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From Blues Lines To Jazz Walking

Kevin Guin

Bass Edu

From Blues Lines To Jazz Walking

There are plenty of things to work on that can help you spice up your blues lines and learn to tread the middle ground between blues lines and jazz walking lines. 

It’s a very common situation when you’re playing blues lines to reach out for a little more variety and at the same time find that you are limited to starting the measure off with roots, roots and more roots. 

There isn’t anything wrong with playing roots. We’re bass players and rootin’ around down there in the basement is just how we like it. But when you want to expand the possibilities for your bass lines you will want to learn how to use any and all chord tones on the top of the measure to outline the chord in interesting and effective ways. 

The purpose of the lesson is to give bass players a way to build a new and expanded skill set for their blues walking lines that will put them closer to jazz walking bass if they do eventually want go in that direction. 

Even if you claim to have no jazz tendencies at all, as a blues player at heart you will still be able to add great interest to your lines by working on this material. 

Click to download the play along mp3’s if you need a little help with some comping material for the lesson. And please visit me online at

With a familiar three chord G major blues you will learn to use common chord tones to kick off the measure where you would normally use the root of the chord. And as you might have guessed, these common alternate chord tones are the third, fifth and seventh degrees. It gives a nice flavor to the line and can create some very sneaky sounding chromatic shapes, too. 

The examples themselves all start on G7 and run for four bars to the four chord, ie, C7. There are recognizable parts to all of the lines: triadic material, some pentatonics, and of course major mode stuff as well. The point is to learn to hear the sound of the line when you plow into a measure using an alternate chord tone instead of the root. 

Please take your time learning these lines.

I want you to memorize the lines but also to sing each note and determine exactly which degree of the chord the notes are. By playing bass lines, dissecting bass lines, and singing bass lines you will get massive benefits in the long run!

In these particular examples you can think of the scale material for your bass lines as a major scale with a flat seventh: the dominant seven sound, the Mixolydian sound. Of course, most blues lead players won’t be using that modal sound for their melodies. But when a bass player thinks in those terms for putting together the actual bass line then it creates a solid foundation for the chordal players as well as the lead players.

It’s that minor bluesy melody over the major harmony which gives blues a big part of it’s undeniable musical attraction. 

Take note of the fact that the example lines are geared towards linear shapes with lots of chromatics (as opposed to a more intervallic approach). It makes for a strong direction to the line and a classic jazzy sound. These lines dopush the envelope of what is usually used on a three-chord blues tune but they sound great and you can learn a lot about bass lines by learning to play them, sing them and use them in various ways.

I truly hope that you can make time for focused practicing and to learn how to enjoy your time as a musician. It’s a great job to have.

Thanks for stopping in – Kevin

ps Don’t forget to download the play along mp3’s if you need a little help with some comping material for the lesson.

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