#1
Okay, despite having played bass (with a band no less) for a bit over a year and a half, im kinda embarassed to say that i've only got a basic knowledge of the music theory behind bass guitar (mainly from transitioning from the treble cleff of clarinet/sax and guitar to the bass clef).

Only within the end of my first year of playing, I got the basic understanding of each fret being a half step up (F, F sharp, G etc.) and how to write bass cleff notes. Just recently i finally got into learning scales, but thus far have only worked on (and memorized) the C, G, D, A, and E major and minor scales, along with their arrpeggios (sp). Of course these only cover the first five frets of the strings, but im sure they are more than enough for what I want to accomplish with my band.

Bascially the deal is, what are some good examples/ways to come up with some walking basslines with the theory that I know thus far? My band has been playing some old-school jazz stuff as of late, and ive been able to perform well enough, but only from reading some songs (like "blue monk", okay its blues but still...). Sorry if this rant was a bit too long to fill you guys in, but what are some improvisational techniques to get a good walking bassline going (aside from practicing of course)?

I greatly appreciate any advice in advance, help me with becoming one with the bass cleff!!!
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#2
I just run scales when I play with the jazz band, but if you want to write your own i say just run with 3rds+5ths+8ths and walla you've got a good enough fill. I would only use this method if you have to wing something actually.
#3
All scales follow patterns. So if you've memorized a scale in C you've memorized the finger pattern. Now move that any where on the neck, and you have a scale. While the notes have changed, it's the same theory.

There are a couple parts to a walking bassline:

1. Key. Knowing what Key you're playing in makes it much easier to play, and actually tells you the scale you should be playing. (Major Key, play a major scale. Minor Key, play a minor scale). By using the notes in the key of a song, you will set-up the following things.

2. Transitions. The transition is what you need to do when changing chords. (Example: When moving from A to G, you can use a three note transition of simply G/A#/A, played on beats 3/4/1.)

3. Turn around. A pivital part in solo sections, and repeat sections. It is the note cue to start the section over. (Your drummer should do a rythmic cue as well. Although one may happen without the other.) It is usually a measure long walk back to the original chord of that section.

Just for general knowledge, all the notes are:
(in sharps) A/A#/B/C/C#/D/D#/E/F/F#/G/G#/A
(in flats) A/Bb/B/C/Db/D/Eb/E/F/Gb/G/Ab/A
#4
most used note aside from the root, 5th, and maybe 3rd, is the 7th (or b7th)

so use it often.
#5
seventh chords are pretty common in jazz music. thats the root note(first note) of a scale(such as a C major for example) the third note(which would be E in a C major) the fifth note(G) and the seventh(B). A walking bassline is a pretty hard thing to define, but its usually associated witht he bassist playing in a swing rythm and "blending" chords from one chord change to the next by playing notes in betwee. That was probably a pretty confusing description, but jazz music is too broad and complex to be described in a small number of words. For better info, you should see the lessons on this site.
#6
I'm working with Ed Friedlands book Building Walking Basslines...

The thing you might also want to consider is aproach notes...

One possible aproach is chromatic, that means half step above and half step below the note you are going to play. So if you have a full bar with in the A chord, you do root, aproach to 5th, and then aproach to the next chord:

So you play in quarters: A (root), Eb (lower chormatic aproach to E), E (5th), and another chromatic to next chor (for example if it's G) you do Gb or G#

So the bar looks like: |A Eb E G#|G ....

You can use the same principle with dominant aproach...

Hope this makes any sense
#7
the way i walk a bassline is to make sure i hit the root note on the chord change and just use an approach note (either a half or a whole before). say you had to chords per bar, thats gives you four notes to play, two are chords and the other two are the approach notes.
#8
I often go a little crazy in my lines. My band plays a lot of funk and we love variety. The thing I do most of the time is play the root at beat1, then play any of the notes in the scale that are not in the scale of the following chord. When the second chord starts play notes that are in both scales and hit the root on the 3rd beat. This allways gives a nice line wich sounds great because you don't hit all the roots on 1st beat with the guitarist.

Hope it makes sence (hey, I'm dutch so don't mind the grammar and sh**)
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#9
Thanks for the advice. So basically I should incorporate the use of roots, 3rds, 5ths and 7ths, with each scale I know, and alternate with the stuff from there?

Is there any other bare essential stuff I should know before trying to start a walking bassline or a fill? Knowing about what key my band and I has already been established as an essential fact. Knowing the key of what music I am playing has always been routine with me for the nine years or so ive been involved with music.
Once you get to the top, the only way to go is down.
#10
Quote by Killibinizik
Thanks for the advice. So basically I should incorporate the use of roots, 3rds, 5ths and 7ths, with each scale I know, and alternate with the stuff from there?

Is there any other bare essential stuff I should know before trying to start a walking bassline or a fill? Knowing about what key my band and I has already been established as an essential fact. Knowing the key of what music I am playing has always been routine with me for the nine years or so ive been involved with music.

You got pretty much all that it sounds like you are gonna need and remeber, if all else fails play what your ear hears is right.
#11
Sorry got the newb question, but how do you find the key of a song, other than seeing it on sheet music (I play in an orchestra so I'm not too familiar with jamming, forgive me)?
#12
If you're jamming, the only way to find the key to is ask the guitarist, pianist, or whoever is defining the chords. Then go by ear. (What kind of beat the drummer is playing, the patterns that everyone else are playing, etc.)
#13
^ Dude, when you're jamming, the guitarists should be asking YOU what key you're in, the drums and the bass come first, and the guitars should sit on top. You and the drummer should define the main sound IMO
#14
Quote by Ifoughtthelaw42
Sorry got the newb question, but how do you find the key of a song, other than seeing it on sheet music (I play in an orchestra so I'm not too familiar with jamming, forgive me)?



...by knowing the notes you play. It's basically what scale you stick within, but there are keys that go in and out of a scale because of the way minor works lol.
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#15
Walking bass lines should also have a flow to them. If you were to write them out on a staff of music, a good walking bass line should roughly go up and down. Don't hang out in just one range all the time, it gets boring to play and to listen to.

Also, do you know what passing tones are? If so, use them! If not, ask.

EDIT: Other tips... use grace notes! They're great for feel. Feel free to deviate from the straight quarter note pattern now and then, but always go back to it. Always.

As well, if you're playing under a solo, listen to what the soloist is doing. Try not to get into his way (both in terms of range and technicality). If it's a proper jazz solo, there will be space in it, rests and breaks, not a constant stream of 64th notes. When he takes a small break, play louder to fill the space, maybe try a little lick in there (if it fits).

And always remember you're playing music, so it should flow musically. Please don't just do quarter note-quarter note-quarter note etc. forever and ever at the same volume. Use contrast!

And at the risk of sounding brutally cliche... have fun!
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Last edited by reed at May 24, 2006,
#16
Quote by elemenohpee
If you're jamming, the only way to find the key to is ask


not true.

how do you think people tab? by ear.

how do you think people find keys? you guessed it, a lot of them do it by ear.

i do it alll the time when im jamming along with eitehr my guitarist friends, a backing track, or a real song.
#17
Yeah but manga we are experienced players. A beginner would not be able to determine the key by ear, so they should just ask. it takes time to hear a note and tell someone what note it is without referencing it against notes on your fretboard.
#18
If you get an old Jerry Lee Lewis record out namely "Whole Lotta Shakin" you will find the perfect foundation for a walking bassline.
Although this is a 12 bar blues (played with major chords not the overkill 7ths other than as transitions), the style will help you develpoe the "Walking Bassline"

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#19
I do guitar in my jazz band, so I haven't been able to look at walking basslines as often as I'd like. Is it common to lead into a chord by playing the 4th, then the major 3rd on beat one? For instance, on a V7-I like F7-Bb, would it be normal for you to play Eb (b7 of the V7) on beat 4, then D (major 3rd of Bb) on one of the next bar? Or would it be more likely to be the root or fifth?
#20
Either works. The 4-3 one is a bit more interesting, but don't always use it. It's a good example of passing tones.
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#21
what tips would you give for playing walking lines in odd meters?

i havent had much practice walking...and a band i auditioned for has straight walking bass lines

its a mixture of symphony x with frank zappa and miles davis......in other words....brutskys on the fingers.

could you give some songs to start with, and then work up to more difficult songs?

thanks for the time and consideration
#23
For odd meters, Miles Davis' "All Blues" is written in 6/4 and would be a good beginning piece to learn to improve a basic line in unusual meter.

Mid to late Zappa is just killer, even if he wrote it in 4/4. For more interesting bass lines, check out Peaches and Regalia. Hard as hell to play up to speed and on beat, but fun. I'm trying to nail, "St Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" right now myself. San Ber'dino, from "One size fits all", is a good starter piece (for Zappa anyway).
#24
Playing in odd meters is hard for almost everyone. Keep counting in your head and you'll get it eventually.

Anarkee- 6/4 isn't really that odd of a meter. It's really just the equivalent of two 6/8 meters. So you would play it with accents on the 1st and 4th beats like you would in 6/8. Just much slower.

I forgot what piece it was, but you can get some really weird time sigantures 8/7 I believe is one. (I know there is no 7th beat). If I remember right it's played divided into 8/4 and 8/3. So every other measure is a measure of 8/3 (3 eight notes). Luckily it's very uncommon.
#25
Quote by elemenohpee
Playing in odd meters is hard for almost everyone. Keep counting in your head and you'll get it eventually.

Anarkee- 6/4 isn't really that odd of a meter. It's really just the equivalent of two 6/8 meters. So you would play it with accents on the 1st and 4th beats like you would in 6/8. Just much slower.



Agreed, but if you've lived in 4/4 or 3/4 for a while, its a good place to start. Its the jazz waltz, time signature, enough of the familiar with a little more to think about.

The trick I was always taught with odd meters was to clap it and count out loud before playing. Then move it to your head and your instrument. Works on odd syncopated rhythms as well.

If you want to go into odd meters with something you know, Money by Pink Floyd is also a good one. The main theme is in 7/4.
Last edited by anarkee at Apr 23, 2007,
#26
the best way to do it with the knowledge that you have is to look at the chords for whatever measure you are playing, because 99% in jazz, not only will the chords be written out for you, but they will define what is both expected / wanted from the bass (in terms of notes, the actual sound / melody is up to your ability, but this at least narrows down the search for notes)

it takes time to learn all of the different chord arrpeggios, so a quick way to get your bearings is to look at the chord chart, and try to play 2 -3 of the 'suggested notes'

ex. Cm(maj7)
that chord demands that you play C, a minor 3rd, and a major 7th. the 5th is always optional unless it is a Xm7b5 chord then the b5 is usually expected.

once you know what notes you are playing for each chord, its then up to you to walk through them, be on time, generally hit a root note within the first beat (doesnt have to be on necesarily, sometimes a root sounds great with a grace7th before it) also, through a long series of chord changes try to add some solidarity to your line, as in if the progresion goes through 4 different chords after playing 4 measures on one chords, make each measure of the different chords the same in terms of what intervals are played and in what order

ie, you just finish a little solo on a 4 measure Em chord, now it goes Amaj7 Dm7b5 Db7(diminished) Cmaj7#11, play R-8-5-3 for each chord
this will add a sense of solidarity to the bass line that is essential for keeping it as the platform of the sound, because frankly, if all you do the entire song is jump around every which way like a chicken w/out a head, it wont sound very good (even if you think it sounds really 'jazzy')
#27
^ i see what you are saying. the repetition of the intervals gives the listener something to expect, as well as pull the rest of the band behind you.

so its basically taking the more key intervals and just gracing some notes leading up to them? doing quick runs and only letting said intervals ring out?

i've been playing a lot of Tony Chow from Atheist, but they dont have enough jazz parts. The problem with Miles Davis is how everything is in modal compositions, so you could really only use certain notes....

im used to odd time sigs. i used to play lots of Tool and Opeth and Porcupine Tree, so those dont bother me at all. Its just trying to get the hang of making the right intervals sound out at the right time.
#28
I actually disagree with the playing R-8-5-3 for 4 chords in a row. Now after a line of pretty big jumps you need to keep it fairly simple agreed, but you can't make it be boring. A line like R-8-5-3 could be used once then maybe R-2-3-5, R-3-2-7(octave lower) etc. Actually the line R-8-5-3 really isn't appropriate in this position anyway a line like 8-5-3-R could work but the octave jump is too much for right after a jumpy/solo line. After a jumpy line you need to follow it up with a line in which there is no jumps greater than a third is my general rule of thumb. Also on those Em bars if the song is only a 12, 16 or 24 bar form then you should only be soloing on those Em bars when maybe the sax is taking his 8th or 9th chorus and you want to back him up with something a little more with quarter notes, this is when the band starts to get into a groove and, the soloist especially, really needs to be pushed to do some crazy stuff and reach for more. The drummer usually does a lot of this but you can always help.
#29
Quote by Applehead
^ Dude, when you're jamming, the guitarists should be asking YOU what key you're in, the drums and the bass come first, and the guitars should sit on top. You and the drummer should define the main sound IMO



hell yea!!!!
#30
i don't know how i do it but i've heard i do it really good i just know the major and minor scales and rock with that
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#31
jazz rock, i totally agree with the solo part, once you (the bassist) and the drummer fall into an ever increasing (speed wise) groove and you are backing a lead solo, its extremely important to avoid odd rhythms and start pushing straight beats, as fast as the solo is going (sometimes slower, rarely faster)

also, the octave jump helps the line transition back into the groove, you are right, having the octave each time isnt very good, but i was just pulling a random example out. a nice line that could be used in that instance (especially if the chords are descending) is something like R-8-5-3, 7-5-3-R, 5-3-R-7, 3-5-7-R (edit: walking up to the last root)
#32
well a trick we use with those odd time sigs are acutally hidden. say im doing a groove in 7/8 with the kick drum and snare. meanwhile, the drummer is just hitting at a 4/4 overtone with his hat or splash. this gives the guitarist almost a metronome like sound to follow, but still establishes the 7/8 groove feel.

learned it from meshuggah. they play in weird time signatures, but everything reverts back to 4/4 after so many bars, and if you listen, usually tomas hawke is hinting at the 4/4 with his right hand.

maybe this is more of a question i should be posting in a different forum, but what kind of chord progression patterns typically create a more somber and red colored jazz line. (sorry, i like to describe sounds with colors....)
#33
For somber, you want to work in the Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolin (natural minor)modes and the chord progressions assigned to them in your desired key. Beyond those modes, there is the minor pentatonic and blues scales, melodic minor and one of my new favorite jazz scales, Bebop Minor. Gypsy scale is somewhat minor, but its not somber in my opinion.
#34
Quote by Applehead
the way i walk a bassline is to make sure i hit the root note on the chord change and just use an approach note (either a half or a whole before). say you had to chords per bar, thats gives you four notes to play, two are chords and the other two are the approach notes.


+1


Also, knowing chord tones and inversions is a must. Non-chord tones are also important.
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#35
Quote by anarkee
For odd meters, Miles Davis' "All Blues" is written in 6/4 and would be a good beginning piece to learn to improve a basic line in unusual meter.

if no one can find music/changes for it try searching "willow weep for me"