June 10, 2023

Hello, young music enthusiasts! Are you ready to embark on an exciting musical journey?

When I was a youngster, I was taking turns playing the piano with a friend of mine. On one of his turns, he played a simple blues tune that had a walking bass part all the way through. I was enthralled with how amazing it sounded and I asked him to play it again. As I watched him play it, I realized how easy it really was. Instead of playing a chord in your left hand, you simply play the arpeggio of the chord up and down. And then when you do that, while playing some chords (to start) with your right hand, you can play a totally cool tune that your friends and family will rave about.

This was basically what he played and what I saw.

So imagine yourself as a musical detective, searching for the perfect notes to accompany the melody. Get ready to put on your musical shoes and let’s go walking!

With that little story being told, I still want to take you through the entire explanation of the walking bass line.

What is a Walking Bass Line? A walking bass line is like a musical walking path for the notes. Just as you walk step by step, a walking bass line moves from one note to another in a smooth and steady way. It’s like a musical foundation that supports the melody and makes it sound even better! When you play a walking bass line on the piano, you use your left hand to create a rhythmic pattern of low notes. These notes create a groove and add a bouncy feeling to the music. It’s like having a musical partner who dances with the melody!

By the way – Three excellent things happen if you play the bass line an octave lower than you probably usually do:
1- It creates a broader reach for your muscle memory to play on more keys of the piano.
2- If you were to play the bass line an octave higher than I gave you in the example, there would be some places where both hands would be playing the same note at the same time. This way you can avoid that.
3- It sounds a lot better and it makes you sound more professional.

Step 1- Find the Key: To start our walking bass adventure, we need to find the key of the song. The key is like a secret code that tells us which notes to use. Once we know the key, we can choose notes that fit perfectly. If the song is in the key of C, we can use the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Each key has its own special set of notes, so make sure to explore different keys in your musical journey! In the case which I will be teaching you, I have chosen the key of C, but with a blues line bass, which is C, E, G, A, Bb. Then for the 4th chord of the root, F, A, C, D, Eb. For the fifth you will use G, B, D, E.

Step 2- Play the Root Notes: Now that we know the key, it’s time to start our walking bass line. We’ll begin by playing the root notes. The root note is like the “boss” note of the chord. It tells us what the chord is all about. In this case, we’re playing a C chord, the root note is C. In our walking bass line, we’ll play the root note of each chord on the first beat of each measure. It’s like taking the first step of our musical walk!

Since the root chord is C, I have added a C chord in the right hand (with an added 6th), to make it sound good. And to make it REALLY easy, I made the F chord a breeze by just making the E an Eb. Then with the G chord, just take your notes up a whole step. Piece of cake. Learn each chord for each bass line you’re playing and you’ll be sounding like a pro in no time. Here are the notes to the chords that I have included.C (root chord)– E, G, A, C – F chord (fourth)– Eb, G, A, C – G chord (fifth)– F, A, B, D.

Step 3- Connect the Dots: After playing the root notes, we’re going to connect them with other notes. We’ll choose notes that are close to the root note and create a nice musical path. We want our bass line to flow smoothly and connect the chords together. Remember, we’re like musical detectives, searching for the best notes to guide the melody. You can experiment by going up or down the piano, and even play notes in between. Just make sure they sound good with the melody and fit the song’s rhythm. As noted above, I have already given you my best suggestions for notes. But you should experiment if you want. Here is the sheet music version of the above tune.

Step 4- Add Some Rhythm: Now that we have our walking bass line, let’s make it even more exciting by adding some rhythm. We can do this by playing the notes in a pattern. One popular pattern is playing the root note on the first beat, then playing a lower note on the second beat, and a higher note on the third beat. It’s like a bouncy musical dance! You can also experiment with different patterns and rhythms to create your own unique walking bass line. The example I have included goes up then down but plays the top note in a rhythm that makes it more rhythmically jazzy.

Conclusion: Congratulations, young musicians! You’ve learned the art of playing a walking bass line on the piano. You’ve become musical detectives, exploring the keys, finding the root notes, and connecting them with other notes. Remember, a walking bass line adds a bouncy feeling and supports the melody, making the music even more awesome! So put on your musical shoes, grab your detective hat, and start walking that bass! With practice and creativity, you’ll become a walking bass expert in no time. Keep exploring different songs and genres, and have fun experimenting with different patterns and rhythms.

As you continue your musical journey, don’t forget to listen to great bass players in different styles of music. You can learn a lot from their walking bass lines and incorporate their techniques into your own playing.

Always remember, playing a walking bass line is about feeling the music and grooving with the melody. Let your fingers dance on the piano keys, and let the rhythm guide you. With practice and patience, you’ll develop a strong sense of timing and become a master of the walking bass line.

So, young musicians, keep walking that bass and let your musical adventure continue. Enjoy the joy and excitement of playing the piano and exploring new sounds. The world of music is waiting for you to make it come alive with your walking bass lines!

Keep playing, keep exploring, and keep having fun. Remember, the piano is your magical gateway to a world of endless possibilities. So let your fingers wander and create beautiful music with your walking bass lines. Happy playing, little maestros!

About the author 

S. Frank Stringham

S. Frank Stringham (everybody just calls him "S."), is a multi-talented entertainer who will make you laugh and make you feel good about yourself!!
S. has been an entertainer in almost every kind of venue that you can think of; from musical theatre to the silver screen; from small classrooms to major convention halls; from the comedy clubs of Los Angeles to the vaudeville clubs half way around the world.
His talents come from a position of love...he loves to perform, he loves to laugh, and he loves to see others laugh. In fact, he has been accused of making people laugh who have never before laughed in their lives. His mission statement includes the four “L’s”...”to bring Love, Life, Light, and Laughter into the lives of everyone I come in contact with...” S. has over 30 years of professional experience in most fields of entertainment!
For over 20 years S. has been performing, using his talents as a singer, songwriter, playwright, balloon artist, comedian, actor, pianist, and Master of Ceremonies, for companies and producers like Sears, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, The Flying Elvi, An Evening At The Improv, Caesar’s Palace, NBC, FOX, ABC, and The Comedy Store; to awe audiences like Big Brothers and Sisters of America, The Children’s Miracle Network, Japan, Belgium, England, Air Supply, Budweiser, Martin Scorsece and many others.
S. was on America's Got Talent, and although he was buzzed off immediately (it’s difficult to put your head around what he does in less than 3 minutes), he got many gigs afterwards because of it. S. also has a friend/character that he introduces to audiences every once in a while, One-Eyed Jack (his eye is made out of balloons). One-Eyed Jack can sing, can transport himself, can do comedy, and he knows EVERYTHING.
When it comes to teaching, S. has been teaching music theory, voice lessons, piano lessons, and various other instruments (guitar, clarinet, violin) for over 35 years. He was also the music and theater teaching at American Heritage Academy in Las Vegas for over 10 years. There he wrote orchestra pieces and movie and stage musicals. On top of that, he did much of the choreography for the various productions throughout the years.

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