Tag Archives: walking bass and chords

5 Levels of Walking Bass And Chords – A Great Comping Approach

Ever since I heard Joe Pass play walking bass and chords behind Ella Fitzgerald, I was completely sold and found that to be the ultimate way to comp in a duo. Something that I then also spent a lot of time practicing and later putting to use on gigs.

Comping like that with several layers happening at the same time can be a bit tricky, so in this video, I am going to show you how to develop it, what to pay attention to and how to practice this type of playing and even take it one step further.

Level 1 – Walking Bass Fundamentals

The best place to start is by first constructing a bassline and then add chords under it.

The way I learned this was by transcribing walking bass off albums, but you can actually construct them pretty easily using a few guidelines.

Keep in mind that working on this is actually also very useful for your soloing, because like a great solo line, then a strong walking bass is moving forward and has momentum towards the next chord.

When you play walking lines on the guitar then you are only using the two lowest strings, E and A, which is also going to make it easier to add chords later since that is where you generally place bass notes when you play Shell voicings, Drop2 or Drop3 voicings, and you have plenty of string to add the chord while you play the bassline.

For this video I am going to use a basic progression, just to have a few different things to work with so I am using: Cmaj7 Em7 A7 Dm7 G7 Cmaj7

It is just a slightly embellished I VI II V so Cmaj7 A7 Dm7 G7 C

Learn To Compose Basslines

Before you start just improvising basslines then it is useful to know how to compose them, and that is pretty easy to do.

For now, you can focus on having a walking bass that moves from root note to root note, so let’s add those and then use that to construct the rest:

For the bass line to really connect with the chords and be clear then I have the root note on the first beat and for the chords that last one bar I have also already put a chord tone on beat 3, for Cmaj7 G, Dm7: A and G7: D. That is an easy way to get a bass line that really sounds like the chords. You can also use the 3rd on beat 3, it just has to be a strong basic chord tone.

For now, I am only using chord tones and diatonic notes to go from one chord to the next, and mostly I will use chord tones, again this is because you want a bassline that really sounds like the chord.

For the Cmaj7 bar, here I can easily go from C to G by adding the E in between, and to go from G to E on Em7 then F is an obvious diatonic passing note, just walking down the scale.

On Em7 then B is a great option for a chord tone to take us to A on A7. You could have used G as well, but B is closer and easier to play. In a similar way the 3rd, C#, works to takes us from A to Dm7.

With Dm7, I need to move down to A, and the 7th, C is a good option there. Moving to G is done by just going down the arpeggio to the low 3rd: F.

The G7 is using the triad, and here you can reuse the 3rd, B, as a leading note to C

Example Level 1

Level 2 – Adding Chords

Adding chords to a bass line like this is pretty simple. I am going to start with some easy shell-voicings and just add them around each chord change:

Example Level 2

Before we start adding chromatic passing notes and chromatic chords, then let’s just have a look at what is going on: All I do here is to add the rest of the chord whenever the chord changes, so

On the G7 you have a delayed chord which adds some more syncopation and energy to what is going on and this is something you want to explore as well and that you will see a lot more of later in the video.

Learn Shell-voicings (and be a Happy Jazz Guitarist)

As you will see then most of the chords in this video are either directly shell-voicings or derived from shell-voicings, and if you want to see how much you can create starting from this easy and basic structure then check out this video.

Level 3 – Chromatic Passing Notes

Until now the bassline was using either chord tones or diatonic notes, but since the point of a walking bass is to keep the music moving then adding some tension with chromatic passing notes is a great thing to do as well. So let’s add that and also some variation in the rhythm:

Example Level 3

So this is roughly the same bassline, but now, there are a few chromatic notes in there as well:

I have added a D# as an 8th note to lead to E on Em7 so that is both an extra leading note and a more active rhythm. In the next bar, you also have the Bb and the Eb leading notes.

As you can see then I add the leading notes before the chord change to add some extra forward motion, that extra tension that is then resolved when you get the root of the next chord.

On the Dm7 then the Ab is now taking us to G which is actually easier to play than the F. The G7 bassline has a Db on beat 4, and here this is also harmonized with a chromatic passing chord: Db7 which then resolves to Cmaj7.

As you can hear then you can also add complete chords as ways of making things move more or be more exciting. Let’s add a lot more of those and also add some more color to the chords.

Level 4 – Chromatic Chords

Example Level 4

(highlight dom7th chords with extensions in sheet music)

Here I am adding notes to most of the chords, giving the dominants 9ths and 13ths, and really just adding color to the sound.

I also harmonize some of the leading notes. Since the point of a leading note is to create tension that is resolved then harmonizing it with a dominant chord is often a very good idea as you can see on the Cmaj7 bar where I am harmonizing the F bass note with an F7 that then resolves to Em7, or turning the Ab bass noted turning into an Ab7 that resolves to G7.

The basic principle is really just to harmonize the bass notes, and you can take it even further and then put a chord under all the bass notes, which gives you a harmonized bassline.

Level 5 – Harmonized Bassline

Example Level 5

Here you are harmonizing every bass note with a chord and using inversions and other voicings to connect the whole thing. Most of the time I simplified the chords a little because it gets a bit busy if they are all 4-note chords with a lot of notes and complicated sounds.

You can find some great examples of Jim Hall playing like this, and Joe Pass also does this in some places when he is playing with Ella. Often when you do this you also use more chromatic passing chords simply because that is practical instead of changing voicings all the time, but that also depends on the tempo.

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Walking Bass Jazz Guitar Lesson on All The Things You Are

Playing Walking Bass Jazz Guitar Comping is really a great full way to comp in a duo setting. The walking bass really helps you lay down the groove and you can add the chords to make the harmony clear but also as accents in the rhythm. All The Things You Are is a great jazz standard to check this out on and you probably are already familiar with the song.

Playing these two layers at the same time is challenging in this lesson I am going to discuss some of the things that you want to check out like playing bass lines over several bars of one chord. Adding variation in the bass line rhythms and dealing with higher tempos.

All The Things You Are – Walking Bass Jazz Guitar

This example is a little faster than what I usually do. It demonstrates how I reuse bigger parts of lines on similar progressions very well. It also shows how I use changing positions when playing on the same chord for several bars. 

The First A part – Arpeggio basslines and sliding leading notes

The bassline and chords are clearly displaying that I mostly add the chords on the 1& except on the strong parts of the form like in the first bar. Having the chord on the 1& is technically quite easy and just adds a little extra color and an accent.

The basslines in the first 6 bars are really all constructed from arpeggio notes adding a chromatic leading notes on beat 4 when necessary. This makes the lines very clear and easy to relate to the chords.

On the G7 in bar 6 I have an extra leading note that I slide into the resolution on the Cmaj7. This a great way to embellish the basslines and it will work even at higher tempos where for example 8th note triplets might not be that practical.

On the Cmaj7 the first bar is in the position around the 3rd fret and then moves up to the 8th fret for the second bar. This is one way to deal with several bars of Cmaj7.

Second A – Shifting position and keeping the groove going

The 2nd A also has basslines consisting of arpeggio notes and the occoasional leading tone. Except for the first chord Cm7, which has a more scalar bass melody.

The Transition from Bb7 to Ebmaj7 is aided with an extra sliding leading note from D to Eb.

On the Gmaj7 the bass line is again shifting from 3rd to 10th position and in this case I don’t include a chord on the 2nd bar of the Gmaj7.  To me the most important part of playing like this is to keep the bass moving and therefore it is not always essential to have a chord in there.

The Bridge – Walk yourself out of a tight spot

The first part of the bridge is a II V I in G major. The bass and chords are actually playing the exact same movement as in Bars 2-4 This is a good example of a large chunk being “re-cycled” in another key.

This time the Gmaj7 bassline does not shift position in the second bar. this is because I want to stay in the same region for the II V I in E that follows.

In the II V I to E major the F#m is again an arpeggio but this time the arpeggio is shifting up along the 6th string.  This makes the B7 in the 7th fret is easy to reach. Playing bass lines like this can be very useful to not “walk yourself into a corner”. Having the B7 up there makes it possible to avoid the Emaj7 which is not so easy to have in there with the low open E string.

The C7 is approached with an slide extra and the bassline is a straight C major triad. 

The Last A part

I have an extra leading note on the C7 at the end of the bridge, but in this case the transition to the Fm7 is using a hammer-on instead of a slide to move from E to F.

The Bbm7, Eb7 and Abmaj7 are very similar to the first A.

The descending IV IVm progression

The final 8 bars of the song is IV IVm, III, bIIIdim to a II V I.

The First Dbmaj7 is played in the 4th position but then moves up to play Dbm6 in the 9th position. From here it descends to th 8th for Cm7 and the 7th for the Bdim chord.

The final II V I cadence is again using the same bass line as bars 2-3. This time the final Ab chord is placed on the beat mark the ending of the song. The last bars are a II V back to F incase you want to loop the chorus.

Walking bass etudes and making your own

I hope you can use the exercises and the example to get started making your own Walking bass and chords comping examples. Of course my example can serve as a good etude. You should also used it as a source of inspiration for your own walking bass ideas.

Get Started Soloing on All The Things You Are

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Walking Bass and Chords on a Bb Blues – Jazz Guitar Lesson

Walking Bass and Chords is one of the greatest ways to comp if you are the only one playing behind a soloist like a horn or a singer. In this lesson, I am going to go over a Walking bass comp on a  12 bar Bb Jazz Blues and how you play it on guitar. The video is based on a recording I made and transcribed.
Some of the things I discuss are on making walking bass lines on guitar, how to play them, and how to add chords to your bassline. I also discuss shell voicings and drop3 voicings as being very useful for this type of guitar comping

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The Blues and the Bassline

The Blues is probably the most important progression in Jazz, as well as in a lot of other genres.

In the example that I play in the video, I am using a few more advanced embellishments with adding extra notes in the bass line and harmonizing extra notes. 

Here is an example:

The analysis of the Bass line and chord voicings

The first bar is a prime example of a simple very usable bassline on the Bb7. On the one of the bar, the Root is in the bass and a Bb7(13) voicing is added. The bass line melody for the rest of the bar is a Bb triad. On beat 4 I have an E as a leading note for Eb. 

To break up the quarter note bassline I add a D under the Eb that I then use a hammer on to lead into the bar. This adds a bit of variation and makes the line a bit more exciting both melodically and rhythmically.

On the Eb7 the chord is on the 1 and. The function of having a short stab on a chord like that is more to add to the groove than to make the harmony clear. You can hear this if you compare to bar 1. The bass line is again all chord tones with an A leading note on beat 4 to take us back to Bb7.

The A is harmonized with an A7 that acts as a leading chord to the Bb7 on one of the following bar. The A7 is a shell voicing. 

Reusing the bassline and adding a tritone sub.

On the Bb7 the chord is the same shell-voicing as the A7. The bass line is identical to bar 1 using the triad and the E leading note. Here the E can be used to lead into an Fm7.

The final bar of the first line is an Fm7 E7. Here the bass line is very simple. For both chords, it is 1 then 5. The chords are here played as sustained chords. This helps to make the sound of the extra chords clear. 

The Eb7, Diminished chord, and the minor II V

Bar 5 is the beginning of a new 4 bar period. The chord is placed on the one to make the change to the subdominant clear. The bass line is the same as in bar 2, except on beat 4 where I have an Eb to lead into the Edim that follows.

On the next bar, the Edim is E, Eb Db A. Here E and Db are chord tones. The Eb serves as a diatonic leading note and the A is a chromatic approach note to Bb.

Bb7 and the II V to C minor

Bar 6 takes the progression back to Bb. The bassline is again a Bb major triad and the final leading note Eb is there to take us to the II V to Cm in the next bar.

The Dø G7 has a Drop2 voicing for the Dø and a Drop3 G7(b13) for the G7. The bass line is using the b5 of D to lead down to the root of G. On the G7 there is a Db to lead down to the C in bar 9.

F7 altered and some more leading chords

The II V back to Bb is moving between two positions. The line starts on the low C where the Cm9 voicing is. It then walks up the scale with a leading note to the F7. On the F7 the bass line is 1 b7 5 b5. I add a chord on the 1 and. It is an F7(#9). The b5(B) is harmonized with a B7 shell voicing to resolve back to Bb7.

The final turnaround is Bb7 G7alt Cm7 F7 alt. The Bb7 is harmonized with a Bb7 shell voicing and the bass line continues up to an F to lead up to G. The G7 has aG7(#9) voicing and the next bass note is a Db to lead down to C in Cm7.

On the Cm7 the same idea is used. The bassline is 1 b5 and there is a chord on the 1 and. On the F7 the bass line is 1 then 5. The chord that is added is an F7(#9).

Practice the chord voicings

To practice the voicings you can use this exercise shown in example 2. As you can see most of the chords are really quite common drop3 and shell or shell based voicing that we play all the time.

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How To Play Walking Bass and Chords on Guitar – Study Guide

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Walking Bass and Chords – Solar

One of the nicest ways to comp in a duo setting is to play walking bass and chords at the same time. In this lesson I am going to go over a 2 chorus example on the song solar and demonstrate how you can construct bass lines, make some rhythmical variations and use passing chords and leading notes.

Walking bass line melodies

Walking bass line melodies are a bit different from the normal melodies we use when we play a solo. You need to be able to technically play the bass a nd the chords at the same time.

In this lesson I will go through the example and use that to demonstrate how I make bass lines and how I use devices like passing chords and chromatic leading notes.

Playing bass lines

The best way to play this type of accompaniment is best played by playing the bass with your thumb and the remaining fingers can then add chords on top once in a while.

The important part of the groove is the bass so you should probably strive to keep that going and then add chords once in a while as it is possible without disrupting the flow of the music. Think of the chords as being a spice or embellishment and the bass as the meat of what is happening. 

Writing bass lines

Walking bass lines are based on the harmony that they are played under. I am assuming that you know what the chord tones are for the different chords since this is something you have to be familiar with if you want to be able to make your own lines.

In the first 4 bars we have 2 bars of tonic C minor. In the first bar we have a C on the one, and use a diatonic passing note(D) to get to the Eb. I then skip down to a B because I want to go back to C in the next C minor bar. The 2nd bar has the same bass line but now we end on an A to go down to G on Gm7. The Gm7 line is identical to the one on Cm, just transposed to G. On the 4 in that bar we have a chromatic leading note(B) to C. 

Open strings and arpeggios

On the C7 I am using an open string. This is something that double bass players do very often and we might as well take over that concept when ever possible. In this case it allows me to go from C down to a low E where I can then continue up to the 5th(G) and go chromatically down towards F.


Chromatic passing chords

On the two bars of F major I am first using a scale movement to get from the low F in the first bar to a high F in the 2nd bar. The 2nd bar is using a bass line that I use on several chords: 1 7 5 leading note. In this case the next chord is an Fm7 so we can reuse the 7 as a leading note. The same bass line is used on the Fm7, but now of course with a b7 and a B leading note down to Bb. In this bar I have also chosen to harmonize the B as a B7 that then moves down and resolves to a Bb7 on the 1 of the next bar.

Sliding rhythms

The bass line on the Bb7 is just the triad followed by a leading note, but I am adding an extra leading note below the target(Eb) on the 4 and. I then slide up to Eb, this breaks up the rhythm nicely and is a good way to add some variation.


On the Ebmaj7 I am using the same idea as on the first Fmaj7, so here I start on the Eb and then skip down to the 5th to move up the scale stepwise. In this way I am landing on the Eb on the one of the next bar for the Ebm7.

Fast II V progressions

The Ebm7 Ab7 is a very typical bass line where the 3rd and the 5th of the chords become leading notes for the next chord. On the Dbmaj7 the bass line is just the triad and then repeating the root on 4 because it also works as a leading note to Dm7b5. The bassline on that is Dm7(b5): 1 b5 G7: 1 5 where the 5(D) is leading down to C in the next chorus.


The 2nd chorus

The firs 2 bars of the 2nd chorus are almost identical to the 1st chorus. The only difference is that now I want to go to a higher G so I have an F as a leading note to G on the 4 of the 2nd bar.

The Gm7 bass line is consisiten of a descending Gm7 arpeggio which nicely encircles the root of C7. The C7 is using the same sliding trick as I used on Eb in the first chorus so that we can slide an “extra” E up to the F on Fmaj7.


The Fmaj7 bass line is only consisting of arpeggio notes. First leading back to F and then pointing towards the low F so that we now have a low Fm7. On the Fm7 we have a scale wise ascending bass line that adds a chromatic leading note(A) to go to Bb. The A is here harmonized with an A7 that resolves up to Bb7. The Bb7 bar is identical to the first chorus.


The final 4 bars are again using mostly basslines that I have already talked about. The Ebmaj7 is using the 1 7 5 7 bassline. The II V to Db are using a similar idea as in the first chorus, but it is turned around so that we have Ebm7 1 5 Ab7 1 3 and then continues with a Dbmaj7 bassline that goes by the 6th of the chord.. On the final II V I am playing Dm7(b5): 1 b5 and G: 1 b5 to resolve to Cm6/9


Practising and playing bass lines

When you are working on basslines then the name of the game is to think ahead. It is probably best to be aware of where you want to be on the next bar and then choose a bass line that takes you there in one chúnk.

All the chords I use are thought of as voicings with the root in the bass. That means that the chord is place around the one of the bar where I play the root of the chord.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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