July Ezine – Excerpt from Walking Basslines – The Futsal Way

Over the last few months I’ve been covering some walking bass line material excerpted from my Course Walking Basslines 101. That course opens for general enrollment on Monday 11th August.  If you want to see details for it, you can see them by clicking here:

Walking Basslines 101

Now the monthly ezines are normally password protected – but for a limited period whilst I launch the course I’ve taken the passwords off so you can revisit that content.

In April we looked at a way to practice your timekeeping.  You can see that issue here:

How To Practice Time 1 – April Ezine

In May we looked at a different way to practice your timekeeping.  You can see that issue here:

How To Practice Time 2 – May Ezine

In June we looked at how to build your vocabulary by analyzing transcription and lifting material from them.  You can see that issue here:

How To Build Your Walking Bassline Vocabulary – June Ezine

In July’s issue of the How To Play Bass Ezine we have an excerpt from a report that’s a bonus for premium students called Walking Bass Lines – The Futsal Way.

You can download July’s ezine by right clicking here and using the save as or save target as dropdown:


And don’t forget, if you want to see the details on my Walking Basslines 101 course, you can see them be clicking here:

Walking Basslines 101

The course opens on August 11th.  There’s some extra goodies for folks who enroll in the first week.

June Ezine

June’s free monthly ezine is PDF only….to download it, simply right click on the link below and use the ‘Save As’ or ‘Save Target As’ dropdown.

June’s monthly ezine is an excerpt from one of the lessons in my walking basslines 101 course and talks about building your vocabulary of patterns and ideas by analyzing transcriptions and taking the ideas you like to your practice area to thoroughly practice them.

In July’s ezine we’ll take a look at what this thorough practice entails.

Here’s the June issue:


James Jamerson Live with Martha Reeves

Here’s a great old clip featuring Jamerson with Martha Reeves:



Bobby Vega Talks Precision Basses

Here’s a great clip where Bobby Vega talks about P Basses….

May Ezine

To download the PDF May free how to play bass ezine, please right click on the link below:


Tutorial Introduction

In the April issue of the free How To Play Bass Monthly Ezine we looked at playing through the first 8 bar section of Autumn Leaves and working on your sense of time by not using drums and instead using a click that sounded on beats 2 and 4 only.

Here’s the line that we used for this exercise:

Autumn Leaves Ex 1

We then developed that exercise by dropping clicks.  So for example we’d play with just a ‘2’ click only.  That gives us responsibility for 4 beats know.  And then we dropped down to the ‘2’ click every other bar – giving us responsibility for counting 8 beats accurately.

The following exercises – which are done with Band In A Box – work on something similar.  But this time we are going to play the example above with a Band In A Box track and use a feature of Band In A Box that allows us to mute a number of beats.  This tutorial follows on directly from the tutorial in April’s free monthly ezine.

(BIAB) Variant 5 – One Bar Missing

I got the idea for this series of variants from a book for drummers called It’s About Time by Fred Dinkins.  In Dinkins’s book, drummers get a click track that they have to play along to.  And gradually that click track evolves and more and more beats are left out.  And the idea is that the drummer develops his own internal sense of time so that when the click track drops away he can provide the missing beats.

We’ve already been doing this with the suggested variants above – where we’re providing the missing beats between beats 2 and 4.  Or if we’ve dropped the 4, we’re supplying the missing beats between Beat 2 in each bar.  And so on.

You may have found that if you’ve tried Variant 3 or 4 that this was a substantial step up in terms of supplying missing beats.  So we’re going to work on a way to train yourself to build up to that.

Again, we’re going to use the example that we started the lesson with.  Whatever example you use, the main criteria to bear in mind are that you’re familiar with the example and that you’ve practiced it numerous times to extend that familiarity before you start trying these exercises.

Now when you enter chords into Band in A Box there’s a facility to make your chord either a stab or a hold.  (A ‘stab’ is literally a shot where indicated.  And a hold is a sustained chord or note.)  We’re going to use the ‘Stab’ option – by typing ‘..’ after the chord we’re instructing Band In A Box to play a stab – and it won’t start playing again until a new chord is programmed.

So here’s what it looks like in Band In A Box:

Varient 5

Now when I click the play button Band In A Box will generate a track to play along to and give me a count off.  Then it will play as normal until it gets to Bar 8 – where the ‘Gm7..’ chord is marked in red.  When it gets to Bar 8 it will play a ‘stab’ on Beat 1 – and then it won’t play anything again until the 8 bar form loops back to Bar 1.  (I’ve made the number of repeats on this 8 bar section to be 2).

So my job is to play along with the recording and play through this stab on Bar 8 beat 1 – and then repeat the 8 bar section and I’m aiming to ensure that I’m totally in sync with the track when the track comes back in on Beat 1 of the second play through.

So I’m responsible for counting beats 2, 3 and 4 of Bar 8 and then landing back in on the ‘1’ of the Cm7 bar.  Here’s what that playalong looks like:

Now two other things that you can do with Variant 5.  (1) you can export this file to an Mp3 and you can do this exercise away from your bass with your iPod by counting using your finger or your hand.  (2)  You can extend this out to a 32 bar example and have this ‘stab’ bar every 8 bars.

When you’re happy, then we’re going to move to Variant 6 and give you responsibility for two more beats.

(BIAB) Variant 6 – One And A Half Bars Missing

In the ‘click’ variations earlier in the lesson there’s no real way to extend how much space you are responsible for.  It went from 2 beats (2&4) to 4 beats (2 or 4 only) to 8 beats (2 or 4 on alternate bars) to 16 beats (every fourth bar and so on).

With the BIAB variants we can fill in those missing gaps.  So variant 6 is to move from taking responsibility for 4 beats to taking responsibility for 6 beats.  What we do, is move the ‘stab’ two beats forward.  Here’s what it looks like programmed with Band In A Box:

Varient 6

So here the stab moves to Beat 3 of Bar 7. And drums and piano don’t re-enter until Bar 1 of the second time through the 8 bars.  So now there’s six beats to count.  Again, your goal is to hit Beat 1 of the Cm7 chord in time with the program!  Here’s the playalong:

When you’re comfortable…..Variant 7 is the next challenge.

(BIAB) Variant 7 – Two  Bars Missing

In Variant 7 we’re going to move the ‘stab’ another two beats further forward.  So now your Band In A Box section should look like this:

Varient 7

Now there’s 8 beats for you to take care of.  When you can get to the point of being able to comfortably play through this and nail the ‘1’ every time, then you know your internal sense of time is developing.   From here, you can either go back to some of the more extreme ‘click’ variants, or you can carry on pushing that ‘stab point’ back two beats.

(BIAB) Variant 8 – Two  And A Half Bars Missing …And Beyond

So let’s push the stab point back a further two beats:

Varient 8

So you can see now the stab point starts on Beat 3 of Bar 6.  So there’s 10 beats to take care of with this variant.

Variant 9 would take the stab point back to the start of Bar 6:
Varient 9

Variant 10 would take it back to Beat 3 of Bar 5:

Varient 10

And Variant 11 would take it back to the downbeat of Bar 5 – so now you’re looking after the beat for four bars:

Varient 11

When you can get to this point, your improved sense of time should make your playing sound more confident.  Not only should your playing be going somewhere – using the various devices and approaches we’re developed in the course – but also that sense of purpose should be
heightened by your increased sense of time.

These are such simple exercises to work on that it is almost criminal to overlook them – but lots of bass players do.  These exercises are crucial towards developing a sense of internal time – and that internal time sense will positively affect the sound of your lines.

Should You Stop When You Get To This Point?

Now it should be fairly obvious that you can keep making these exercises more extreme – and you can go beyond being responsible for just four bars to being responsible for six bars.  Or eight bars.  Or more.

Personally – and creating the course has caused me to refocus myself on this – I think your first time goal should be to reach the point where you can comfortably play and keep time for four bars with no external time reference source.

When you reach this goal I think you should aim to go beyond it.  If you can accurately count and keep time for four bars with no external source – and the logical way to develop this is outlined above – there’s no reason why you can’t count and keep time for six bars with no external source.  Or 8 bars.

Each time you increase the amount of bars and beats you are taking care of, your internal sense of time improves.  The stronger that internal sense of time is, the better a bass player you are.  So I think that when you reach the level of being comfortable with four bars of space you should consolidate that – and then push beyond that.  (This is something I’m guilty of not having done….so that just got added to my practice and goal lists!).

April Ezine

To download the April 2014 monthly ezine PDF, please right click on the link below:


Walking Bass Line Tutorial – Improving Your Sense Of Time

Bass players in all genres of music should practice their ‘time keeping’ and their understanding of the rhythmic division of the beat as much as drummers do.  It’s a sad fact of life though that very few bass players include specific exercises in their practice routines to help develop their time and their understanding and mastery of rhythm.

In this month’s ezine we’re going to look at playing short walking bass lines – in the examples in the lesson we will use 8 bars of a typical bass line for the first ‘A’ section of Autumn Leaves – in conjunction with exercises that will improve the sense of time in our bass lines.

(Paul’s Note – This excerpt – and all the examples in it -  is from a walking bass lines course I’ve been developing over the last 12 months.)

Practicing Hitting The Strong Beats

The ‘strong beats’ in jazz from a rhythmic perspective are Beats 2 and 4 and we have to make sure we hit those with notes in our bass line.  So when we’re composing bass lines and we start layering in different rhythms, remember to ALWAYS hit beat 2 and beat 4 with a note.

What we have to do now is to translate this knowledge into a practice exercise that will improve our sense of time – and help us hit those signposts on Beats 2 and 4 so that we are totally in sync with our drummers.

Being able to do this will give a strong sense of ‘time’ and ‘feel’ or ‘groove’ to our lines.  So to start this off we’re just going to work in 8 bar sections.

My recommendation here is to start off picking a simple pattern that you composed for an earlier part of the course.

When you’ve picked your line you want to play it a few times to really get it under your fingers.  This is so that you can then concentrate on hitting Beats 2 and 4 and not have to worry about brain capacity being diverted to concentrating on the note locations or where you’re going to play them.

So play your example through a number of times until you feel like it’s under your fingers.  When you’re doing this vital preparation work don’t hesitate to use either Band In A Box or the bass less backing tracks that have been generated in the course.

Once you start to feel really comfortable with your chosen 8 bar section then it’s time to practice hitting those rhythmically strong beats.  I’ve tried several ways to implement this, but the simplest way that I’ve found is to program a backing track that has a sound (either a click, or a hi-hat, or a side stick) on just Beat 2 and Beat 4 of every bar.  Here’s the example I’m using along with drum notation showing this:

Autumn Leaves Example 5

A few notes on this:

1.  This is one of the few exceptions where you shouldn’t practice with a track that has harmonic material on it.  Your focus should be totally on the rhythm – don’t worry about hearing the harmony when you’re doing
this exercise.

2.  This might be another counter-intuitive part of this lesson – but once you’re familiar with an 8 bar pattern this exercise is harder at slower tempos than it is at faster tempos.  Remember that the goal of the exercise is to absolutely align your bass notes with Beats 2 and 4.  As you play this slower the amount of actual, linear time between each click or drum sound increases.  So your time keeping has to be better with this exercise playing it slower.  So start off at say 140 BPM, and then work back in 20 BPM increments.  (I’ll provide a slew of 8 bar and 16 bar and 32 bar ‘2+4 Click Tracks’ on the downloads page at various tempos).

3.  This is an exercise where you MUST audit yourself.  The simplest way is just to video yourself doing this exercise with your iPhone or Tablet camera.  The recording doesn’t need to be anything other than OK – as long as you can clearly hear your 2+4 Track and your bass.  And listen carefully for the placements of your notes on beats 2 and 4.  How I visualize this when I’m practicing this is to try and make the clicks on Beats 2 and 4 inaudible because I’m playing there.


Now this simple sounding exercise is one of the best exercises you can do to work on your sense of time.  As well as the click tracks that I’ll provide you can also do this exercise with a conventional metronome.  Say you’re working on a tempo of 140 BPM then just by setting your metronome to 70 BPM you can now count those clicks as ‘2’ and ‘4’ and the space between them is 1 and 3.

I recommend that you should play this exercise or a variant of it – and we’re going to talk about variants shortly – every practice day as part of your walking practice.  Even just 10 minutes a day will make an appreciable difference.

Now if you do this, in a relatively short period of time you’ll find that your time feeling improves and your placement of notes on Beats 2 and 4 will get more accurate – and this will give your playing a much stronger sense of time.

When you do this exercise the metronome or click track is marking beats 2 and 4 – and YOU have to mark beats 1 and 3 internally.  This is why your time feel improves – because you’re not leaning on a drummer or a metronome to provide time and playing along with that, YOU are providing the time yourself and the metronome or click track will eventually come to support you.

Now with this basic 2&4 exercise once you start to get to grips with it you can extend it out – and start playing 16 bar and 32 bar examples with it.  And again, don’t forget to start out at a reasonably brisk tempo (140-160 BPM) and then practice the same lines by moving the tempo back.  Doing this at 80 BPM is much harder – but will work wonders for your sense of time.

Time is a crucial component of the walking bass player’s job on the band stand though – and there are other ways to work on it as well that are worth knowing and practicing.  The rest of the Lesson will focus on these variants.

Variant 1 – The ‘2’ Only

In the 2&4 exercise you become responsible for marking the time of the missing beats – Beats 1 and 3.  When you get comfortable doing that a great way to make your sense of time even better is to give you even more responsibility.

So you can drop the Beat 4 click and just get a click on ‘2’ only.   With our example it looks like this:

Again, with this exercise start out with 8 bar sections.  And start out at mid tempo – 140/160 BPM – and really focus on nailing Beat 2.  Everything else will follow from that.

This stretches your time perception because now you have to accurately take care of Beats 1, 3 and 4.

The reason – especially for this variant – we start with 8 bar phrases is that if you miss a Beat 2 you can stop and start again.  And your goal starts out just getting through that first 8 bars.  When you start to have a degree of success – and if you’ve practiced with 2&4 diligently it doesn’t take long – then you can make it harder by slowing the tempo down.

100 BPM is a challenging tempo for this exercise.  But when you find you can accurately do it – and extend to 16 bar and 32 bar examples – you’ll notice a subtle but definite improvement in the sense of time in your playing.  Again, auditing yourself by recording yourself is a must here so you really ensure you are nailing Beat 2.

Variant 2 – The ‘4’ Only

This is similar to Variant 1 – only we’re switching the ‘click’ from sounding on Beat 2 to sounding on Beat 4.  With our example it looks like this:

If you’ve had success with Variant 1 – The ‘2’ Only – then you should find the transition to Variant 2 fairly straightforward.  Again you have three beats of time to take care of – Beats 1,2 and 3 – and you should also audit to ensure that you’re really hitting Beat 4.

Both Variant 1 and 2 are natural extensions of the 2&4 exercise and don’t take a great deal of work to step up to – the next variant however can be tough at first!

Variant 3 – The ‘2’ (or ‘4’)  Only – Every Other Bar

In Variant 3 we’re going to drop our click out every other bar.  With our example it looks like this:

Now suddenly things are getting tricky.  We’ve gone from taking care of Beats 1, 3 and 4 to taking care of Beats 1, 3 and 4 in one bar and beats 1 to 4 inclusive in the next bar.  So you’ve got to accurately keep time for 8 beats!

Now this may take some getting used to – but it is definitely achievable.  And I’m going to detail some further variants that you can use to build your internal sense of time without the leap that’s apparent in going from Variant 2 to Variant 3.  (Paul’s Note: Sadly for these exercises you WILL need Band In A Box.  IMO if you’re serious about learning walking bass you should have this software in your practice toolbox.)

If you find whilst attempting Variant 3 that you lose your place quickly and it’s hard, then go back to Variants 1 and 2 and spend more time with them and then come back to Variant 3.  It may take some time to develop your time perception to the point where this is comfortable.  But it’s highly recommended.

Paul’s Note – there are other suggested variants in the actual lesson itself – but this excerpt should give you enough information to get you started practicing working on your inner sense of time.

In May’s ezine we’re going to do a similar exercise where we work on your sense of time….but we’re going to do it by dropping beats from an 8 bar section of a tune. Again we’ll use the ‘A’ section of Autumn Leaves to provide the framework for our examples.

Rocco Clinic

Here’s a clinic that Rocco recently held at GodPS Music.  The sound quality is not that great…but there is some awesome stuff here.  And will be of special interest to those of you following the Reconstructing Rocco column in First Bass And Beyond. 

Love Rears Its Ugly Head – bass by Muzz Skillings

One of my favourite rock bands are the early incarnation of Muzz Skillings on bass.  Here’s a video of a tune called Love Rears Its Ugly Head:

I think the bass world lost an original rock voice when Muzz left Living Colour.  I’m a big fan of Muzz’s and just sad that there isn’t a bigger discography of material to listen to and learn from!  (I’ve been transcribing this for First Bass And Beyond.