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Blues Guitar Lessons: Walking Bass

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Okay, we're gonna start things off here
with another look at the bottom
end of our rhythm playing.
We've studied the boogie
pattern pretty extensively,
we're gonna keep coming back to a lots
of variations in the boogie pattern.
But for a moment here, we're gonna take
a look at what the bass player does and
how that fits into our
scheme as guitar players.
[SOUND] At the beginning of
the fundamentals when we looked at rhythm
parts, we listened briefly to the rhythm
section on one of the tracks and
identify what the bass player was doing,
but we didn't really get into detail.
So I want to talk about that now and
translate that to the guitar.
The classic bass pattern and this is
going back to the days of acoustic bass.
I think the electric bass came
in somewhere in the mid 15s,
as far as being a popular alternative.
So up until that point, blues was
all played with acoustic bass and
drums and piano.
And often, electric guitar was the only
electric instrument in the band.
So what bass players would do and
they continued to do on the electric bass
was to play what's called a walking line.
Now a walking line was also played by
the piano player in the left-hand, so
you'd often have the bass and
the piano doubling the same idea.
And what is is outlining the harmony and
I'll show you a typical
walking line in the key of G.
We'll just start to stretch out
a little bit in terms of keys here.
Look at different options for
how to play this stuff.
So in the key of G and this is true of
every key, it's all relative, of course,
to the tonality.
[SOUND] Starting with the root,
the bass player would outline
the chord changes by playing the root,
[SOUND] third,
the fifth, the sixth and
then octave and then back down again.
[SOUND] And then often in place of
the octave, we'd substitute the seventh.
[SOUND] So if you think of the tonality.
The bass pattern fits the sound of either
a sixth cord, which we're familiar with or
[SOUND] a seventh cord.
They both work,
the point is that it's one note per beat,
that's what a walking bass pattern is,
one note per beat,
so the bass players sort of, you can
picture walking down the street and
[SOUND] each step of the way
is a different chord tone.
So you got the one chord.
Here's the four chord.
Seventh chord arpeggio in that case.
Now when you go up to the five cord.
[SOUND] Often,
you switch to the four cord, so
you have to interrupt that
pattern in midstream.
[SOUND] So you start the pattern, but
then jump to the four cord [SOUND] and
then back to the one.
[SOUND] And more often than not
in the old school style of bass
player would walk right
through the turnaround.
So you'd [SOUND] hit those
accents on the guitar, but
the bass player would just
plow right on through.
Sounds fine, it sort of keeps
the rhythmic continuity going.
Okay, now let's play that
in tempo one time and
then I'm gonna show you
a variation on that.
Okay, so walking base pattern in G, just
you and I in G together, one, two, three.
your four chord,
back to one.
Five, four, one.
And start the whole thing all over again.
And there's our next chorus and so forth.
Now it's important A, to know the pattern
and know the notes in the pattern.
And B, how to phrase the pattern or
how to express the pattern musically.
So you notice that I'm
not picking it like.
A wide open arpeggio like that,
I'm muting, actually in the right hand.
Now the purpose of learning this line is
it helps us understand the rhythm
section for one thing, but
it's also a pattern that guitar
players played in the day and
that we still play today.
It's an option for how to build
a rhythm part up from the ground, so
one option is the Boogie Shuffle.
Another option is to double that walking
line and they both sound pretty good.
And different situations, one might
be more preferable than the other.
By muting it, what I'm doing is making
the note sound a little bit smaller
with the idea that I'm going to be
playing with the bass player and
I wanna sound like the twin of the bass.
So I don't overwhelm the bass or sound
like I'm filling in all the space around
the bass, I want to be right
there pin point in the middle.
Now another way to play that pattern or
line it up on the neck, which makes it
sound a little bit more bassy is to
avoid playing on the higher strings,
keep the pattern on
the lowest string possible.
So in that case, I start with my index
finger on G and then shift up two frets.
[SOUND] And now we've got the pattern
entirely on the low strings,
lower three strings.
There is the seventh, here's my
four chord, still on the low strings.
[SOUND] Five chord, four chord, one chord.
Now that requires more motion this way,
but the sound is more consistent.
So we're always looking for that balance,
which is more important, the sound,
the convenience.
If I'm comfortable I can
tilt more toward the sound,
even though it's harder to play,
cuz I know I can do it.
If I can't get to the notes in time,
then I wanna simplify the fingering.
So it's a judgment call.
[SOUND] Okay.
So I can play it by picking the notes,
it's an easy picking pattern and
muting the strings.
Here's another option and
this is something that you hear as well,
which is you mute the strings
around the bass note and
you actually kind of slap the strings and
it sounds like this.
Now you can hear the difference between.
And this.
It's pretty significant dynamically,
very different.
One sort of sits in the background
the other one steps out front.
Now one of the factors that you consider
when you're choosing rhythm parts is
what's the rest of the band doing or
who's in the band, right?
You think of Stevie Ray Vaughn.
It's a trio, it's guitar, bass and drums.
The guitar has to fill a huge
amount of space and so
he developed these patterns that
we'll look at in more detail,
where you slap the strings and
making the guitar sound as huge as he can.
Making it, in fact,
sound like two guitars sometimes.
If you're playing in a bigger band or
it's a different kind of sound,
a little mellower sound, then you play a
smaller part and you blend in more, right?
So these are kinds of like tricks
of the trade that we learn and
apply as needed depending on
the musical surroundings.
[SOUND] Now what I would like
to do is play that pattern
with you in the key of G.
We'll play with the rhythm section, so you
can hear what that sounds like and you've
got three different ways to play it right
now, you've got the position pattern.
You've got the more stretched out pattern
[SOUND] and you've got the stretched out
pattern, where you're slapping at it.
I'll let you work on each of those,
you can play them each with the rhythm
section to hear what they sound like.
But I'll play the stretched out
pattern with a more muted sound, so
we can play together, okay?
And just to hear what it
sounds like with the band, so
let's roll the rhythm track,
we're gonna play this 12 bar shuffle in G.
Now I'm
a couple
of little
One, to do with the slacking technique.
Now what this requires is
that when you fret the note,
[SOUND] you fret the note
with your finger and
you put all the pressure down on the note
that you wanna hear in the case G.
[SOUND] And then you deliberately
allow your fingers [SOUND] to
lay across the rest of the strings, so
you don't hear them and what that allows
me to do is [SOUND] smack the note.
I don't care what strings
I hit with the pick,
I'm only gonna hear one note at a time.
So [SOUND] fretting and muting, [SOUND]
these are bad examples, here we go.
[SOUND] Okay, there you go,
fretting and muting.
I move up to the next note
with my third finger.
[SOUND] All the pressure is going down on
that seventh fret there, the rest of it,
my fingers are just laying
across the strings.
[SOUND] Now when I cross the fifth string,
[SOUND] I've got my thumb over
the top here, which helps me
take care of the low string and
the side of my index finger
lays across the high strings.
[SOUND] So I only hear one note.
[SOUND] Same thing with my third finger.
All the pressure is on the seventh fret,
fifth string everything else is muted.
[SOUND] Now when I go the forth string,
that's the trickiest one.
I have to let the tip of my finger,
[SOUND] mute the fifth string.
[SOUND] My thumb mutes the sixth string,
[SOUND] the side of my finger mutes
the other strings [SOUND] and
then come back down again.
[SOUND] Now we're gonna see
this same technique used in
a context that you might
be familiar with later on.
We'll put it to work again,
the slapping technique.
But for right now, this is
an opportunity to start to work it out.
So it's
Now on the way up, [SOUND] I can
just hit the muted strings and
get that shuffle going.
This is starting to make the guitar
sound like it's almost two instruments,
like I've got the boom,
[SOUND] kind of quality.
So that's a way of expanding
the sound of the walking line.
Now the other thing that I didn't explain
upfront, whereas when you get to the end,
the bass will often go one,
two, three, four.
[SOUND] That's the basses way of
wrapping up the chord progression,
the root, the third, the fourth,
up in half steps to the fifth and
then [SOUND] finally, end the thing, okay?
So there's a concept of the walking line.
There's the knowledge of
the notes in the walking line and
then there are different techniques for
playing the walking line.
And we're gonna circle back and
apply these techniques and
the walking line concept in
different contexts as we go forward.
But for right now, that's the important
point is learn that walking line and
be able to play that line in all the keys,
which means understanding
the structure and transposing, and
then you'll be comfortable no
matter what key you're playing in.
Okay, go to work.