Five Steps to Walking Basslines on Guitar
When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the things that many players want to explore and get under their fingers is walking basslines.
Though learning how to walk a bassline (and comp at the same time) can take a lot of experience and time in the woodshed, there are a few rules and pointers you can follow in order to get you off on the right foot as you begin to explore the world of basslines for jazz guitar.
In this lesson, we’ll be looking at five easy steps you can take to create a cool-sounding and fun-to-play bassline over a ii-V-I chord progression.
Check out the notation examples below as a reference, and then view the video for an in-depth look at each of the five steps, including hearing these lines in action. To read more about walking basslines for guitar, check out my series “How to Walk Basslines for Jazz Guitar.” And be sure to read my other Jazz Guitar Corner columns here!
Step 1: ii V I Chords
Start off by finding the chord voicings for the ii V I you want to practice with a bassline. In this lesson, we’re using the following chords in the key of G major. Get these chords under your fingers first before moving on to the bassline section of the lesson.
Step 2: Add Root on Beat 1
Once you have the chords down, you can now start building your bassline by adding in a root note on the first beat of each bar.
Step 3: Add Chromatic Note on Beat 4
Once you have the root note on the first beat, you can add a chromatic approach note on beat 4 that leads into the next chord by a half-step above or below that root note.
Step 4: Add Chromatic Note on Beat 3
You can now add another chromatic note on beat 3 of the bar. Again, you can use two chromatic notes below the next root, two above the next root, one above and one below, or one below and one above the next root note in the progression.
Step 5: Add Diatonic Note on Beat 2
Lastly, you add a diatonic note from the chord or scale you are on to beat 2 of the bar. This completes all four quarter notes and you are now walking a bassline over a ii V I chord progression.
Learn how to play walking basslines can seem tough at first. But, with a few simple guidelines such as the five presented above, you’ll be walking basslines on your guitar in no time. How do you practice Walking Basslines for guitar? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all experience levels meet their practice and performance goals. Matt lives in the UK, where he is a senior lecturer at the Leeds College of Music and an examiner for the London College of Music (Registry of Guitar Tutors).