Walking Bass Lines The Easy Way With This Simple Hack!!

2018-11-29T07:18:03+00:00November 2nd, 2018|11 Comments

This week we’re looking at a simple hack you can use for creating walking bass lines with minimal resources. We’re looking at chord tones (triads) and a single chromatic approach note as the basis for every chord connection.

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.

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  1. Dam Brooks November 2, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Wonderfully enjoyable, almost ready to rewrite Charles Mingus’ history. well, if I could develop it clearly and with fluid precision and true originality….

    Thank you Mark.

  2. Tinashe Basa November 3, 2018 at 3:59 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for the lessons. You have changed my life in the music industry

    • Talkingbass-Mark November 11, 2018 at 8:56 am - Reply

      Thanks a lot Tinashe!

  3. james chua November 4, 2018 at 6:23 am - Reply

    Thanks for this great lesson. Is this applicable only for jazz music? Can i apply it songs for church?

    • Talkingbass-Mark November 11, 2018 at 8:56 am - Reply

      Thanks a lot. Yes you can apply this to Gospel although it works best with chords of one bar. The upcoming Walking Bass course expands this to chords lasting any length.

  4. M@ November 5, 2018 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Awesome! Thanks Mark — this was a great start to get up and running and get a feel for how walking… feels without spending much time on theory (while much needed, it’s also need to have “a result” to show off and use).

    It’s fun to have a basic walking jazz baseline up and going in short order, and helps self-motivation for further theory/arpeggio/scale work!

  5. Talkingbass-Mark November 11, 2018 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Thanks a lot. Yes you can apply this to Gospel although it works best with chords of one bar. The upcoming Walking Bass course expands this to chords lasting any length.

  6. Scott Scattergood November 14, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Great stuff, and it’s helping me a lot. However, as I listen on my notebook computer, I can’t really hear your bass.

  7. Tom Achterberg November 16, 2018 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    After returning to play bass after a 45-year break, you are teaching all of the things I should have learned back then. You’re “The Man!” Thanks so much for you energy and passion!!

  8. EyeZAYA McFetridge January 12, 2019 at 7:25 am - Reply

    why so sharp

  9. Peter Kustek January 19, 2019 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Hi Mark, in first example of triad Cmaj7 and approaching Ami7 from above it actually gives us C7 chord progresion. Is this approach correct? Thank you!

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