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So I am starting a 4-5 episode walking bass transcription & analysis series because I think that transcribing those lines is essential in order to become a good walking bassist - of course lines can be created by following some basic rules, but the mastery comes from listening to the guys who have laid these rules. When you transcribe these guys, you'll notice that sometimes these rules are bent to make the music more exciting - sometimes becasuse they wanted to play something new, sometimes because they were interacting with the other musicians - and that's what gives it the flavour. So by listening and analysing these notes, we can become better at our walking bass craft.
This lesson assumes that you are familiar with a few basic rules of walking bass, however, here is a very basic, short and brief 101 introduction.
- walking bass line names come from the quarter note beat that "walks" from one harmony to the other. That way the line outlines chord, provides harmonic and rhytmic foundation. You'll probably know this style from blues,jazz, swing types of music.
- walking bass quarter notes should be long, even and round notes without adding that constant 2 and 4 beat accent to the notes - that accent comes the hihat and the ride.
- when it comes to creating lines, we talk about chord tones and passing tones (~about target notes and approach notes), we talk about strong beats and weak beats
- Chord tones are notes that outline a harmony. Talking about walking bass, we can talk about a chord's root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. For example, the F7 chord's root is F, its 3rd A, 5th is C 7th is Eb, and accordingly a Bb7 chord would have Bb - D - F - Ab.
- 1 and 3 are considered the strong beats, 2 and 4 the weak ones. Target notes are usually the chord tones, and these are the ones which usually should be played on strong beats since these notes are important in relation to harmony and time. Passing notes/approach are usual played on weak beats, and they are used the approach target notes 🙂 These notes can make the line move smoothly by "walking" or moving from one harmony to another (I guess that strange terminology). These passing tones can either be diatonic (within the suggested scale of the given harmony), chromatic (half-step away from the preceding/following note) or non-harmonic (no apparent harmonic relation to the given harmony/chord).
- so if you are following these rules, two bars of walking bass would look like this:
So after just completing walking bass 101, here is what we have today 🙂
The tune I have chosen is Trane's Blues by the Miles Davis Quintet and I have transcribed 4 rounds (beginning right after the end of the theme, at around 0.21). In my earlier lessons, i did not really talk in the video, but this time i do again so you can go to the video for details! I basically mention a few things about why learning walking bass is beneficial and why it is a good place to start for transcribing. I also give a short analysis and a guide on how to practise this (about singing it first) but i have to stress that you should also practise with the record to get that swing feel and once you feel that you are good, you can also play it with only a metronome and record yourself to hear how your feel is. (You can set the metronome to single quarter notes without any accents, and then use the 2-4 swung feel to practise - that means that the clicks of the metronome represent beats 2 and 4 - and then you have to begin the walking line on the one - which the metronome does not play 🙂
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