course everybody knows this way to play bass in jazz. When you play
walking bass, you play the tones of the chord that is being played
at that moment. You connect these notes by playing notes from the
key that is being played. Going down from G7 to C, you could, for
instance, play G F E D, to begin with a C in
the next bar. E is not a note in the G7 chord, but a way to connect
the F with the D.
In most jazz styles, youre expected to play walking bass in
such a way that a soloist knows what chord is coming, simply by
listening to you. In fact, I played with several swing saxophonists
who got irritated when I played notes that sounded beautiful to
me, but made life complicated for them; they really depended on
the bass players for their solos. This is especially the case
in swing and early bebop. Just play the above example, and youll
understand that anybody can hear the C coming. The C in the next
bar is almost obligatory.
In newer jazz styles the bass player has more freedom. I believe
the current way jazz is being played with a walking bass is still
called Hard Bop or Neo Bop. One of the most important advantages
for us as a bass player, is that in these styles we can now expect
our fellow musicians to learn the harmonies, so we now have the
freedom to play notes that really enrich the music. We can now play
anything we like as long as it sounds good, of course. Notes
that sound good are not necessarily chord notes and not necessarily
notes that belong to the key that is being played.
on the fourth beat of a bar in a 4/4 measure it often sounds very
good to play a half note above or below the chord in the next bar.
Going from G7 to C, you could play G F E Db
or G F D B.
Sometimes it sounds interesting to play a prolonged Db when going
from G7 to C. When you do that, you suggest tri-tone substitution.
Ill explain briefly what that means. Lets use the G7
chord again in this example. This chord is comprised of the notes
G B D F. The B and the F are the most important
notes of this chord, the third and seventh make the sound of this
chord. Play a G7 and next only play the B and F together, and youll
see what I mean. Now lets take a look at the Db7 chord. It
is comprised of the notes Db F Ab B. In other
words, the third of the G7 is the seventh of the Db7, and the seventh
of the G7 is the third of the Db7. It sounds
very nice to substitute the G7 chord for a Db chord. Youre
still hearing what you would expect, but not quite, which makes
the harmony more interesting. This trick is used a lot in jazz,
just look at a couple of jazz harmonies and youll see what
These are just a few examples of the possibilities at your disposal.
After some time and a lot of experimentation, youll find your
own beautiful variations. So dont wait and start playing!