Walking bass lines and jazz comping techniques provide guitarists with a sophisticated and orchestral approach to playing solo guitar and accompanying others in any situation where there’s no bassist. Sean McGowan offers an intuitive, and very effective approach to learning these skills in his second TrueFire course, Walking Bass & Comping for Jazz Guitar.
”In this course, we’ll explore a variety of formats including 12-Bar Blues, Rhythm Changes, and jazz standard progressions. We’ll start by building a walking bass line through the changes and then gradually add in chord voicings, just as you would in a real-time performance situation."
Sean will guide you through 10 performance studies where you’ll explore substitutions, triplets, and other rhythmic devices to add momentum. You’ll work with a variety chord forms, 2-5-1 and cycle-four progressions incorporating pedal tones and cluster voicings, big band voicings, shout rhythms and many other aspects of this exciting technique.
Sean starts the course with a primer covering essential left and right-hand techniques you'll need to develop before playing multiple parts in time. These exercises will help you develop independence between the bass and chord parts, achieve different articulations, and build a solid swing time feel. The exercises start out very simply by using the thumb and then add chord voicings and rhythms with a "claw" technique, which gradually increase in difficulty and syncopation.
Sean will then perform the following ten etudes and then break them down note-for-note explaining all of the key techniques and approaches along the way. You will develop your own Walking Bass & Comping technique by playing your way through the course.
Saint Pete Blues - ”This étude features two choruses of a standard 12-bar jazz blues in the key of F. The first chorus illustrates a walking swing bassline in 4/4, followed by a chorus that adds tenth double-stops and syncopated chords. Learning and practicing walking four basslines will help you to understand how to connect smoothly from one chord to the next in a blues progression. This bassline features some pull-off techniques and rhythms that help to propel the swing feel and simulate an acoustic bass. The second chorus focuses on balancing chord hits – both held and short – on top of a moving bassline through the standard harmonic changes.”
Substitution Blues - ”Another 12-bar jazz blues in the key of F, this étude adds some color by incorporating new chord voicings and substitutions, including an alternate turnaround. When comping, jazz guitarists should know a variety of substitutions and turnarounds to add interest to a standard blues progression. This étude offers some different harmonic moves, along with triplet rhythm figures in the bassline.”
Rocky Mountain Blues - ”Moving to the key of Bb, very common in jazz blues, we'll continue our study of a walking bassline and chord comping with new ideas, chord moves, and substitutions through two choruses. Playing a blues in a new key requires us to learn different positions and connect chords in different ways. The bassline chorus features triplet rhythms and pull-offs to open strings to imitate an upright bass in jazz, and the chords create alternate harmonic directions plus a new turnaround to learn.”
Fingerstyle Changes - ”This étude works through the standard "Rhythm Changes" in the key of Bb, through a 32-bar, AABA form, gradually increasing in difficulty and complexity. Based on Gershwin's standard, "I Got Rhythm," rhythm changes progressions are just as common in jazz as blues progressions. This étude demonstrates how to build intensity in comping by starting out with a simple bassline in two, shifting to a walking four swing feel for the next A section, before adding syncopated chord hits in the bridge. Finally, the last A section features a big band influenced constant structure and blues feel, as in a shout chorus in the style of Wes Montgomery.”
Walking in Autumn - ”This study works through walking bass and comping ideas at a slower tempo over the classic standard, "Autumn Leaves.” Featuring a cycle four chord progression in the key of E minor, this study helps to develop new harmonic ideas using secondary dominants, chromatic approaches, pedal tone figures, and sustained harmonics.”
All the Things We Are - ”Jerome Kern's standard, "All The Things You Are," is one of the most famous and often played songs on gigs and jam sessions. This study will help you develop quick chord hits on top of a loose walking bassline while providing an excellent technical workout for the fretting hand, changing fingerings and positions regularly. Another chord progression built on cycle four and ii-V-I moves, this incorporates standard guide tone voicings as well as pedal tones, altered chords, and voicings featuring stacked fourths.”
Walking to a Train - ”Based on the changes to Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train", and made famous by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, this étude offers a few more challenges by increasing the tempo, hitting frequent staccato chord jabs, and playing Charleston rhythms in the style of a big band. Another AABA progression to work through, this study provides a focus on Charleston rhythms and variations to create a full, big band style of accompaniment. It also adds interest by dropping in some chord substitutions and creating variety and movement using tenth intervals.”
Someday - ”Based on the chord changes to the standard, "Someday My Prince Will Come" (a favorite among jazz guitarists including Jim Hall and many others), this étude is in a 3/4 jazz waltz-time feel, and features different approaches to a progression using sustained chords and movement. This study will give you some options and ideas for playing a jazz waltz in 3/4 time. One common rhythm in this time signature is the dotted quarter note figure, creating a contrast to straight quarters in the bass and syncopated chordal hits. This étude also features diminished chord resolution and illustrates possibilities for a coda or ending.”
Walking Alone & Together - ”Based on the standard, "Alone Together," this study features some ii-V moves in a minor key with a longer song form, melodic minor shapes, and chord inversions and substitutions. This étude explores a variety of ways to tackle a ii-V progression in a minor key using blues language, chromatic approach, and creating and quoting melodies in the top voice of the chord and even in the bassline. Influenced by vocal groups and classic jazz pianists such as Wynton Kelly, this study features a lyrical quality to the comping and chord voicings.”
Old Fashioned - ”Our final étude is based on the chord changes to "I'm Old Fashioned," recorded by John Coltrane, Johnny Smith, and many others. It features an extended form and illustrates how to create interest by using pedal tones, cluster voicings, and chromatic ii-V substitutions. This étude features a lot of activity on the bass as well as in the chords comping on top. There are triplet figures between the bass and chords, pedal tones and cluster voicings in the bridge, the balance of repetition and contrast, and using constant structure to create a tag or ending within an arrangement.”
All of the performances are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and slow down the tab and notation as you work through the lessons.
Grab your guitar and let your fingers do the walking with Sean McGowan!