Walking bass guitar lessons

Walking Bass Exercises For Jazz Guitar - Lesson With Tabs and Audio

This concept highly prized by solo guitar players consists in mixing chords and bass lines. It can be very useful for guitarists who want to accompany a singer or a soloist in a duo situation.

Guitar walking bass lines involve playing one note on each beat in order to make the link between the chords of a progression as a bass player would do. 

They are usually played fingerstyle, basses are played with the thumb whereas the other chord tones are played with the fingers.

This free lesson with tabs and guitar shapes provides some easy examples.

Basic Principle Of Walking Bass Lines With Chords

The following explains how a basic walking bass /comping line is built. 

Beat 1 : Determine the tonality of the chord. The bass of the chord or the entire chord is played on the first beat. When the bass is played first, the rest of the chord comes on the «and» of the beat.

Beat 2 and 3 : Play adjacent chord tones or scale tones related to the first chord

Beat 4 : Play a leading tone to the root note (chromatic, diatonic  or dominant). A leading tone is a note that makes the link between the previous bass line and the next chord.

Leading Tones

Here are three ways to approach the root note of a chord.

Chromatic Approaches : The root note (the white circle) can be approached chromatically from above or below (black dots).

Chromatic leading tones for guitar walking bass lines 2

Diatonic Approaches : The root note can be approached by a note of the scale. The leading tones resolve to the root note.

Diatonic leading tones for guitar walking bass lines 1

Dominant Leading Tones : The root of the next chord can be approached by the fifth represented by the black dots.

Dominant leading tones for guitar walking bass lines 1         Dominant leading tones for guitar walking bass lines 3

Walking Bass Lines With Chords - Guitar Tutorial With Shapes and Tabs

Chords Mixed With Walking Bass Lines

Here are some common chord voicing shapes (maj7, min7, dim7, m7b5, dom7) generally played with walking bass lines on guitar. 

Most of the time the chords in a walking bass line are played in their purest form, that is to say they contain few notes, only the most important that are root, third, seventh.

These chords are named «Shell Chords» or «Guide Tone Chords» or «Three-note Shell Voicings». However, drop 2 and drop 3 chords are also used.

Remember that the third and the seventh are the most important notes in a chord, they define the quality of the chord (major, minor, dominant).


Maj7 chords

Min7 chords

Dom7 chords




The next chord diagrams show how basic chords can be altered or extended.

Extended chords

Other chords 2

Comping Patterns

You can walk through any jazz progression. Here are some easy preliminary exercises based on a major 2 5 1 progression. Three basic chords are used here, Dm7 (ii), G9 (V) and Cmaj7 (I).

In this first pattern the bass is played on the first beat whereas the rest of the chord is played on the «and» of the beat. This will serves as a basis for the next exercises.

Guitar walking bass line exercise chords on and of the beat


Chromatic Approaches

You will hear that a chord can be approached in different ways. From above or from below. As shown in the next two patterns, you can mix these two types or approaches.

Here the root of G9 is approached chromatically from above and the root of Cmaj7 is approached from below.

Guitar walking bass line exercise approach root from above and below 1


The opposite is obviously possible. The root of G9 is approached chromatically from below. The root of Cmaj7 is approached from above.

Guitar walking bass line exercise approach root from below and above

Bass Lines

The next exercises show how to use bass lines to connect chords. These bass lines can be built with :

  • The tones of the chord you are playing. These chord tones are the third (3), the fifth (5) and the seventh (7) .
  • Diatonic notes, they come from the related scale of the chord you are playing.
  • Chromatic approach tones, as previously seen, these notes lead to the root of the next chord. Chromatic lines and voice leading are a very important part of jazz vocabulary.
  • Diatonic leading tones, they belong to the scale of the chord you are on and make the link with the root of the next chord.
  • Dominant leading tones, these are the fifth of the next chord.

Here are two 2 5 1 examples on how to build some bass lines using chord tones (CT), diatonic notes (DN), chromatic approach notes (CAT), diatonic approach note (DAN) linked to drop 2, drop 3 and 3-note shell chords.

Guitar walking bass line exercise complete bass lines 1


Guitar walking bass line exercise complete bass lines 2

Long Walking Bass Lines And Chords

Here are three exercises that mix walking bass lines and chords (CM7, Dm7 and G7). Be sure to memorize and play them in twelve keys.

Guitar walking bass pattern long line cmaj7

Guitar walking bass pattern long line dm7

Guitar walking bass pattern long line g7



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  • Joey Crimson
    • 1. Joey Crimson On 2020-08-16
    Nice introduction to the walking bass technique on guitar thanks. I'm going to buy the book
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2020-08-16
      Thanks for your support

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