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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here:

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