Adding bass note walks to your chord progressions is a quick way to add style and color. They sound complicated but they're actually pretty straightforward once you learn them. Since we'll be looking at a few different bass note walks it's important to watch the video to hear how these sound. This will help you learn the timing. Everything here will be to explain what's going on a little bit more.
Bass Note Walks
We'll play in the key of G because it gives us some open strings to take advantage of. You can play a 3 or 4 finger G here. The second chord is a Folk style C chord. The bass run will happen in between the G and C chord. You can use whatever strumming pattern you want. I'll use a pretty standard strumming pattern.
(Check out 1:03 in the video to see the rhythm)
Whatever strumming pattern you use, you'll start this run on the 4 beat of the G chord. The walk up is to play the open 5th string on the 3 beat, followed by the 5th string 2nd fret on the 4 beat. You'll finish the run on the 1 beat of the new measure on the 5th string 3rd fret.
The walk up here is all on the 5th string: open-2nd fret-3rd fret
Make sure you're using your middle finger on the 5th string 2nd fret, and ring finger on the 5th string 3rd fret. That makes sure you don't have to change your fingering to play the chord. Your ring finger lands on the root note and you can form the rest of the chord using it as an anchor.
You can add the D chord here too. Using the same rhythm and timing, play open-2nd fret-open on the 4th string. A natural way to play these chords is G-C-D-C, using bass walks in between every chord.
These walk ups are mostly following the scale up to the next chord. This is the easiest way to add the bass runs to your chord progressions. Simply find two notes in between the chord you're playing and the chord you're going to.
But that's not the only bass note runs you can play.
Let's use the chord progression G-D-Em-C. This is a very common chord progression. You'll use the D walk up going from G to D, and the C walk up going from Em to C.
The Em walk up is a little different, but also familiar. You'll start by using the C walk up, but instead of ending on the 5th string 3rd fret, you'll end on the open 6th string.
open 5th string-5th string 2nd fret-open 6th string
This will land on the root note of the Em chord. Since the bass note runs are almost identical on the Em and C you get consistency. And at the same time you get a little surprise.
But what about getting to the G chord? Is there a walk up for that?
Of course! But let's mix things up. Every note we've played so far has been in the G Major scale. This is how bass note runs are constructed 9 times out of 10. But we can use chromatic notes to add a different color to the progression.
Chromatic notes are consecutive notes, not notes out of a scale. Since we'll use notes not in the G Major scale it adds a little extra flair.
Jump ahead to 8:19 in the video to hear this. The timing will be a bit different.
Practice all of these slowly, and then put them all together. Once you're comfortable you can increase the tempo and play along with a metronome.
These are far from the only bass note runs. You'll find that bass note runs come in all kinds of different timings, keys, and styles. But these are a wonderful place to start!
If you enjoyed this lesson and want to see more like it, leave a comment below and let me know!