This lesson is the first in a series of lessons devoted to walking bass lines. I take you through the basic concepts behind walking like targeting chord tones, arpeggio / scale / chromatic based lines and the other elements of walking bass.

P.S. For a complete guide to Walking Bass Lines be sure to check out the full Talkingbass course here 

For this lesson you will need a good understanding of intervals and the notes on the neck. Check out the lessons on those subjects before continuing with this one! (Links at the bottom)

What Is A Walking Bass Line?

A walking bass line walks between chords, outlining the harmony and using quarter notes to keep a steady rhythm. We generally walk with a swing feel, so we are more likely to play a walking bass line in styles where swing is most commonly used, like jazz and blues.

We are going to be looking at improvising walking bass lines through a standard type of chord progression with one chord every bar. You’ll often see two or more chords per bar and sometimes you’ll find one chord stretched out over several bars.

Target Notes

The most important thing we need to think about when we improvise a walking line through a chord progression is targeting. This is when you target a particular note in the following chord – it can be a chord tone or even a non-chord tone. The idea is that you start planning a route to the next chord by targetting a certain note. To practice this, let’s take a four-bar chord progression in the key of C:

C Maj 7 | Am7 | Dm7 | G7

To create a walking bass line through the first bar of this, we need to see it as a progression from C to A, rather than just a bar of C.

Remember that there are loads of different ways to get from one chord to another, here are a few different things you can try:

  • Chromatic approach notes
  • Diatonic approach notes
  • Scale degrees
  • Arpeggios

Now try coming up with your own walking bass line for this progression – there is an example below!

Referenced lessons:

Notes On The Neck

Intervals Part 1


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