Watch the Rockin and Walkin Medley online guitar lesson by Andrew Ford from Essentials: Walking Bass Lines
Lets look at a different application for walking bass lines, using them in pop and rock music. Though most prevalent in jazz, walking bass has showed up on numerous pop hits. In this study we will break down 4 excerpts based on a number of well known songs. Of course the original song in each case was in a different key and a different tempo but I kept them consistent, all in G, and at one tempo so we could examine them together. The first one is based on 8 days a week by the Beatles, the first bar outlines the triad but adding the 6 in a descending pattern. Bar two simply plays the triad of A leaving out the 7 and returns to the root on the last quarter note. The next bar also plays the triad but uses the major 3rd again for the last quarter note. The last bar returns to the G chord and does a similar pattern as bar 1 but instead of going to the major 3rd, B, at the end it goes back to the 6, E. Simple but effective approach. Our next pattern is based on How Sweet It Is by Marvin Gaye. Here we have a 1-6-5-4 chord progression. The first bar over the G chord we start with the root and then play the octave for the second quarter note. We again use the 6 over the major chord, E, and end on B which is the major 3rd. In bar 2 there is a strong 5-1 movement from the previous bar that leads to the root, E, on the first beat. We then continue to outline the minor triad in a descending pattern, B, the 5, G, the minor 3rd, and finally returning to low E the root. The next bar has a sort of box shaped pattern, which we see in a lot of blues bass lines, starting on D, moving to octave, next C, the b7, you start to see the box, and finally a triplet starting with A, the 5, E, the 2, and the third note of the triplet being the root, D. The final bar of this pattern is over C7, and for the 3rd time out of 4 bars we begin with a root to octave motion, nothing wrong with repetition if played with a great feel, then after the octaves we have the b7, Bb and end on the 6, E.
The third pattern is based on Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. Very musical choice of notes in this excerpt. We start ironically with another root to octave movement. The chords here are very repetitious so it is important to create some movement in the bass line. The next to beats of bar 1 use F, the minor 3rd, and E, the 2, creates a bit of tension before we move to bar 2 which starts on the root, G, again but this time goes to A, the 2, then the b7 of the Dm7 chord, C, and lastly the root, D. The next bar repeats the figure in bar 1. The last bar begins on the 5, D, goes to the 2, A, then on the Dm7 chord repeats the pattern from the 2nd half of bar 2, going to the b7, C, and ending on the root D. The last example is based on "Does anybody really know what time it is" by the band Chicago. This one has a few other rhythms besides the traditional quarter note walk. Our bass pattern uses some swinging 8th notes adding variety and forward motion. Bar 1 starts by walking down the G major scale until we get to the 5, so it is G, F#, major 7, E, 6, and D, 5. On beat 4 we skip to the major 3rd with an 8th note and anticipate or push into bar 2 with the root C. Next we don't play the down beat on beat 1 and instead let the C hold until the 2nd 8th note of beat 1 where we play another root, or C. We then continue walking up the scale in C with the 2, D, the major 3rd, E, and then this chromatic note F# which leads to the G and really makes the line melodic. Bar 3 repeats the notes in bar 1 and bar 4 answers bar 2 by walking diatonically down from the root C, to the major 7, B, to the 6, A, and ending on the 2, D. These last two notes imply a 2-5-1 chord progression motion even though the chords don't change, the bass line implies the image of additional chord changes.