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Walking Bass Improvisation For Beginners

In this lesson, I’ll show you how easy it is to get started with walking bass. This is my cheating guide that you can use to finally get walkin’ just like the jazz bass cats.

Improvisation, I know, a big word to put in the same sentence with a “beginner”.

But, you see – things are not always like they seem.

I remember when I was a green little bass player dying hair in red for the shows (played RHCP back then), I thought that walking bass is difficult. That you must be a theory wizard to be able to pull it off. That you need to have an amazing ear to be able to improvise like that. Oh, boy was I wrong.

So I’m sitting now at 1 AM writing this post while listening to Village Life by Incognito on Spotify,  to end all the excuses you’ve ever had for not learning how to play walking bass and help you finally get into it, for real.

Before we get started, make sure you grab a handy FREE PDF and Backing Tracks package that you can download on your computer and use for practice: click here to get it.

How To Get Started With Walking Bass Improvisation

Improvisation on bass is not that mystic you know. It’s ok if you think so, because pretty much everyone does at one point in their bass playing carrier. There are actually some rules and specific strategies you can apply.

Take for example walking bass, I mean do you think those are barrages of random notes that come from musician’s inner dimension due to years of experience and artistic development?

Nope, it’s much simpler than that. A great bassist playing a walking bass line knows exactly what he’s doing. He know which notes to play, when and where. It’s like having a map.Obviously you first need to learn words in a language to be able to put together sentences. This means that there are some building blocks included, but apart from that – it’s more of a strategy than anything else.

4 Steps To Beginner Walking Bass Lines Creation

OMG – is it that simple? Just 4 steps.

What can I say, it kinda is. So let’s dig into it right away.

 

Step 1: Root Notes Walking

In this step I want you to focus on memorizing the above bass line. The goal is to learn the chord progression, where chord changes happen and everything. To get the walking feel, play the famous 4 jazz walking bass rhythm by plucking straight quarter notes. This means 4 notes per bar of music that you need to play and that’s it. Nothing more or less at this point.

Strategy for this step:

  • Write down the chord progression
  • Find root note for each chord
  • Play 4 quarter notes per 1 bar
  • Play only root note of each chord

Backing track for practice is included in the free lesson resources package.

 

Step 2: Approach Note From Below

Check this out. You’re playing the exact same line, but this time around I want you to play a note that is half-step below the root note of the chord that follows. In case of repeated chord for several bars, just play the note half step below on beat 4 and go back to the root note.

Formula looks like this:

R – R – R – ½ below | R – R – R – ½ below….

R – root note

½ below – note half step below next root note

Strategy for this step:

  • Play root notes following chords in the backing track
  • Add approach note half step below the next root note, on a beat before every chord change or new bar

Backing track for practice is included in the free lesson resources package.

 

Step 3: Approach Note From Above

This step is exactly the same as the one you’ve done previously, but this time you play the approach note that is a half step above the next root note. Like before, if you have one chord for several bars, just move half step above the root on beat 4, and then go back half step down to playing the root note of that chord. This adds a bit of movement to the line.

Formula looks like this:

R – R – R – ½ above | R – R – R – ½ above….

R – root note

½ above – note half step above next root note

Strategy for this step:

  • Play root notes following chords in the backing track
  • Add approach note half step above the next root note, on a beat before every chord change or new bar

Backing track for practice is included in the free lesson resources package.

 

Step 4: Improvise

In this step, you’re going to mix it all up. Play approach notes from above or below (or even just roots like in step 1) to compose your own walking bass line. This just means mixing up concepts you’ve learned in the previous 3 steps, nothing more.

Now, I know that the line doesn’t at this point might not sound like walking you’ve imagined but check this out. If there are 2 chords per 1 bar of music, your bass line starts to sound like real walking bass all of sudden. So you can walk after all…

Strategy for situation when there are two chords per one bar of music is this formula:

R – A – R – A

R – root

A – approach note half step below or above next root note

Try it on your own now. Fire up the backing track and start improvising your first walking bass lines. What’s cool is that you only need to know which chords are played in the progression to be able to improvise your own beginner walking bass lines over the track. Awesome, right?

Backing track for practice is included in the free lesson resources package.

Truth is that bass players spend more time reading charts than actual notes. Your job is to become a master of outlining chords. You NEED to know which chords are being played by the band to be able to do your job. I want you to remember this and always be curious when jamming with a band or playing over a backing track downloaded from the internet. Ask your guitarist which chords he’s playing, exactly. Because you need to know.

The more you start digging into this chords oriented mindset the faster you’ll make progress as a bass improviser.

These are just fancy words for being able to jam cool bass grooves and spice them up with fills and such.

Handy Resources For Download

To help you follow the strategies I’ve covered in this lesson, I’ve created a handy free package that includes PDF that summarizes everything in this lesson PLUS you get practice backing tracks so that you can play them on your computer or living room audio system and improvise over.

DOWNLOAD LESSON RESOURCES PACK

Now a good bit:

If you’re looking to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning bass, it might be worth checking out my online learning program, the Bass Road Academy.

In my online bass school, I’ve included a Walking Bass Foundamentals course which is an exceptional course on walking bass that can help you get up to speed with walking bass improvisation and take your skills further. Now that you know how it works, it’s so easy to expand your walking bass knowledge with even more strategies.

Learning with step-by-step materials where someone else has done all the dirty work (that would be me!) is so much more efficient and inspiring than cruising interwebs hoping to find a helpful bass lesson and then, not practicing at all as you run out of time.

This means that you get quality instructional bass materials to work on as well as all the helpful resources like charts, PDFs, tabs, backing tracks, even Guitar Pro files that you can use to slow down difficult passages – man it’s crazy what we can do online to make it easier and more fun to learn bass!

I wish I had these resources when I was starting out. It’s all organized in a single low-cost membership, just like Netflix but for bass. Basically, you won’t need to purchase anything else to become better at bass from comfort of your home.

If this sounds good, consider becoming a member.

Here’s what you get when you join up:

  • Full access to all bass courses, lesson series & resources included in the academy. These courses cover important concepts such as walking bass, blues lines, slap technique, left and right hand technique, dynamics and so on. It’s all carefully designed in a step-by-step manner, so you’ll know exactly what to work on from the get-go. Courses library is regularly updated with new courses and materials.
  • Access To Bass Quests which are interactive bass recording tasks. You’ll be given a professional-sounding backing track to work on, and your mission is to compose and record a bass line following specific guidelines. This will give you make you get better at recording and composing skills you’ve been neglecting. No need to wait to get into the band to learn how to record videos. This kind of thing is cool and so much fun. You’ll be completing missions by submitting videos of your performance and you get recognition to show for it (+helpful constructive feedback from an instructor).
  • Unlimited access to instructor feedback & guidance. Learning bass on your own can be so frustrating. There’s this hunger to learn, but so much stuff is out there – where to go, what to practice next? By becoming a Bass Road member, you get access to direct instructor feedback. You can ask questions without feeling embarrassed, submit your performances and make quick progress this way. Plus – everything is put into logical, step-by-step courses that are easy to follow.
  • Professional Backing Tracks. Music is at the core of all teaching on Bass Road. All courses feature musical examples and exercises. You’ll be playing along backing tracks all the time. This will help you develop ear and listening abilities. More importantly, it’ll prepare you for the bandstand. If you’re planning to join a local band or take part in a jam night – you’ll be prepared.
  • PDF & Guitar Pro Tabs.  All instructional examples feature tabs in PDF and Guitar Pro format just for the ease of learning them. You don’t need to know how to read standard music notation to use our lessons (although that skill is always a good one to have!).

Go here to join the academy and get access to all the members-only goodies now: https://bassroad.net/signup/

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