Watch the Walking Bass Essentials online guitar lesson by John Goldsby from Upright Bass Handbook

The style of bass playing that we call "walking bass" developed in the 1920s and '30s. Many incredible players contributed to the walking bass tradition, and I encourage you to listen to them to get the sound in your ear: Wellman Braud (Duke Ellington), Walter Page (Count Basie), Steve Brown (Paul Whiteman), John Kirby (Fletcher Henderson), and Jimmie Blanton (Duke Ellington). During the bebop era of the 1940s, '50s, and beyond, bassists took the swing style of walking bass and adapted their style to the demanding harmonies and tempos. These players include: Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Tommy Potter, Charles Mingus, and many others.

Every bassline is comprised of only three elements: chord tones, scale tones, and chromatic passing tones. Bassists use these three elements to create basslines that complement the harmony and rhythmic drive of a song. They all demonstrate the mantra that still holds true for bassists today: play in time, in tune, and with a good sound!