Walking Bass Lines That Swing

by | Comping, Courses

This is the first in a 2 Part Series on Walking Bass Lines. In this first part we are going to use a major chord progression as the vehicle to learn the concept. In a future 2nd part, I will cover minor chord progressions.

For this lesson I will be using the I-VI-II-V progression which is commonly associated with Rhythm Changes and of course many jazz turnarounds.

(transcribed from the video)

3 Simple Rules To Create Better Walking Bass Lines

When we play chords in combination with a walking bass line, we have to think like a bass player, within the register limitations of the guitar. So the first thing I’m going to lay down are a set of simple rules which will make your bass lines sound more convincing:

  1. Always play the root on the first downbeat of every chord change. If you are playing a walking bass line on guitar, it means that there is no bass player. So your role is now to hold the fort down by playing those roots while others solo. In other words, it is your responsibility to anchor the harmony. Not doing so, on at least most of the chord changes, will result in harmonic chaos. That is, if you play other notes on that first downbeat, especially on a low register such as the 6th string, you will imply a different chord which may or may not work in relation to what the soloist is playing.
  2. Always play the root, either on the 6th or 5th string. Other than the fact that we want to you use the lowest acceptable register available, this simply means that all our chords will be in root position, at least when played on the initial down beat.
  3. Use smooth voice leading at the point of chord transition. And smooth voice leading means that we want to approach the new root and chord preferably by step-wise motion…that is a minor or major second. Try not to exceed an interval of a major 3rd.


The “Walking Bass Lines That Swing” Mini Course Files can be downloaded for $12.00 (Includes Parts 1 & 2). Your contribution is much appreciated, as it helps support the site and allows me to keep investing the long hours required to produce these lessons. The download includes: 2 Sets of PDFs with both regular notation and TAB for all 16 major & minor lines, 2 MP3s including all 16 lines, and 2 Band in a Box File (1 for major/ 1 for minor).

For those that don’t use PayPal…when you click the button below, it will give you the option to pay with any major credit card without the need to sign up for PayPal.  Note that you must be logged in for the payment and download links to be visible!

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