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

Now, Build Your Own Walking Bass Line

Now, let's summarize how you can start taking advantage of the key points in this bass tutorial for yourself.  A quick summary will keep things simple and straightforward:

Bass Tutorial Step 1: Chord TonesFirst, by constraining our note choices to chord tones, we are reinforcing the chord progression.  This contributes to the bass line being stable.


Bass Tutorial Step 2: Common TonesNext, by identifying common tones between chords, you can reinforce the line's stability while enhancing the motion between chords.  Common tones also maintain some "safe zones" on the fretboard (tones you can fall back on).  With common tones, you know you can return to them at any point in time to lock in with the song's chord progression.

Bass Tutorial Step 3: Contour and FlowFinally, you'll want to explore using rhythmic variation, chromatics and leading tones to add contour and flow.  Take it one step further by constraining your note choices to only those notes within 4 semitones (or frets) of your current location.  Do all this and you can be sure that listeners are hearing a well-balanced and well-contoured bass line.  If people understand your bass line intuitively, then they can groove to it.

[bctt tweet="If people understand your bass line intuitively, then they can groove to it." username="music_protest"]

Build Your Own Bass Guitar Lines

Music is a fascinating study, but it is an even richer experience. That's what the following hands on exercise is all about.  Now, it is time for you to compose your own walking bass line by following the 3 steps we just outlined.  Don't be shy - soon you'll understand just how fun all of this music theory can be.

Jam Track

  1. Download the jam track made especially for this tutorial. It contains exactly the chord progression we've been talking about and plays back at a tempo of 110 bpm.
  2. Play the arpeggios for each chord keeping time with the jam track. If this seems too hard at first, practice memorizing major, minor and dominant arpeggios - you can download arpeggio bass tab here.
  3. Be alert about playing common tones.  Perhaps you could emphasize them by simply playing them twice as you're playing the arpeggios in time, with the jam track.  It doesn't matter how you emphasize common tones as long as you're training yourself to be aware of them.  That's the main idea - be aware of what you're doing.
  4. Create more interest and motion using rhythmic variation, chromatics and leading tones.
  5. Next, navigate between notes, constraining yourself to notes that are within a 4 semitone range (or 4 frets) of your current location at any point in time. This is a great way to experiment with improvising and creating cool walking bass lines on-the-fly.

Conclusion (DIY Walking Bass Line Tab)

Typically, students struggle to achieve all of this with satisfactory results. So, don't be discouraged if your first attempt doesn't result in an amazing bass line.  Instead, continue to try this hands on exercise 5 or 6 more times. If you're still having trouble, then you'd be well-advised to focus some time learning the following:

  1. Download this arpeggio bass tab and memorize the root position arpeggios for major, minor and dominant 7th chords. These are the main 3 chord qualities you need to master (and they will probably be all you'll ever need).  You'll have them memorized when you can play them at 200 bpm with a metronome or drum machine.
  2. Learn the names of the arpeggio notes (i.e. chord tones) within every major, minor and dominant chord. Quiz yourself: "What's the 7th of an Ab7 chord? What's the 3rd of a G7 chord?" and so on...

The 3-step process outlined here is useful in any genre of music.  I've used walking bass in rock bands, electronic music and cover bands. Once you master the technique, you'll find that you can put your own artistic signature on your bass lines for whatever style you want to play. Remember that bass lines must be stable and have motion to be compelling. Mastering these 3 steps will empower your bass lines to always be stable and energetic. Furthermore, these 3 steps encourage improvisation, so your bass lines will always be your OWN creation.

If you have questions or something you'd like to add, please comment below. If you learned something new, let us know! Thanks for reading and good luck!

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