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Walking Bass: Introducing Chromatics
By Adam Nitti

Combining chord tones and scale tones is a great way to get accustomed to walking through changes melodically. Let’s add one more
element to your walking lines: chromatics. These are the notes that lie outside of the scale tones you might use to walk through a progression. For example, the notes in a C Dorian mode, which you could use to walk over a Cm7 chord, are C, D, E , F, G, A, B ; the corresponding chromatic “in between” tones are D , E, G , A , B. Chromatics are connecting or “passing” tones that lead the ear from note to note in order to create a smooth, cohesive line. In walking lines that use chromatics, you will rarely hear any abrupt jumps as each chord makes its transition into the next. Traditional walking bass lines are full of chromatics, and you must be familiar with how to use them if you want to play authentically. Ex. 1 is a chorus of a jazz blues walking line that uses chromatic tones.

In 4/4 jazz and blues, beats one and three are considered the “strong” beats because the chord changes usually fall directly on them. With walking bass lines, it’s a good idea to place notes that define the harmony on the strong beats, while putting connective notes (including chromatics) on two and four—the weak beats. For now, let’s focus on placing a chromatic connecting tone on beat four of each measure in order to create a harmonic “pull” from the end of one measure to the beginning of the next. Ex. 2 shows a walking line that outlines a progression using only scale tones. Compare this to Ex. 3, which uses chromatics on each measure’s beat four to connect the measures more closely by using smaller intervals. Notice that some of the chromatics approach the next measure from a half-step below, and some from a half-step above. If you play Examples 2 and 3 back-to-back several times, you will notice that Ex. 3 has a tighter, more connected sound. This is because we have shortened the distance crossed from measure to measure to the smallest possible increment, a half-step.

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In Examples 4 through 6. using chromatic tones on beat four. Gm7 / G 7 / Fmaj7 / B maj7 3. Have fun! 1. E m7 5 / A 7 / D m7 / G 7 file:///C|/pedro/baixo/Walking%20Bass%20introduction. B maj7 / G7 / Cm7 / F7 2.htm (2 of 2)18-01-2004 21:50:20 . then play the examples as complete bass lines. Try writing in your own chromatic connecting tones. When you have gone through each of those.WALKING BASS: INTRODUCING CHROMATICS Now try adding some chromatics of your own. try writing your own bass lines to the following progressions. I’ve left out beat four of each measure.