Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar – Three Easy Steps

by | Nov 8, 2017 | Jazz Guitar Lessons | 6 comments

I put together a how-to guide to building walking basslines on jazz guitar. Today’s post is a sneak peek of the first lesson. You can get the full series of these lessons on walking bass by going to the Courses page here >>


In this lesson, you’re going to learn:

  • How to assemble single line basslines on guitar in 3 easy steps


Though walking bass might seem a complex technique, it doesn’t take much work to get a convincing bassline under your fingers.

As you’ll see in the above video, you can break down the basic approach to walking bass in just three simple steps.


Step 1: Play Root Notes On Beat 1 of Each Bar

The bulk of the bass player’s job is to emphasize the root notes of the harmony. So establishing the sound of the root note on beat 1 of each bar makes a lot of sense for a bass player.


Step 2: Add Approach Notes On Beat 4 of Each Bar

The next step is to add some sort of approach note on beat 4 that leads to the root note of the next bar. It sounds most jazzy when you add a chromatic note as the approach note, however, you can use diatonic notes as well as approach notes. (Diatonic means using the scale notes that relate to the current key).


Step 3: Add ‘Walking Notes’ on Beats 2 & 3


To complete your walking bassline, you just need to add two more notes in between the root note of beat 1, and the approach note of beat 4.

These can be any of the following:

  • Diatonic notes from the scale of the given key
  • Chromatic notes, or
  • Arpeggios.


Task:  Watch the above video, then learn to play each of the musical examples given in each of the three steps above. Once you’ve done that, experiment taking the principles covered in this lesson to compose or improvise your own basslines over the progression used in these examples.

In the next lesson, you’re going to learn how to play chords at the same time as this walking bass line – sounds hard to do? If you know a few simple tricks, it’s not hard at all. I’ll show you how to do it in the next lesson of this series…


This concludes this free excerpt of my ‘Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar Primer’ lesson series. To get instant access to the rest of the lessons in this new series (as well as a large number of other lessons), they are all included in my online program, the FretDojo Academy Membership. Find out more about the Membership here…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education


  1. Lou

    BAM! That was a real eye-opener Greg. You totally de-mystified the walking jazz bass line. Great teaching, great lesson.?

  2. Grady Calloway

    Very informative lesson and well presented!

  3. Juanjo

    Hello Greg, very good lesson, I have been following your lessons and videos for quite a time. Very helpful always, regards from Spain, JJ

  4. Dave

    Hi Greg: I just wanted to thank you for the lesson. For me it was a good review of the basics, which is a very important thing (here in American baseball, we call it Spring Training. A return to the fundamentals, even for the pros.)

  5. Christien L Gagnier

    A great analysis and explanation of how to do walking bass. I am hoping that my triad arpeggio practice will combine well with these concepts.

  6. John O'Donnell

    Excellent explanation, most enjoyable lesson


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