Walking Bass Lines

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. 

What is a Walking Bass Line?

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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Soloing over Chord Changes

Learning the Art of soloing over changes.

Just like the walking bass line there are key components that make a solo sound and feel good.

What is it that makes a solo sound so good? 

  • Inspiration
  • Feel or groove
  • Melodic ideas
  • Phrasing
  • Quoting from the melody
  • Playing good time
  • Harmonic rhythm
  • Chord substitutions
  • Voice leading
  • Anticipating the harmony 
  • Melodic and rhythmic development
  • Structure

As you can see there’s many things that can be used to build a good solo and many of the options and decisions come down to the individual players experience.


Bass Lessons and where to start.

Studying with a good bass teacher is essential for the beginning bass player and can also be beneficial to bass players that are more experienced. Sometimes just hearing a different perspective on a common topic or device can inspire motivation and the rejuvenate the creative thought process especially when encountering hiring a wall or suffering from creative block.

Depending on where you are, it can be difficult to find a good in person Bass teacher. Now with the popularity and improvements in platforms like Zoom it’s possible to study from anywhere you have a reliable internet connection.

Over the years of teaching bass players of different ages and stages of development  I have developed a system that enables a student to work on key interests, while incorporating essential bass rudiments and fundamentals at the same time. 

A developed system.

Walking Bass Workshop – The Blues

Learn the fundamental techniques of building swinging bass lines that outline the chord changes using the classic jazz blues progression as a vehicle for your journey. Master blues walking bass lines while learning the underlying jazz harmony and theory.

Developing a Walking Bass Line Vocabulary

  • Walkin the Blues
  • The Jazz Blues progression
  • Analyzing the Form
  • The Two Feel
  • Embellishing The Two Feel
  • Two Feel Rhythmic Devices
  • Dominant 7th Chord
  • Chromatic Approach from Below
  • Chromatic Approach from Above
  • The Walk Up and Walk Down
  • Repeated Notes and Chromaticism
  • Harmonic Anticipation and Playing Over the Bar Line
  • Voice Leading 7th Chords
  • Pedal Points 
  • Tritone Substitution
  • The Turnaround
  • Putting It All Together
  • Bebop Major Blues Chord Progression
  • Bebop Blues Putting It All Together

Walking Bass Workshop – Rhythm Changes 

Take your knowledge of walking bass lines a step further following on from Walking Bass Workshop Pt I – The Blues by learning the classic jazz standard Rhythm Changes. Rhythm Changes, like the Blues is an important part of the jazz repertoire.

Walking Bass for Guitar  – The Blues 

Learn to walk bass lines and play shell voicing for solo guitar using the classic jazz standard The Blues. Expand your knowledge of jazz harmony while following examples of walking bass lines with shell voicings.

Walking Bass Lines books
Walking bass lines books for upright and electric bass players
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