Jazz: Walking Bass Lines: Two Beats per Chord

Chord Tones

You can get a lot of mileage by using nothing but chord tones in your bass lines. For a chord that lasts for two beats, play the root on the first [strong] beat, then another chord tone on the next [weak] beat. Here are some ideas for walking through a IM7-vi7-ii7-V7 progression...

Chord Tones: 1-5 Pattern

Here is a CM7-Am7-Dm7-G7 (IM7-vii7-ii7-V7) progression using the fifth of each chord as the connector. Notice that sometimes the ascending fifths are inverted into descending fourths in order to keep the line in a pleasing register...

walking bass lines

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Chord Tones: 1-3 Pattern

Here is the same CM7-Am7-Dm7-G7 progression using the third of each chord as the connector. Notice that sometimes the ascending thirds are inverted into descending sixths in order to keep the line in a pleasing register...

walking bass lines

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Neighbor Tone Approach

Approach each target from the very nearest note in the prevailing diatonic scale, either from above or below. For example, the target note C can be approached either from B below or D above. Let's apply this idea to our CM7-Am7-Dm7-G7 progression...

walking bass lines

Notice that many neighbor tones also happen to be chord tones from the previous chord!

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Side-Slipping

Closely related to the neighbor tone idea, side-slipping means to approach each target from the very nearest note, either from above or below, whether it is diatonic or not. For example, the target note C can be approached either from B (diatonic) below or Db (non-diatonic) above. Because the harmonic resolution from each connector to each target is so strong, side-slipping is a very effective way to build momentum and melodic interest in the bass line. Let's apply this idea to our CM7-Am7-Dm7-G7 progression...

walking bass lines

Reading Tip: Each sharp and flat indicates a non-diatonic note that is right next to the note that follows. While all of the accidentals make this bass line look complicated, it is really quite simple. All you have to do is to think backwards from the target note (the chord root) that you are trying to hit, then "slide" or "slip" into it from the nearest note (either above or below). Now all you have to do is practice until it becomes second-nature.

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