Watch the Early Ska Style online guitar lesson by Andrew Ford from Focus On: Reggae Bass
Here we introduce the ska style. As stated before it is characterized by the 8th note upbeat accompaniment from guitar or piano and a brighter more lively tempo. Some say the name ska came from vocalizing that upbeat rhythm played by those instruments. I take two different approaches to this early Jamaican ska groove over the same 1-4-5-4 progression in E. Example 1 borrows from 60's pop music with its 8th note feel outlining the roots in bar 1 and getting a little more movement in bar 2 by using the major 3rd over the B chord and using the 6 for some color before ending on the 2, which leads us nicely back to the E chord because that same B is the 5 of E. I also again use contrast to hopefully make the line feel better and be more dynamic. You will notice the first bar is more legato and bar two is a little more rhythmic while also using more variety in the selection of notes. This is one type of rhythmic groove that would work in this original ska style.
Another groove more closely associated with the ska style is the walking style bass line. It normally uses less notes of the scale than a traditional jazz walking bass line, also with less rhythmic variation, ghost notes and swing, but is still heavily influenced by that style. The notes are played nice and legato, connecting the notes of each chord smoothly by a half or whole step interval frequently, or 5 to 1, 1 to 5 intervals. Remember these lines were often played on upright bass so keep that approach in mind. This is a bouncy groove and our function bass-wise is to provide the foundation but also provide this counter-melody that drives the groove.