The Basic Hack!
When we play a walking bass line we’re looking to outline the chord progression and lead smoothly from one chord to the next in a fluid manner using constant quarter notes as our main rhythm. So this hack works best with chords that last a single bar.
All we’re going to do is play the main triad of the chord for the first 3 beats (root – third – fifth). Then we’re going to play a chromatic approach note leading into the next chord from either above or below. Don’t worry too much about the term chromatic approach note. Just think of a note one fret above or below the root note of the next chord!
A Simple Example
Let’s say we’re playing a chord of Cmaj7 leading to Am7. All we have to do is play the triad of Cmaj7 (root, third and fifth) which gives us C, E and G.
Then for the last note of the bar we need to approach the Am7 so we want to play either a fret above or below the A. So that’s either Bb or G#. Either one will do. The choice is yours. Both are shown below:
Triads Of The Progression
So let’s take a chord progression of 1625 in the key of C major: Cmaj7, Am7, Dm7 and G7. One bar each. The backing tracks are found below:
Let’s create a bass line using that method. First, we need our arpeggios. I’m not going to waste time here on the basics of chord construction. For now, let’s just work through those notes.
Next we can add the approach notes below:
And here we have the approach notes from above:
Dropping Below The Root
That example worked OK but the problem is that we’re always ascending with our triad. Let’s say we rise up through our Cmaj7, land on the high A but we don’t want to continue rising and instead want to go down to the D. We need another route. So all we have to do is take those notes of the triad, the third and fifth and drop them down an octave like so:
So now we can create another bass line using both ascending and descending lines:
A Good Start
Please note that this is just a basic hack and there is obviously a LOT more to walking bass lines than this. Obviously we need a bit of extra info for developing our lines. We need to learn our arpeggios, we need to look at different fingerings so we can play the triads in different areas and we also need to the know the notes on the neck. I’ve got a few lessons devoted to each of these issues here on Talkingbass (see the Lesson Map). But I’ll be covering all of this material, with reference to walking, in the upcoming Simple Steps To Walking Bass.