Dear Nano: Basslines for 2+ Bars of the Same Chord?

After a long hiatus, Dear Nano is back and better than ever! I’ve had a couple students ask me this question. Feel free to ask your own!

(Note: Jazz Bass Practice Deck cards will resume next week!)

Dear Nano,

How do you do a walking bass line for a tune with two or more measures of the same chord?

When you have two bars of the same chord, you have two options to get from the first to second measure: 1) root-root and 2) root-fifth. I’ll demonstrate each with two bars of a BbMaj7 chord (note that you’ll need to adjust the key and chord tones to fit your particular tune).

Option 1: Root-Root

The graphic below shows two ways to get from a root to the same root in the next bar (note that the top line is fingering numbers using 1st-3rd fret position and the bottom line is the scale degrees):

  • Option 1a: Encircle the root by going down to the seventh, then up to second
  • Option 1b: Play the up and back down the first three notes of the scale

Once you’ve landed on the root again, walk a bassline as you normally would to get to the next bar’s chord change. Or, if there’s still a third bar of the same chord, you can repeat this process using Option 1 or 2 (see below).

Option 1.png

Option 2: Root-Fifth

The graphic below shows two ways to get from a root to the fifth of the chord in the next bar (the fifth helps add some variety without losing the quality of the chord):

  • Option 2a: Walk up to the fifth using the first four notes of the scale
  • Option 2b: Walk down to the fifth, being sure to repeat the top note (or add chromaticism between two notes)

Once you’ve landed on the fifth, walk a bassline as you normally would to get to the next bar’s chord change (if possible, play the root on beat 2 or 3). Or, if there’s still a third bar of the same chord, you can walk back down or up to the root.

Option 2

Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist and Instructional Designer

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