Walking Bass Line Tutorial in 3 Steps (with Bass Tab)

Overview of a Walking Bass Line

An awesome walking bass line uses chord tones, common tones, contour and flow. Read on and learn how you can build walking bass guitar lines.   This bass tutorial includes audio samples, walking bass line tab and a custom jam track.  So, lets get started!

The bass line is often the lifeblood of any song or live performance.  A "walking" bass line is popular because it provides both energy and stability. If the bass lacks energy, then the song or performance will lack energy, too. In addition, if the bass is unstable, the song becomes unstable as well. The simplest way to elevate the emotional impact of your song is with a great bass line.  This is true, whether you're playing your a synth, upright, cello or bass guitar.

First and foremost a bass line must be stable.  This is because it is, quite literally, the base (pun intended) upon which your musical structure stands. Like the foundation of a building, the bass line has to support all of the activity that depends and relies upon it. Fortunately, we can achieve this stability easily.  We start by focusing on every musician's best friend - the arpeggio.

Arpeggios Create Stability

Arpeggios will make your bass line stable by creating a solid link to the harmony (a.k.a. chords).  Using arpeggio tones will spell out the harmony for your listeners. Since an arpeggio consists of the same pitches in any given chord, arpeggios function like chords. Great bass players make sure they're using the notes in the current chord at all times. This takes effort and time to study and learn. However, learning to do this is essential, so...   It's like learning to mix concrete correctly before pouring the foundation of your house!

"Walking" Creates Motion

Next, an awesome bass line will convey plenty of energy.  This gets people moving on the dance floor. Plus, it will animate the other musical elements in the song (like the melody or harmony).  To help me make my point, I'll replace the term "energy" with "motion" as we continue.

Motion in a bass line does 3 important things:

  1. Animates all of the other elements in the song
  2. Keeps the listener engaged
  3. Keeps feet on the dance floor

When a bass player continually moves between chord tones (notes in an arpeggio), they are well on their way to playing a walking bass line. When you hear it, a walking bass line has inherent motion.  It *sounds* like walking *feels*.  Hence, it is called a "walking" bass line - kinda obvious, right?!

[bctt tweet="Since an arpeggio consists of the same pitches in any given chord, arpeggios function like chords." username="music_protest"]

Now, we have a way to stablize our bass guitar lines.  We've also talked about creating motion (a.k.a. energy). In the following pages and paragraphs, we're going to define a very simple, 3-step process for extracting a great walking bass line from ANY chord progression.

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