Building Walking Bass Lines That Will Engage Audiences

walking linesBlues, jazz; it’s all about groove. And the grooviest bass lines of all time are walking bass lines.


They simply make you want to move your head.

In this lesson, we’ll give you an example of a basic walking bass line, and talk you through it step by step, but first, there are a few things you should consider.

Walking bass lines are steady quarter note melodies. They can be linear (taking only one direction, either ascending or descending) or nonlinear (taking two directions, both ascending and descending).

Our walking bass line example will be a nonlinear walking bass line pattern, but before we get to it, you need to assess your skills.

How Comfortable Are You With Following Rhythms?

In order to approach a walking bass line, it is best that you have a fully developed sense of rhythm. This is not only because rhythm is the prime aspect of groove, but also because when you are playing the primary time keeping note values of a time signature (in this case, quarter notes within a 4/4 time signature), you become the center of rhythm.

This means if you are in a band, or just jamming out, your fellow musicians and friends are going to be keeping time with your pace. This also means that if you are sloppily running through your allotted time signature (again in this case, 4/4) they will be as well.

If you don’t have a full sense of rhythm, or if you are a bit doubtful of your skills, it is best that you take some time with a metronome to develop the necessary time keeping skills required for a walking bass line. This means that you should be playing along with the metronome, beginning each note on the click and holding it until the next click, where you will be once again starting a new note.

lessons and tips on bass lines

If you are confident in your rhythm abilities, or once you have developed them, we can get to the meat of the lesson.

As stated earlier, walking bass lines are made of a steady quarter note rhythm. The walking feel occurs as a result of the bass line simply marching on along with the primary beat of the time signature.

Let’s Start Off With Something Easy

Below is our example of a simple walking bass pattern. Even though it is simple, it is best that you take the time, and with a metronome, approach the pattern at a slower pace. This will not only allow for muscle memory to run its course, but also will familiarize your entire body with the walking feel of the pattern.

simple exercise

Download the .gtp file for the lesson ( Right click and Save As… )

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As you can see, the bass line is very basic. The key for constructing a good walking bass line isn’t to dress it up; it’s to create a groove that is easy to follow.

Pay attention to the open notes towards the end, and how the G is the last note of the riff, as well as the first note; this means when played in a loop, you will need to play to G’s, or else your timing will be short a quarter note.

Once you have practiced and learned this simply walking bass line, try creating your own walking bass lines. Remember, have fun, and be patient.

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