What NOT To Do On Walking Bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Quinn Roberts, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. I've been trying to study walking bass the past few weeks and have been having some pretty decent luck with it so far, it's also great being able to play the same song five times in a row differently each time!
    But, to the point, while researching methods for making walking lines I've come across a nearly infinite number of possibilities, which comes off as rather daunting. There's almost so many "Do's" for walking bass that it seems nobody really speaks about the "Don'ts" when it comes to creating walking lines.
    I almost feel that thinking in this way could make it easier on the mind when trying to create new lines and improvise, due to there being less potentials one needs to fathom.
    So what does everyone think? What are the "Don'ts" to making a walking bass line?

    Also, sorry if this is the wrong section, I see a lot of walking bass and jazz talk in the DB section, but at the moment I only play electric.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  2. I've only just opened the book on walking bass myself.
    I'll be watching this thread.
    Thanks for posting.
    quigonkick and Novarocker like this.
  3. HandsFree


    Dec 23, 2015
    I know of one big 'don't' that I hear often.
    In a ii-V-I situation say dm-G-C this is the 'don't':
    That Bb on the 3rd beat clashes with the major 3rd of G. The pro's never play it like that.

    Note that the F# and G# also don't belong to the chords, but they are on 2nd and 4th beats, that makes all the difference.
  4. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Always ...?o_O

    Never...:confused: :cautious:

    b3rd-0.PNG b3rd.PNG
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
    hintz, Howlin' Hanson, okcrum and 8 others like this.
  5. HandsFree


    Dec 23, 2015
    As a walking (taking one step/second at the time) line going up over dm-G-C, I wouldn't know another one.

    I've trancribed a lot of basslines by Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Scott Lafaro and the like and I've encountered the former by default. The one I describe as 'don't' never. So I'm taking the liberty to talk in absolutes here. ;)
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  6. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013

    Music (JAZZ) do NOT talk in Absolutes.
  7. See this is exactly what I was looking for. I've been getting very comfortable throwing the flat third into my lines on beat three since uncovering that move. My first reaction was, "A flat third?... On a major... on beat three?... Blasphemy!" but I reckoned it was one of those rule bends that jazz, much like English, seems to be full of. It still comes off a little offensive to me theory-wise though, may just have to use it on minor chords for the time being, maybe spare a few dominants in the process.

    Also, I'm a little squirrelly on quotes still, but the post involving the Holland's line in "Aspire", I wonder if the flat third is in direct relation to the altered dominant. Might actually be a chord tone. I'm not too knowledgeable about these chord types though, I'm not really sure if there's a set "7alt" chord or if that's just fancy talk for a 7 chord with some random extensions
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  8. redstrand


    May 18, 2007
    Saint Louis, MO
    Fool For Four Strings
    Most of the time theory works, sometimes things just sound right and you go with it. It's all about experimenting and learning.
  9. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    From Jim Stinnett's book, "Creating Jazz Bass Lines".

    b3rd-Major.PNG b3rd-Major-2.PNG b3rd-Major-3.PNG

    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  10. These are still dominant chords! :wacky:

    But I thank you for posting that, it reminds me of something I read stating that the main point to keep in mind when walking is to emphasize the changes. Say you have one bar of Dm7, you be only obliged to play a chord tone on one. While a bar of Dm7/G7 would need chord tones on the start of each new chord. This was the one rule I read that made making bass lines a lot easier for me.. But also a lot more theoretically angering, being I grew up listening to mostly class rock, aside from my prized childhood Romantic Warrior, Birds Of Fire, and Dregs CDs, the concept of being free to do just about anything on beat three is not kosher
    IamGroot likes this.
  11. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Isn't this discussion about 'passing tones'?
  12. wes stephenson

    wes stephenson Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2009
    Dallas Texas!!!!
    Well in all fairness a #9 is implied so there is a minor 3rd AND a major 3rd in that chord. He even plays the b9. There’s a difference between a Bb7 alt and a straight Bb7.
    joebar and LightForce104 like this.
  13. HandsFree


    Dec 23, 2015
    Yes, I know it and wholeheartedly disagree with Stinnett. And maintain that that is not how walking is played by the big names (I believe wutp posted the same in a similar thread along with something by Gary Willis that was much better).

    I don't know the Wheeler tune but don't tend to take such examples at face value.
    Do we know that is really what Holland played? The transcription already looks suspicious with the B natural on the Bb chord (you'd expect Cb) while two bars later the chord is written as Cb.
    But more reason for doubt is that Bb7 alt chord. Alt is not a chord quality and is often used in transcriptions when b9 (or #9) and b13 or are audible but the 3rd is unclear.
    It could well just have been a Bbm7. Or if it really was Bb7 alt, Holland may have optioned to play #9 there, but I would still find that a bad choice on beat 3.
    And of course Holland, like all of us, could have made a mistake. ;)
  14. Well this answers my Alt chord question, lol.

    Basically anything involving Walking Bass tips I guess. Thought "Don'ts" would be good topic, but it's starting to seem like a bit on an abstract statement, lol.
  15. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Getting past the use of a particular note in a specific example (there's a prevailing thought about "never" and "always" that certainly applies here), here are a few things that Scott Levine (Scott's Bass Lessons) has imparted regarding walking:
    1. Don't always start on the root. This is a very hard habit to break. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't for me, but advanced walkers make lines very fluid and tend to flow chromatically from one chord to another moving to the nearest chord tone in the next chord. It's hard because MY ear likes a more solid foundation for where I'm at in the tune.
    2. The blues/boogie "walk" we're all familiar with (I iii V vii I vii V iii) is not really considered a walk. It's just a bass line utilizing an arpeggio.
    3. Make sure you can walk down as well as you can walk up. I don't know how you don't walk down, but he made a point of mentioning this in one of his walking lessons. He must have students that start at each root and just keep going up or something.

    Not from Scott, but a couple other notes:
    I was asking here about some jazz stuff and one of the other members said to never play the accidentals in a chord (say Bb b5 #9), just the primary chord tones plus passing notes. HE says that these are "reserved" for the soloists. I agree that we should not linger or "hog" flat 5s and sharp 9ths (whatever is the case), but I find it very interesting to use them occasionally, mostly in passing - it really helps define the chord you are modeling. My band mates take no exception to me doing this.

    Chromatic passing tones are very interesting when used in moderation.

    I find that walks fit best in the mid range. Lingering on the low end or the very high end, the notes don't really promote themselves. The low end is a little muffy and the high end gets lost in the guitar/keys sonic range.

    I find the hardest part of walking is coming up with new patterns. It's good that you're focusing on playing whole songs with different walks. We have one original that has a written line for the head, but then we take 4 solo passes where I apply a different walking theme for each. It's tougher than you might think.
    IamGroot likes this.
  16. Skeptismo


    Sep 5, 2011
    Here's something,

    Don't be afraid to be "wrong", no matter what keep the groove going.

    Don't shy away from meat and potatoes playing just 'cuz it's jazz, it's totally acceptable to play inside. Of course the only rule is there are no rules, but in my experience, plenty of soloists will be super happy with your playing if you just outline the chords and keep the groove going while they step out.

    Don't get bored and tune out while running down a chart, keep your ears open and enjoy creating music.

    Don't be inefficient in your interval jumps. Keeping the pulse is more critical most of the time than consonance is, so if you jump into a position where it will be awkward to play, it can mess up your timing and focus. When you do make those jumps up an octave or two, plan it so that you have a smooth path back down.
  17. Love_Bass


    Sep 5, 2012
    After walking up, thudding back down to the root note..that's something I'm working on not doing every time..
    Holdsg, pbass2 and Quinn Roberts like this.
  18. I've been searching over Youtube for walking bass videos the past couple days and I've thoroughly enjoyed Scott's videos on the subject, I think I may actually need to go back over them again. I also remember the bit about not playing altered tones too much. Lol, I've taken to that simply to make my life easier! I will say I like using the b5 on m7b5 chords though, but that's often because I'm doing that blues/boogie line you mentioned above. I've been trying to find a way to break from arpeggios and is one of the reason for me starting this post actually. I realize they hold value in a walking line every now and then, but to me it seems like just how too much chromaticism can make your lines atonal sounding, too much arpeggiation can be far worse and just plain tiring. It's the middle ground in between where a good line lies and too stay in the middle it seems one can't just stick to roots.
    I almost feel like these are the jigsaw puzzles of the music world, and by God did I buy too big a set, lol
  19. Love_Bass


    Sep 5, 2012
    BTW I love this thread, people discussing better playing strategies..I'm tired of the gear gas posts. Hard work on a beater bass will get you farther than the $2000 bass your convinced you must own..
    IamGroot, coves, jimmyb and 15 others like this.
  20. This is all great info! I've been trying to work in some interval jumps into my playing to spice it up a bit. Like moving up an octave when you get to the repeat in Autumn Leaves and Freddie, it seems like one of the simplest ways to mix things up a bit without having to alter one's lines all too much.
    And for the bit about getting bored, also great advice! I don't tend to get "bored" per se, but after playing through a jazz standard x number of times, I'll find myself just spacing out entirely. Almost like I'm only listening and forgetting to actually play! Kind of a double-edged sword though because it forces me to listen to the progressions and try to familiarize myself with where I am at in a tune.
    It might be helpful to mention my main approach to practicing walking bass is to find a nice backing track. I don't know all too many folks who play jazz around me and a lot of old recordings I find harder to play to simply because of quality, unless it's for transcription purposes. I won't talk about my failed transcribing attempts though, lol.
    Skeptismo likes this.
  21. 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 25, 2022

Share This Page