Walking Bass

Marcus Miller, bassist
Marcus Miller

Walking bass lines serve as the rhythmic and harmonic backbone of music, particularly prominent in genres like jazz and blues. These lines gracefully meander between chords, marking the underlying harmony while maintaining a steady rhythm (typically with a swing feel).

Improvising walking bass lines is a crucial skill for any aspiring bassist. Let’s focus on a standard chord progression in the Key of C with a chord change per bar.

C Maj7 | Am7 | Dm7 | G7

Rather than viewing each bar in isolation, we approach it as a progression from one chord to the next. For instance, transitioning from C to A, we map out our trajectory, considering various techniques to bridge the gap:

  • Chromatic Approach Notes: Using chromaticism to smoothly connect two adjacent chord tones.
  • Diatonic Approach Notes: Employing notes from the scale corresponding to the upcoming chord to establish a sense of tonality.
  • Scale Degrees: Incorporating scale degrees relevant to both the current and forthcoming chords.
  • Arpeggios: Outlining the arpeggios of each chord to emphasise their harmonic identity.

Your Turn to Explore

Now, armed with these techniques, it’s time to put theory into practice. Experiment with crafting your own walking bass line for the given chord progression. Embrace creativity, explore different routes, and strive to find your unique voice within the rhythmic tapestry of walking bass.

As you embark on this journey, remember that there’s no single correct path. Each note you choose contributes to the dynamic narrative of the music, reflecting your personality as a musician. So, immerse yourself in the groove, trust your instincts, and let your bass line tell its story.

Your Turn to Explore

Here are some examples of well-known songs that use walking basslines:

        1. Bill Haley – Rock Around The Clock

        2. Big Joe Turner – Shake, Rattle & Roll

        3. Louis Jordan – Saturday Night Fish Fry

        4. Jethro Tull – Bourée

        5. Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love

        6. Frank Sinatra – Fly Me To The Moon

        7. Billy Joel – Piano Man

        8. Spiral Staircase – More Today Than Yesterday

        9. The Beatles – Eight Days A Week

        10. Alice In Chains – Swing On This

        11. Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Know A Little

        12. Van Morrison – Moondance

        13. Jaco Pastorius – Fannie Mae

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