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BI110 - Walking Bass 1

An introduction to walking bass line performance and composition. Introduces the concepts of 2 feel and 4 feel basslines in the jazz idiom. This course focuses on solid walking line construction through the use of chord tones and arpeggio forms, and also deals with concepts for phrasing and performance. Recommended for the beginning jazz player or improvisationalist.

Lesson 01: Intro To Walking Bass Lines

Walking bass lines are some of the neatest and most melodic sounding parts we get to play as bassists. Those of you who are fans of swing jazz, blues, or boogie are probably already familiar with the walking bass sound. Most of us associate the walking bass sound with a steady quarter note pulse that outlines the harmony of the tune, usually played in 4/4 time. There are many different ways we can approach walking bass lines. The style of music bears a heavy influence on the way a walking line might be played.

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Lesson 02: Writing 2 Feel Bass Lines

In this lesson we will be writing our own 2 feel basslines onto a staff.

SUGGESTION: Before doing these written exercises, print them out so you can write on the staves provided. Otherwise, you will have to rewrite each progression onto your own staff paper.

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Lesson 03: Playing 2 Feel Walking Lines Using Triads

With any walking bass line, it is important to remember that your responsibility as a bass player is twofold; you are the primary keeper of the pulse of the time, as well as the foundation of what is happening harmonically. This is especially true in jazz.

In this lesson, we will get into the basics of playing jazz walking bass lines. To start off with, we will use only chord tones to construct our bass lines. The reason for this is that chord tones (which can be played using arpeggio forms) are what the actual chord changes are made from.

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Lesson 04: Writing 4 Feel Bass Lines

Recall from Lesson 1 that 4 feel basslines incorporate a quarter note pulse. In 4/4 time, a walking line in 4 feel would utilize 4 quarter notes per measure. That quarter note pulse helps to define the time feel of the music. In jazz especially, a bass player's walking bass part becomes the most authoritative source of the time for the ensemble. As was stated earlier, it is important to remember that your walking lines will provide both the time feel and the harmonic foundation for the music. Naturally, it is vitally important to play with as much consistency, accuracy, and sensitivity as possible.

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Lesson 05: Improvising Triad Walking Lines in 4 Feel

Today's lesson is a continuation of our 4 feel concepts, and we will begin working on improvising using quarter notes to create our walking lines. Before we get to work playing, though, let's first address some other concepts you should be familiar with.

In practicing your walking lines, you don't ever want to ignore the importance of 'feel'. The 'feel' of your bass lines is not something you can notate on a staff or chart, but you can sure hear its influence in how you play. Your feel comes from deep inside you, and is a result of both musical and non-musical experiences.

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Lesson 06: Adding the 7th and Writing 7th Chord Lines

So far we have been only using triads to construct our walking lines. In this lesson, we will focus on seventh chords, or 4 note chords to build them, instead.

In order to play them efficiently, we will use some modified versions of the triad arpeggio forms we learned earlier. These new forms will now include the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th. Some basic seventh chord arpeggio forms you should be familiar with are shown in Figures 1a-e.

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Lesson 07: Improvising 7th Chord Lines in 4 Feel

Today we will now put our seventh chord arpeggio forms into action, using them to improvise walking bass lines in 4 feel. So far we have talked about the placement of the root on beat 1 of each measure, in order to reinforce the implied harmony of each chord change. If we were to figure out every possible combination of chord tones that could be played in a measure of 4 beats placing the root on beat 1, we can create a great practice series that can be used to improvise walking lines without sounding boring or repetitive.

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Lesson 08: Chord Tone Permutations

In my technique classes I like to have my students work on their left hand fingering independence through the use of permutation exercises. Permutations take a particular set of notes or a pattern of notes on the bass and extract all possible combinations that can be played from them using only those included notes. The same principle can be applied to our use of chord tones in walking bass lines.

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Lesson 09: Improvising Using Permutations

Now that we have become familiar with the sound and feel of various chord tone permutations, we can begin to use them to improvise through various types of chord progressions. Let's take a look at some more bass line examples based on chord tones... See Figures 1a-1d.

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Lesson 10: 2 Feel/4 Feel Transitions

Walking bass lines are traditionally a huge part of jazz and swing music. Their importance is twofold; they both outline the harmony of the tune, as well as provide the underlying pulse for the time of the music.

One of the neat things about walking bass lines is that they can also change the perceived activity level of the ensemble, and subsequently influence the dynamics of the music.

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Lesson 11: Tune #1 with Example Lines

Now that you have spent a significant amount of time writing and playing improvised bass lines to smaller progressions using chord tones, it is time to apply what you know to a complete tune. The changes we will be working with are shown in Figure 1.

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Lesson 12: Tune #1 (Continued)

In this lesson we will continue to practice improvising walking bass lines to the same type of changes in Practice Tune #1. However, the exercises in this lesson will be transposed to 3 other keys in order give you an opportunity to work the same harmonic movement through different keys.

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Lesson 13: Tune #2 with Example Lines

Figure 1 shows the next set of changes we will be working with, Practice Tune #2.

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Lesson 14: Tune #2 (Continued)

In this lesson we will continue to practice improvising walking bass lines to the same type of changes in Practice Tune #2. However, the exercises in this lesson will be transposed to 3 other keys in order give you an opportunity to work the same harmonic movement through different keys.

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Lesson 15: Tune #3 with Example Lines

Figure 1 shows the next set of changes we will be working with, Practice Tune #3.

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Lesson 16: Tune #3 (Continued)

In this lesson we will continue to practice improvising walking bass lines to the same type of changes in Practice Tune #3. However, the exercises in this lesson will be transposed to 3 other keys in order give you an opportunity to work the same harmonic movement through different keys.

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Lesson 17: Tune #4 with Example Lines

Figure 1 shows the next set of changes we will be working with, Practice Tune #4.

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Lesson 18: Tune #4 (Continued)

In this lesson we will continue to practice improvising walking bass lines to the same type of changes in Practice Tune #4. However, the exercises in this lesson will be transposed to 3 other keys in order give you an opportunity to work the same harmonic movement through different keys.

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Lesson 19: Tune #5 with Example Lines

Figure 1 shows the next set of changes we will be working with, Practice Tune #5.

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Lesson 20: Tune #5 (Continued)

In this lesson we will continue to practice improvising walking bass lines to the same type of changes in Practice Tune #5. However, the exercises in this lesson will be transposed to 3 other keys in order give you an opportunity to work the same harmonic movement through different keys.

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