How can I learn to play walking bass? Most often this questions is answered by talking about which notes to chose according to a given chord symbol. In my tutorial series I will focus on how to practise walking bass time.

Tiny Lesson #4:
How To Practise Walking Bass Time – Part 1: Simplify

Today I want to talk about how to practise walking bass time.  Not about how to chose the right notes or how to stay in the song form, but how to practise time.
Time is to me what makes the big difference between music and great music.
I presume most of you know the basic jazz theory, so most of you have been working their way through a jazz standard by reading sheet music.
What happens when you sightread a leadsheet: Your brain has to translate the chord symbols into positions on your fretboard. It has to jump to different places, if there is f.ex. a repeat sign. That is already a lot to process, espacially when you are starting to play jazz. Your brain will be overwhelmed and there is not much space left to conecentrate on the time. In order to free up space we need to simplify.
Let’s concentrate on the chore jazz chord progression – the so called  II-V-I.
That would be D-7, G7 to Cmaj7 if we decide to play the II-V-I in C.
We chose an easy 60 bpm on the click and take avery count of the metronome as the 2 and 4.
[At this point it might be useful to check out the video]

Play a couple of rounds and try to put a little emphasis on the 2 and 4.
And continue to play, try to really develop a deep friendship with the click 😉

Now record your playing and then analyze it.
How does it feel? How stable is my time? Is it exciting (again: the tim efeel, not the lines)?
Continue playing.

Then listen to a classic Jazz recording. Listen intensely: where is the bass, the ride, teh hihat? How does it feel?
Then play along, don’t think to much about the notes, but try to get the time feel, to  sit right in the middle of it all.

Then come back to your click. Same old II-V-I, same old 60 bpm, click on 2 and 4 and here we go.
play, play, play….

And when the time starts to feel really good and when you are beyond getting bored, step up to the next chapter.

Tiny Lesson #5:
How To Practise Walking Bass Time – Part 2: Little Big Challenges

Now we want to take it up a notch. While sticking to simplicity we introduce little challenges into our practice routine. Be aware how your time feel changes while playing these exercises.

  1. Play the afore mentioned II-V-I progression just on one string. See how the big jumps affect your time feel
  2. Play only on the first 4 frets and the open strings.
  3. Have the click only on the 4. ( check the video if you have trouble getting into the 4/ feel, I will show you a great ‘how to’ ). This is a very profound challenge, take your time to really master this challenge.
  4. Now it is time to come up with your own little challenges. Be creative – challenge yourself!

And now to the next chapter:

Tiny Lesson #6:
How to Practise Walking Bass Time – part 3:
Sound is Time – Right Hand Variations


The time feel is influenced by a lot more factors than at what point a note starts.
The attack, the sustain, the frequencies of a note are almost as important.
Those can be called the sound of a note – and the sound is controlled mostly by our right hand.

Let us look at double bass players .

  1. Double bass players  often have a very percussive attack, which is the only way to be heard in an acoustic jazz setting. We can imitate that by hitting the string at the end of the fretboard and thus creating a click sound.
  2.  In classic jazz the notes have very little or short sustain, due to the material of the strings (gut) and the high action of the strings. One way to imitate that is by playing ‘palm mute’ style. Rest your palm gently on the strings close to the bridge and play the string with your thumb.
  3. They often play with just one finger. I also enjoy using just the index finder of the right hand for walking bass. I am under the impression that the notes are more even.

Now try these different ways of playing walking bass. Experiment with different tempos and different styles and see, how that feels. Try to make those styles part of your repertoire and it will enable you to be equipped for all kinds of ‘swing situations’.

These were some thoughts on how to practise wlaking bass TIME.
Thanks a lot for taking the time, have fun and feel free to visit