[Style Study – UBass Lesson 8] Jazz: Walking Bass | Part 1


Ok time for some jazz again! Thanks to Susan C. for your suggestion!

In this lesson I will feature the jazz standard ”The way you look tonight” written by Jerome Kern. This song has been covered a thousand times by as many artists.

But I have a favorite version!

In 1995 one of the most famous jazz singers in Sweden, Svante Thuresson, released the CD ‘Jag är Hip, Baby!’. (Eng: I’m hip baby)
This album features the wonderful lyrics of another famous Swede Mr. Beppe Wolgers! Here’s a link to a web page about him [in Swedish]
He wrote all the Swedish lyrics including the ones for ‘The way you look tonight’. It became ‘Sången’. The lyrics is a celebration to Music and tells the story of the performer and the listener and that you need both to have the complete experience of Music! So true!!

If you use Spotify here’s a link to the version I mentioned above!

Here’s a YouTube clip of an audience recorded video from 2010. (Not the best sound or picture but still…)

Ok. Let’s get on with the lesson!

I’m gonna do one a couple of versions. One in medium-up tempo and maybe even one in uptempo.
And I will also do a slowed down version of the medium-up tempo.

Before we start let’s talk a little bit about what walking bass is and how you could think when you make your own bass parts!

First of all: To make your walking bass parts work you have to have a basic understanding on how chords are built. The general idea of walking is to navigate through the chords using quarter notes. Just as you would walk from one place to another using your feet! You could play the same note (the root, probably) over and over again but that would be just like standing on one spot just moving your feet up and down…and that wouldn’t take you very far 🙂 You could just play random quarter notes but after awhile this approach is going to get to ‘out there’ for most regular playing situations. (Just like walking around with no goal…(That can sometimes can be a good thing though…:-)

I think a more chord based approach is what you should work on. This will help you get a firm knowledge and act as a starting point. Then go from there using notes from the different scales that correspond to the different keys and chords in the song you choose to play.

There’s quite a lot going on harmonically in ‘The way you look tonight’ and if music theory is new to you maybe this will be a bit hard. But I’ll try my best to make this as understandable as possible! I will make more lessons based on easier songs if you want! Just send an email to ubasslessons@gmail.com and ask away!

Basic music theory
Let’s divide chords in three basic categories. Major, minor and dominant.
A chord is based on a so called triad. In C major it’s C E G. On a piano it’s three white keys with a white key in between. (This is not always true. It depends the chord and key!)
You can look at it like this: From C to E there’s 4 half steps (On a fretboard it looks like the picture below. I will explain this further in Part 2 of this lesson!). From E to G there is 3 half steps. Se picture below. In a C minor chord it’s the opposite way! From C to Eb (flat) there is 3 half steps and from Eb (flat) to G there is 4 half steps.
Ex. C Major: The notes that make up the triad/chord are called root (C), third (E) and fifth (G). (These names correspond to the C Major scale and refers to the scale degrees).

As you can see below, on the first 4 chords of the song, it’s also common to add a forth note to these chord. This is the seventh degree. In a major chord this will be the major 7 (ex. C7: C E G Bb (flat)) and in a minor chord this will be the minor 7 (ex. Cm7: C Eb (flat). A Dominant 7 chord has the minor 7. In C Major the Dominant 7 chord is G7, a fifth from C (G7: G B D F) More on chords and scales in this previous lesson.

C Major Triad (UBass – Bass Clef and TAB + Piano, Left Hand)
C Major Triad (Piano)
C Major Triad (UBass Fretboard) TIPS! You can play the G on the 5th fret of the D string too!
C Minor Triad (UBass – Bass Clef and TAB + Piano, Left Hand)
C Minor Triad (C Eb G) (Piano)
C Minor Triad (UBass Fretboard) TIPS! You can play the G on the 5th fret of the D string too!

Here are some basic chords in the Major, Minor and Dominant category
Cmaj7 (Sometimes you’ll see this as C ”triangle” 7, see the first chord of the song below!)



These are just a starting point. What dictates how the chord is built is often decided upon how the melody is written. You could look at it as the chords are made to fit a specific melody! Sometimes the melody comes first but there are of course times when you come up with a nice chord progression first and then make the melody. One way to make the chord fit the melody is to add ‘extension’ notes like the 9th, 11th and 13th degrees. These are not ‘new’ notes. They are the same as the ‘regular’ notes of the scale but one octave up!
Ex. C major: 1C 2D 3E 4F 5G 6A 7B 8C and then it start all over again 9D 10E 11F 12G 13A. Sometimes you make alterations to these ‘(ex)tensions’. You can raise or lower these extensions depending on the melody and the sound you strive for.

Some examples of these ‘extension’ chords

CØ9 (half diminished) or Cm9b5

So how does this help you when you want to play walking bass? Well if we look at the first 4 chords in our song we can see that there are both major and minor chords.


As a basis for our walking bass we’ll look at the core of the chords/triads which I mentioned above, the root, third and fifth of each chord. In the next lesson we will go through the chords and check out what notes that will fit the different chords and how to combine them to make a ‘musical’ and hopefully flowing bass line!

Stay tuned for Part 2, with the actual bass parts, coming soon!

Good luck and feel free to comment or send an email to ubasslesssons@gmail.com if you have any questions and I’ll try to help you out!


En tanke på “[Style Study – UBass Lesson 8] Jazz: Walking Bass | Part 1


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