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Walking Bass 101

A good guide for creating a basic walking bass line is by using approach tones (also called “passing tones”). Generally, when we look at a chord progression, we want to place the roots/chord tones on beats one and three, and approach tones to the roots/chord tones on beats 2 and 4. For more walking bass lessons, be sure to catch up with me at http://christarrylessons.com.

Check out the progression below. I have a chart that reads 2 chords per bar in the key of C.

It’s Cmaj7 A-7 D-7 G7

An approach tone is by its very definition a note that “approaches” the next note. In the example below we can see that we used notes on beats 2 and 4 that approached the chord change by a half-step below.

walking bass ex1

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Here we can take the same progression but use approach tones from a half-step above.

walking bass ex2

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Now, instead of just half-steps from above and below the roots, we can try whole-steps. In the example below we are using whole-steps that approach the chords from above.

Be sure to also check out approaching from a whole-step below.

walking bass ex3

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Now, to get the full effect of a cool walking bass line we mix em’ all up!

Check out how this sounds over a longer version of the previous examples.

Eventually these approach tones become just like colors on a painting. What color do you want to paint with today? Maybe just half-steps from below, it’s all up to you now!

Enjoy.

walking bass ex4

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About the Author

Chris TarryChris Tarry is a four-time Juno Award winning musician and a writer. His debut collection of short fiction, “How To Carry Bigfoot Home,” is out now from Red Hen Press (March 2015). He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife Michelle, daughter Chloe, and son Lucas. Connect with Chris on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.View all posts by Chris Tarry

  1. simon george
    simon george01-30-2013

    I appreciate the lessons. Stuff like this really helps players to keep learning. I think music is all about its endless possibilities. Great post keep up the hard work.

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