by Jay Hungerford


Trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie once called the bass "the most important instrument in any band." Whether you agree or not, it is true the bass rarely receives the recognition it deserves. From classicalWalking Jazz Lines for Bass to rock to country to jazz, the bass supports the harmony, chords and melody. Take the bass away and it becomes difficult for the listener to make sense of the chords and harmonic structure.

As a bassist, you have responsibilities. You must create interesting lines under the chord changes, keep the "time flow" or "pulse" steady and keep the form of the song together. Soloist and vocalist, while being featured, often tune in to the bass to remind them where they are in the form of the song. An occasional missed note or fluctuation in tempo happens to all of us. Getting lost in the form of the tune, however, is a no-no. It will happen and you will pick up tricks to help you get back on track - knowing the melody, having eye contact with the other players, and listening for cues.

This book is designed to help you create beginning to advanced walking patterns. I've used these lesson plans for several years and have seen even the most challenged students grow to become very accomplished jazz bassists. Why learn how to create an interesting walking bass line? You will find walking bass lines in rock, blues, r&b, gospel, latin and country. In virtually all styles of music you need to become familiar with this style. Whether you are planning to play music for fun or as a profession, you'll enjoy it more if you learn to walk. Switching from jazz to rock is much easier than the reverse. Why not become proficient at all styles of music. It is more fun to answer the phone with "sure, I can do that" rather than "well, I only know how to play rock music."

Preparation is very important for any instrument. Having a daily practice routine is essential. Some might like to think the time spent rehearsing with their friends or band is enough. Putting in some time beforehand, even if its as little as 20 - 30 minutes, pays off big. If you are playing pop, rock or latin it is so much easier to lock in with the kick drum when you have put in some time playing scales. Rhythm section players do not have the luxury of taking a solo and then standing off to the side while the rest of the band does their thing. You are usually playing from the moment the song starts to the last note. With the right preparation, your job will be much easier. One of the best musical feelings for a bassist is to be in the middle or towards the end of a fast tune and not be tired. Chops (endurance) are essential. Perhaps the worst musical feeling for a bassist is having to worry about two things - being creative and physically being able to get through the song. You will be amazed how your concentration and creativity increases when the physical problem is eliminated. Your "time" will be much stronger.

In the lessons that follow, you need to transpose the patterns. This means play all patterns in all keys. By doing this you will not only be committing the patterns to memory, you will be learning your instrument as well. This is a little trickier for upright players because there are no frets. Don't give up. Do the math (intervals). You will find it gets easier and easier. For those that play only electric bass, memorize a fingering. After you become comfortable, try the exercises in first position (using only the first four frets and open strings). This will come in handy when/if you should decide to switch to upright in the future.

You must listen to jazz. I'm not saying listen only to this style, but include jazz in your music library. Occasionally students will come to a lesson with a blank expression on their face and say they are having trouble applying what we've talked about. After asking what they listen to (or what they don't listen to), you can guess the rest. Get play-along recordings. They are a wonderful tool. You can take the bass track off and play with the recording. It is also a good idea to play along with real recordings. Play everything you learn in all keys. This will show you your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and often like to ignore them. Let them be your guide in knowing what to practice. Some lessons in this book are more difficult than others and will require a little more effort. Don't become frustrated, spend a little extra time on the more difficult patterns. The results will be worth your effort.

- Jay Hungerford