By Guest Contributor Bogdan Radovic
Learn Walking Bass…
Interested in why you need to learn walking bass? Check out these top 10 reasons why…
Did you know that there is a single thing that you can learn on bass that will change everything? The way you think, the way you improvise, the way you compose bass lines. Everything. You might have heard about it before, but never really gave it much thought.
It’s called Walking Bass. Keep reading till the end, because I’ve got a gift for you! (Hint: free bass course!)
But I play [rock, funk, metal, insert your passion here] with my friends on weekends, I hear you say?
I get it. I’ve been there too. I would hear a walking bass line on stage at a small jazz gig and be amazed at how the bass player pulls it off. I would then listen to a SKA band out on a big stage at a beer festival, and there it was again – a bouncy ska walking bass line. Still cool, but not necessary or worth looking further into, I thought.
Years go by, and I finally decided to give it a try – and this happened:
Reason #1 – Chords
The first reason you want to learn how to play walking bass is that you’ll learn about chords. Unlike guitar or keyboard players, as a bass player, you rarely get to play chords. Understandably, because it just sounds terrible when you strum a chord on bass. Too low, too muddy. As a bass player, you’re 90% of the time playing single-note lines, outlining chords.
But here’s the thing, how much attention do you pay to chords outside of figuring out the root note you need to stick to?
When you’re learning walking bass, one of the fundamental concepts you’ll get to work on is understanding chords and the theory behind them. You’ll know which notes are in the C major chord, and you’ll know which notes are in D minor 7 chord, etc. Not only that, but you’ll visually start seeing those notes on the bass fretboard just by thinking about those chords. Neat isn’t it?
Reason #2 – Listening
The second reason for learning walking bass is that you’ll start to listen. So far, you might have been used to learning songs with the help of tabs and playing them along with the band, but did you really listen? Did you really listen to what the drummer is doing in a live jam situation? Did you listen to the guitar player? That’s exactly what you’ll learn by practicing walking bass.
You’ll learn to listen to others more than you ever have before.
Reason #3 – Improvisation
This leads us to the next reason, which is one of the most eye-opening moments you’ll experience in your bass playing career – learning how to improvise.
The coolest thing about walking bass is that you get to improvise a bass line right there on the spot. You just need a chart with chord changes, and you’re good to go.
Even if you never heard a song – no problem, you’re good.
When you learn walking bass, you essentially learn how to improvise those walking bass lines. You’ll know which notes you can play over which chord and you’ll train yourself to do it in real-time. Pretty fantastic skill, right?
Reason #4 – Theory Basics
Learning the walking bass will introduce the most useful theory concepts that you have to learn. You’ll learn about intervals, triads, arpeggios, note durations, scales, etc. But it won’t be just a theory drill with no practical application.
With walking bass, every theory concept you learn will immediately apply in your playing. Finally, a practical way to learn music theory.
I know many of you, especially beginners, spent countless hours playing a C major scale up and down, not really knowing what to do with it exactly apart from playing as an exercise.
Reason #5 – Rhythm Fundamentals
With walking bass, you go back to basics and learn how to find the pocket. Every bass player knows how a 4 feel walking bass line sounds like. You know, a straight barrage of quarter notes with a bit of slurs, dead notes, raking as embellishments here and there.
The truth is – there is more to it than it meets the eye. I’ve heard advanced level bass players struggling to find a pocket when playing walking bass. And you know what – it just doesn’t sound right. They do the right thing but don’t place the notes exactly in the right spot.
By learning to play walking bass, you get a chance to dig deep into what makes a walking bass line groove. Where in time to pluck each note exactly. You’ll learn how to play behind the beat.
You’ll learn that being late just for a millisecond makes a world of difference.
Most importantly, you’ll learn not to get too excited and not to rush.
Reason #6 – Dynamics
Learning walking bass lines will open up a whole new world called dynamics and rhythm phrasing.
You’ll learn how powerful a change sounds when switching from a 2 Feel to 4 feel walking bass line.
You’ll learn that it’s worth waiting and preparing the listener for a gear change.
Reason #7 – Composing Bass Lines
Once you learn walking bass, the way you approach composing bass lines will never be the same. It’s as simple as that.
Now you won’t be walking with a blindfold on, hoping to hit the right notes. You’ll know where the right notes are. You’ll have a strategy you can rely on, and that works every time.
Composing bass lines after learning walking bass concepts will feel like an educated guess.
It will speed up the process and you’ll be able to focus on other aspects like rhythm, phrasing, and getting creative with the fills or exotic scales.
This is all possible because walking bass will teach you the base layer, you know – the strongest notes you can play – the foundation of every bass line in the world.
Bass players, especially beginners, are often unsuccessful in composing bass lines just because they don’t have a foundation in place. They don’t know where to start. How to begin writing a bass line?
It’s like trying to build the house upside down.
Walking bass will teach you where that foundation is.
Every professional bass player in any band you like knows this stuff.
Reason #8 – All That Jazz
Learning walking bass will be an excellent intro into the world of jazz. You’ll finally be able to start learning jazz standards, something that might have felt elusive just a few months back.
You’ll learn that walking bass was made for jazz. That you just need a chart to follow chord changes, and you’re ready even for a bandstand.
The thing is, improvising bass lines right there on the spot once you get into it is addictive.
It just feels much more exciting than performing a fixed bass line the same way every time.
Music is organic. I get it that it’s cool to rock out your favorite songs – but after so many repetitions, you start to crave not knowing how the next note will sound.
Reason #9 – The Tone
Bass tone is something that does get overlooked, especially by beginner bass players. Walking bass will force you to work on your tone more than ever before.
To make the walking bass line work, it needs to fill a lot of sonic space in a meaningful way.
You’ll learn how to get a truly fat tone out of your bass and, more importantly, how to keep those notes ringing out strong.
Walking bass will give you skills to know how to overflow notes in a delicate legato manner and also how to make it sound staccato and bouncy.
All in the same song.
Reason #10 – Walking Bass is Easy
Let me tell you the truth. There’s nothing complicated about learning walking bass.
It’s not like double thumb slapping or crazy tapping patterns that just feel impossible to do so you’re stuck.
Walking bass is simple and straightforward to get started with.
It’s like intelligent bass playing, and it’s all about strategy and mental exercise and less about technique.
I want to say that there are zero excuses, not learning walking bass if you don’t know how to play it already.
You could be playing your first walking bass lines in a matter of weeks.
And by playing, I mean improvising! Cool, right.
Walking Bass Course
To help you get started the easiest way possible, I’ve created a bass course called Walking Bass Fundamentals.
This course has proven to get results for my students by teaching them the basics of walking bass improvisation.
You know, making that difficult first step towards the walking bass mindset as effortlessly as possible.
Over the years, hundreds of students have taken this course, and this testimonial sums it up really well:
“As a rock bassist I’ve always found walking bass a bit of a mystery and something I have no confidence in … but it’s been a goal to learn and understand. Books I’ve had have made it seem even more mysterious. Bogdan slows things right down and keeps it simple. Almost too simple … I thought … Until the 2nd lesson when suddenly I found everything not so mysterious and my confidence improving when it came to building walking bass lines and wandering the fretboard. I suddenly also realized I didn’t quite have all the notes memorized as well as I thought.“
To enroll in the Walking Bass Fundamentals course, click on the link below:
Walking Bass Fundamentals course, enroll here>>
I hope that learning walking bass will help you unlock the fretboard and that this course will help you get started.
Founder of Bass Road instructional website www.bassroad.net