What is a Walking Bass Line?

So what is this thing called a Walking Bass Line?

Learning to play authentic walking bass lines that swing and outline the chord changes can seem like a daunting task, but with practice players of all levels can get there.

The key to making progress is to have a dedicated practice routine and know how and what to practice. 

To play swinging walking bass lines the first step is to understand the function and role of the bass line. Ultimately the walking bass line provides the foundation of the chord changes and keeps a steady beat, but there’s much more to it than that.

Why do some lines swing and sound great and others don’t. 

Is it the bass player, or the equipment, the tempo or is it the key of the tune? 

All of these things will have some impact on the sound and function of the line but there are other factors that are much more important.

Key Components of the Walking Bass Line

When you listen to one of the Masters of the Bass play a walking bass line or solo you’re hearing a lot of things happening simultaneously.  Swing, pulse, groove, there’s many ways to describe the feeling, but ultimately what the listener is hearing is the end result of a lifetime of practicing, experimenting and most importantly you hear there dedication to the craft and their personality shining through into the sound of their lines.

What you will hear are the key components of the walking bass line 

  • Swing
  • Pulse
  • Tension and release
  • Chord changes
  • Voice leading
  • Playing on the front of the beat
  • Laying back
  • Playing outside
  • Chord substitutions
  • Tritone subs
  • Forward motion
  • Melody
  • Pedal points
  • Triads
  • Repeated notes
  • Motific development

And its all happening on the fly often at scorching tempo’s, and the way they got there was through dedicated practice and having clearly defined goals. 

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