your walking lines, for example. But eventually you've got to shut down that analytical part of your mind and tune into that expressive part of your mind that generates actual music, not the part (or mode) that describes music and "understands how it works." The goal is hear music ==> play music: a direct pipeline with no steps in between.

    At least that's the way I approach jazz.
  16. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Absolutely. But it's useful to practice patterns to get to a point where you're comfortable playing through changes, and have a place to explore from. It also helps you train your ear to hear changes and your fingers to find the sounds you hear.
  17. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    The Bob Magnuson book is pretty good. Also the Ed Friedland books.

    Also check out the Ray Brown book. Some good lines in there as well.
  18. DickMcgilicutty


    Mar 9, 2006
    Thanks to everyone who responded. I appreciate the information and the help.