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Bass Guitar Lesson: Walking Bass Lines in Blues


In the intricate tapestry of blues and jazz music, there exists a rhythmic heartbeat that pulsates beneath the melodies and harmonies, guiding the listener through a mesmerizing journey of sound. This rhythmic foundation is none other than the enigmatic walking bass line—a fundamental element that gives blues and jazz its distinctive groove and swing.


But what exactly are walking bass lines? How do they function within the context of blues and jazz music? And what makes them so essential to the rich sonic tapestry of both genres? Let's embark on a journey to unravel the mystery behind these captivating musical motifs.


At its core, a walking bass line is a series of notes played on the lower register of an instrument in an ensemble, typically the double bass or the bass guitar. These notes move in a steady, flowing manner, often outlining the underlying chord progression of a song. Unlike static bass lines that simply repeat a single pattern, walking bass lines are dynamic and ever-evolving, adapting to the changing harmonies and rhythms of the music.


The term "walking" aptly describes the fluid motion of these bass lines, as if the notes are taking a leisurely stroll through the musical landscape. Each step connects seamlessly to the next, creating a sense of continuity and forward motion. This rhythmic propulsion is what gives blues and jazz their distinctive sense of swing, inviting listeners to tap their feet and nod their heads in time with the music.


In this online bass lesson, Grammy Award-winning bassist and ArtistWorks instructor, Nathan East, introduces us to walking bass line techniques in the context of the blues genre. Nathan has employed these methods throughout his career in the studio and on the stage supporting legendary artists like Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Daft Punk, and more.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play the bass guitar from a master musician like Nathan East? Try some free online bass lessons now!


“When I’m playing walking bass lines in the context of a blues, I’m almost always narrowing in on and following what the guitarist is playing,” Nathan explains. “As I’m walking, I pick up on what the guitar is doing to compliment what they’re playing, but also keep the energy and movement of the tune flowing.”


Walking bass lines are more than just a rhythmic device—they're also a form of musical expression. Skilled bassists use them to add depth, color, and texture to a performance, infusing each note with emotion and personality. Through subtle variations in timing, articulation, and phrasing, they can convey a wide range of moods and feelings, from joy and exuberance to introspection and melancholy.


In the world of blues and jazz improvisation, walking bass lines serve as a dynamic canvas upon which other musicians can paint their musical ideas. Like a masterful chef preparing a sumptuous meal, the bassist lays down a flavorful foundation, allowing soloists to improvise and explore new harmonic territories with confidence and freedom.


“As I’m walking, I’m constantly thinking about what types of lines will sound good in the higher register and which will sound better in the lower register,” explains Nathan. “In the higher octave, the instrument maybe speaks a bit more, but when walking in the lower register, the lines act as more of an anchor.”


To learn more about walking bass lines and their associated techniques to begin implementing them into your blues playing, dive into this online bass lesson from Nathan East:


Walking Bass Lines in Blues with Nathan East:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play the electric bass guitar? Through our comprehensive bass lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Nathan East, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Nathan’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner bass guitar to advanced performance techniques, tunes, and grooves. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as bassists and musicians!


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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