Hello all,

I've played bass for close to 8 years but I've just recently begun preparing for a jazz quartet side project. A couple of the guys in my rock band are really great jazz musicians and they know a phenomenal jazz piano player, but I am new to the genre pretty much entirely.

Some charts off the top of my head include Red Clay, Manteca, East to West, Danzon for my Father....and plenty more.

I am not playing with bass charts, but I am following the key changes from the treble charts. Anyone have any tips for what kinds of things to consider when constructing jazz bass lines? I've got a good ear and I feel I'm pretty competent with the bass guitar, and I look forward to one of the most challenging musical projects I've taken on.
All your bass are belong to me <3
if you learn your scales it'll help a lot. all the diminished, augmented, minor, major, stuff like that. i only learned a few, but it helps for just whipping one out now and then
I'm not a jazz musician but this is what know:

Usually the bass should be supporting the chords with the basstone. In most jazz, the bass moves away from the basstone, but still within the chord. Then you have walking bass which should still support the chord, while it's possible to move outside of it. The best way to do this is by making sure that the accented beats (usually 1 and 3) should contain a chord note, while the others (2, 4 and whatever eights and sixteenths) can play outside the chord.

Also remember that you shouldn't take these rules too seriously. You can basically do what you want as long as you keep the sound and style...

Hope this was of any help
Thanks a lot for all your input.

My biggest fear was the idea that jazz is fueled by improvisation. I feel confident improvising within and around chords, but without having listened to a ton of jazz, my fear of the unknown is this: Is all jazz improv'd like this, or do certain songs have a CERTAIN bass line? What components of a song remain steady from one rendition of "Red Clay" to the next, and which ones change depending on the musician?
All your bass are belong to me <3
Unless a specific bass line is stated in the chart, it's pretty much always improvised within the context of the chords, time sig, whether it's a bossa feel or a swing feel, etc. Essentially, the chords, melody and all these other details provide you a subject, or a box to focus your improvisation in. The smaller you keep the box (stay within the chord tones) the more manageable it is at the expense of freedoms. The more you let it grow though (subs, tensions, scale super-impositions etc) the more choices and freedoms but it becomes harder and harder to maintain and manage the identity of the box.

Ideally, you'd want to keep your improvisation within the context of the tune you're doing. You can add many other flavors and condiments in but you still want to keep that tune as your main priority.

For walking basslines, read guides and books and tutorials on the web, then practice writing some so you get some ideas and then slowly start meshing all these ideas together in your improvisation. Try not to write one line and stick to it, they get boring after a few choruses and people can tell. Split the tune in little segments and figure out different lines you could use to get through them. Even if you have as little as two different lines per segment, at least you can combine those different lines with the other lines of all the other segments multiple times without sounding like you are just playing the same line over and over.
I have a book on jazz basslines. I shall pm it to you TS. Let me know if you receive it.

...actually i don't know how to do that. PM me your email because I can't find out how to make .pdf attachment on UG.
Last edited by Don't Read This at May 24, 2010,
what ive learned from playing with bassits/learning the VERY BASICS of walking on guitar.
it is your job to keep the time, not the drummers. Everyone needs to keep their own time, but if there is a metronome for the group it is you, dont get distracted by soloists/comping/the way the drummer breaks the time up/keeping the changes (though pay attention to all these things). You have two jobs, complement the soloist and lay the changes down. Generally chord tones occur on beats 1 and 3, with 2 and 4 setting them up. Pay attention to harmonic clarity; if you lay down a 1 and 3 on beats one and 3 it will be VERY clear what the chord is. it is ok to use chromatics if they sound good and are out of the key; also take the chords and solo into consideration during a solo (if the written chord is a m7 but you hear a mM7 and harmonic minor from the soloist, try to use the right 7th). If you cant trust yourself to play fancy (and you shouldnt at this stage) keep great time, keep the changes clear and keep your line basic and the band swinging.
EDIT: walking is generally for swing feels. For latin tunes find a groove that fits with the rhythm the drummer is playing and is harmonically sound (listen to some good recordings and see what they do). If the drummer goes into a two feel, or if theres a part of a tune where you use a pedal tone (presuming its a tune like spiral, which alternates that sort of a feel with a swing feel) you cannot follow anyone when it comes time to change feels, it comes from you. you are where the rhythm and the harmony and the form meet.
Last edited by tehREALcaptain at May 25, 2010,