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Chord tones (Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) are the most powerful choice you can  make when creating your walking lines. They are the core of the chord, the juicy notes. Therefore being in control and becoming fluent is crucial!

Chord tones are the foundation that we are going to build our walking bass constructions on.  As you know, we can build much higher if the foundation is strong and solid. This is why this material has to be completely internalized in order to go further in our studies. You have to be able to instantly recognise different chord types and distinguish various chord tones that make them up. It is not as difficult as it may first look like. I am going to explain main chord types construction step by step, so you will know how to easily find individual chord tones on the fretboard. You have to be in total control of using chord tones within your lines. When I say in control, I mean that you have to be able to play them in your sleep! In any key!

In Module 1 we will apply chord tone patterns to one of the most popular jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” and Jazz blues. These two are not randomly picked. “Autumn Leaves” contains all the main chord types within its progression, so the patterns we will apply will be reflected from four different chord types perspective. Jazz Blues on the other hand is made up mainly of dominant chords but on its progression are based numerous standards and its 12 bar progression is a MUST to know by any jazz musician.

Introduction – Chord Tones Explained

Believe me or not, but most  jazz standards consist in 90% of three main chord types. Major 7th(Maj7), minor 7th(m7) and dominant 7th(7). These three chord types may obviously have a variety of different voicings, but the vast majority of these voicings has usually one of mentioned chords as a base. You have to be in control of using them over the entire fretboard as this knowledge is going to constantly accompany you on your musical path. Do not be afraid to spend adequate amount of time to really know them inside-out.

  • Maj7 chord consists of the root (R), natural third (3), perfect fifth (5)  and natural seventh (7).
  • Second chord m7 consists of the root (R), flat third (b3)), perfect fifth (5) and flat seventh (b7)).

We notice straight away that both chords has the root and perfect fifth but what differs between them is third and seventh.

  • Dominant chord, called simply 7 chord consists of the root (R), natural third (3), perfect fifth (5) and flat seventh (b7)

To our three chord types I would like to add one more, called half-diminished (m7b5). It is basically a m7 chord with flatted fifth, the other chord tones are exactly the same.

  • m7b5 chord consists of the root (R), flat third (b3), flat fifth(b5-diminished) and flat seventh (b7). 

TO SUM UP:

Major 7th             R-3-5-7

Minor 7th             R-b3-5-b7

Dominant 7th       R-3-5-b7

Minor 7thb5         R-b3-b5-b7

Make sure that you analyse the above information with instrument in your hand. You have to be able to know where each of the chord tones is located in relation to the root. The PDF file will help you visualize that…writing it down on paper will also be helpful to more understand the difference between these chord types.

TO GET BACKING TRACKS AND PDF FILES TO EACH LESSON JUST POP YOUR FIRST NAME AND EMAIL INTO THE SIDE BAR FIELD!!!

To help you with learning chord tones, I advise that you spend a quarter of your session on practicing arpeggios (Maj7, m7, 7, m7b5). Arpeggios are nothing else, than a chord broken into single notes played in succession. There are so many advantages of practicing arpeggios (in the right way of course), that I could spend all day talking just about it. But let stick to the fact that by doing so, you will get the control over using chord tones and be able to instantly find their location on the fretboard. I am currently working on a book about how to practice arpeggios on bass, so watch this space!

Do not move onto the next lesson too quickly, before having mastered current material. Also, at the beginning try, not to work on too many patterns in one session, that is only going to distract you. Isolate each concept and work on it until you can pre-hear it in your head.

As we just starting to learn walking lines, we have to make sure that they sound solid first. Therefore we are not going to play any fancy rhythms yet. Really focus on playing long, even and undecorated quarter notes. Try to reduce the space between them to the minimum. The longer your quarter notes will be at this stage, the better will short rhythmic variations sound later on.

Root-Root-Root-Half Step Above/Below 

Let’s start to learn our vocabulary with explaining what the leading tones are and how they function in walking bass lines construction. We are going to be using this concept throughout the whole course, so it is very important to understand it at the beginning. Leading tones are also called half steps above and below and I will be using this name from now on to describe this concept. Half steps create feeling of tension and release and this is what makes a walking bass line sound jazzy. To illustrate that, in our first two patterns, play the root of the chord for first three beats and then, on beat four half step (one fret) above or below the root of the next chord. These simple patterns will help you to quickly internalise progression of “Autumn Leaves” and Jazz Blues by the root motion. Let’s illustrate that.

TO GET BACKING TRACKS AND PDF FILES TO EACH LESSON JUST POP YOUR FIRST NAME AND EMAIL INTO THE SIDE BAR FIELD!!!

Root-5th-Root-Half Step Above/Below 

Using combinations of root and 5th is the best and most solid solution when first starting to walk over chord changes. Root and 5th form a framework of a chord. These notes can be used on any type of chord as they do not specify if chord has a major or minor quality. In our first standard “Autumn Leaves”, when half-diminished chord occurs, remember to play b5th as opposed to perfect 5th. When using root and fifth patterns you must bear in mind that the 5th can be played above or below the root. Also the root itself can be played an octave higher or lower. In these patterns root of the next chord is being targeted from a half step above and below creating a strong feeling of destination. When you get to the bar where two chords appear in on measure you can either play the root and correspondent half step or  the root and the third or fifth.

The concepts we are learning here may sound unnatural and exercise-like when you apply them to the entire progression, but our goal is to sculpture the sound and feel of each pattern in our brain, so you can hear it before you play it. My advise is to focus on not how fancy but how solid they are!

Root-3rd-Root-Half Step Above/Below

We are now getting more specific with our walking lines because the 3rd tells us about chord quality, whether is major or minor. Now our lines will sound more “in” with the chord changes. Before, the lines we have played have not reflected major or minor tonality of the chord.

 Root-7th-Root-Half Step Above/Below

The 7th of the chord also informs us about the tonality ( major or minor). Remember that you can use 7th above as well as below the root.  Second option is used more often as it often sounds better. Again half steps are used to target the root of the next chord.

Root-3rd-5th-Half Step Above/Below

Once we have learnt to instantly find individual chord tones on the fretboard and their relation to the root, the next step in laying foundation for our walking lines are patterns based on triads. Root, third, and fifth form a triad of the chord. The triad gives us extremely clear sound of the basic chord. Start your statement with playing the  root on beat one, then play the 3rd which tells us about the tonality of the chord and then support the whole concept by adding the 5th on beat three. To finish off, play half step above or below the root of the next chord to create tension and release. Variations on triads sound more interesting and complex as opposed to combinations of root-chord tone-root-half step a/b. Make sure that you can fluently play variations on major and minor triad finding the 3rd and the 5th both above and below the root.

In these patterns we are targeting the root of the next chord from half step above and half step below.

Root-3rd-5th-3rd/Root-5th-3rd-5th

These two patterns are variations on triads. They are very popular and widely used in different types of music, not only jazz. You will hear them on many differet recordings. It is necessary that you have them in your bag of tricks and patterns. Make sure that you practice them in all keys.

 

TO GET BACKING TRACKS AND PDF FILES TO EACH LESSON JUST POP YOUR FIRST NAME AND EMAIL INTO THE SIDE BAR FIELD!!!

Once you have a firm grasp of concepts used in this module you should try to mix them all up over our standard tunes. Untill now we have practiced using only one idea at the time, what made our lines sound unnatural. Now, when you blend them all together you notice how interesting they start to sound. And what is most important, how SOLID they are!

 

89 Comments on Module 1 – Chord Tones

  1. Hi Tomasz,

    Fist off all thanks for the lessons and the great explanations.

    There’s always something to learn from anybody.

    I’m wondering how to get the backing tracks

    Ben

  2. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for kind words!
    After you put your name and email address into side bar with free materials, you will be sent an email with the download link for backing tracks and PDFs.
    It may take up to 40 min but usually takes less time.
    Any problems let me know.

    TZ

  3. Hi Tomasz
    Thank you for the lessons, its really broken the concept down into easy to understand sections that have really helped my playing.
    Thanks again!
    Mick

  4. Hi, Tomasz I have not received the link to the pdf and backing tracks thanks for the great lessons. God bless you.

  5. Your lessons are great but I can’t open you backing tracks and PDF files with your .rar extensions. Is there another way in which I can download and save theses files in mp3 and pdfs extensions. Please advise. Thank you.

  6. Hi George!

    I have just sent an email to you with the instructions how to do it.

    Any questions let me know!

    Best
    TZ

  7. Hello Tomasz – searched a while for effective walking bass lessons – I should have gone right to walkingbasslessons.com!. Wondering where to find chord charts to accompany the backing tracks I’ve downloaded? Are the chords somewhere in the downloaded material?

    • Hi Chip,

      You should have two separate download links: One for backing tracks and one for chord charts.
      Any problems let me know!

      TZ

  8. Thanks very much for this excellent course, Tomasz! You’ve put a huge amount of work and dedication into it and you will surely be rewarded for it, one way or another. All the best for the future!

  9. Hi Sir Tomasz,
    I can assure that your lessons are wonderful and I am attempting to do your whole course, but I am wondering? How can I get the PDF files and backing tracks? Thanks in advance 🙂

    Charles

    • Hi Charles,
      To get PDF files and backing tracks you just need to enter your email address, first name and hit “Free Materials” button on this website. You will be asked to confirm subscription and then you will be sent an email with the link to backing tracks and PDFs. It may take up to an hour for email with the link to arrive to your mail box so please be patient:) Any problems, let me know!
      All the best! TZ

  10. Tomasz, I just chanced on your website and I can’t believe how clear your explanations are. Where have you been hiding? I think you’re simply brilliant and a very good ‘natural’ teacher. You are clearly gifted with making difficult concepts really simple and “learnable”. Please keep up the good work. You deserve more than a beer!

    PS. I have an old ‘bad’ bass, and I’m planning to buy a new one. I quite like the sound of the bass in your videos. (a Fender Jazz or Precision bass). I need your advice,please recommend a’good’ bass and how much I should expect to pay for it. Thank you, Jyhyn

    • Hi Jyhyn,
      Thanks for kind words! I am very happy that you find my lessons useful and easy to follow.
      Also thank you for a beer:) I appreciate that!
      In regards to bass you want to buy. I play and recommend Fender Jazz Bass. You can not go wrong with it! It is not ridiculously expensive and it’s versatile. You can play any type of music (not only jazz) and it sounds great. I think you can get one for about $500 if you want one made in US then you probably looking at doubling that price.
      Take care! TZ

      • I certainly don’t wont to start a long argument about Fender vs Squier but, especially if you’re on a budget (but not necessarily), I would try a Squier Vintage Modifed Jazz Bass, before buying a Fender made in Mexico.

  11. Thanks a lot for all your lessons!
    I was so lazy learning walking bass lines for a very long time, I have the courses of Ed Friedland books but never actually proceed with learning. After watching your videos I decided to go for it!

  12. Thanks for all this great organised approach to creating walking bass lines. I can’t wait for your book about how to practice arpeggios on bass.

    Thank You

  13. Tomasz,

    I would like to thank you for the time and effort you put into creating this site. I just happened to stumble across it and decided to check it. Walking bass is something I’ve been struggling with for years and you presented in way that makes it easy and fun! Thank you so much, I look forward to continuing on with modules 2-4 and buying you more beer!

    Cheers!

    • Hi Michael,
      I am very glad, that you find my website helpful and enjoy my style of teaching. Comments like yours motivates me to create more content although it is a very time consuming process. There is definitely more videos to come, I just need to make time to create them.
      PS.Thanks a lot for a beer:)
      Tomasz

  14. Hi Tomasz

    I have subscribed to your website but have not received the PDFs and backing tracks as yet. Could you please send them to my email. I have gone through your videos and I think the lessons are really educational and will definitely put me on the right track of becoming a better bass player.. Thank you .

    • Hi Joe,
      Advantage of string instruments is that transposing licks or chord progression to other keys is easy as you take the given shape and move it up or down. To give you example, first 8 chords in Autumn Leaves in Gm are as follow: Cm7, F7, BbMaj7, EbMaj7, Am7b5, D7, Gm7, Gm7. Now if you want to play Autumn Leaves in Am, your first 8 chords would be Dm7, G7, CMaj7, FMaj7, Bm7b5, E7, Am7, Am7. Can you notice that the succession of chords is the same but in the different place on the fretboard?
      Hope that helps. Best, Tomasz

    • Hi Mike,
      I have sent you instructions to your att.net email with the instructions.
      Please email me if you still can’t open them.
      Thanks,
      Tomasz

  15. Hi! your site is awesome men! the topics are really well explained, thanks alot for your time and your effort!, I always wanted learn a way to improvise in a blues-jazz field, and you make it easy dude!

    PS. I would like have those lovely pdf’s and backing tracks men, if you help me to get them I’ll be very glad!

    Thanks a lot dude! cheers!

  16. Hey Tomasz, I just finished Module 1. Your incremental method is working great for me. Thanks for your time and energy. Enjoy the beer & I’ll be sending more as I go along.

  17. Hi Steve, I am very glad that you benefit from my lessons. Practice hard and you will get amazing results! Thanks for a beer;-)

  18. HI Tomasz, firstly thanks for these fantastic resources. Could you let me know the strings that you are using to get that cool “stringy” jazz tone, and any other tips that you have for getting that sound? I also have a Jazz Bass but having played pop, R&B, funk for most of my life the sounds that I use are not that great for walking bass lines and jazz, which I have only recently become interested in. I normally use nickel plated steel roundwound strings and set my amp fairly flat tonally. Thanks, Steve

    • Hi Steve,
      Strings I use in my video are Fender nickel-plated steel strings. My set up on the bass: Neck pickup right up. Bridge pickup about 90% up and tone control about 70%-80% up. But on top of it for recoding purposes bass goes through Pandora PX5D where I do some additional set up. When I play jazz, right hand fingers play close to neck to get warmer jazzy sound. Hope that answers your question. TZ

      • Thanks for your reply Tomasz. I’m really enjoying working through the lessons and the logical way you break the concepts down. As a teacher myself (but not of music) I appreciate your approach having a balance of theory and application, with a good measure of enthusiam for your subject thrown in as well. Cheers, Steve.

  19. fantastic lessons. really enjoyed them. an excellent foundation and very tought provoking. brakes you from the mould of playing root as the lowest note every time. you done a great job on these. thank you!

  20. Tomasz, just finished watching the last video in Module 1 and again I would like to thank you for all the energy you put into this. I truly enjoy your teaching method and especially your positive frame of mind. Most Excellent. best regards, Jim

    • Hi Jim, thanks for your comment! It is great to hear that it’s worth it to continue the work on course and further lessons. Thank you for a beer!
      Tomasz

  21. Hi, Tomasz

    Congratulations and thanks for your excellent explanations. Your text (writen and recorded) is clean and easy to grasp. Your images of the fretboard and fingers are the best. It seems we are in front of you while you demonstrate the shapes. The high quality of your lessons makes your website absolute for us, since the content is essential for any style of bass playing. Later I’ll buy a beer for you… 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your comment. I is brilliant to hear that you guys are gaining so much from my lessons. And thank you for a beer:)
      TZ

  22. Tomasz,
    Just found your website today via one of your videos on YouTube. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for making this site. Just signed up for the backing tracks and notation – I breezed through the first module (not that I’m not going to have to practice these concepts over and over to internalize them…).
    I already had a fair understanding of chord tones, and I can already hold my own pretty well as far as Blues goes, but I have been stumped as to where to find good explanations of just what my favorite players (Roscoe Beck and Travis Carlton, just to name a couple) were playing sometimes, because they both throw a lot of jazz licks into their bass lines. Some of them I could figure out by working on them note for note, but I had never been able to find a good theory based explanation for why those things worked, and other things that I tried didn’t. Pretty much all of the lessons I have previously found online either just show you the notes with no explanation of the theory behind it, or they get so bogged down in theory that they forget to tell you how to apply it, which rapidly becomes very mind numbing. Rest assured that I will be studying your lessons on this site for quite some time to come, so that I can apply them ‘in the moment’. ‘Bout to go send you a beer!

  23. Dear Tomasz

    Thank you so much for the great lessons.I realised that I need to have a concise and systematic approach to my bass training.I found your approach to be that and much more.

    All the best wishes

    Anand

  24. Finally a clear instruction on walking bass lines. Thank you so much for these lessons. I have searched for an understanding of how to create walking bass lines online for a long time. Until I happened upon your youtube video’s I found nothing of any value on the subject. Once again Thank You for your clear, easy to understand lessons.

  25. Thank you for very good lessons. A simple explanation for very complex things.
    I subscribed for free materials, but couldn’t find a link for backing tracks. Could you, please, send me one.

  26. Dear Mr Tomasz,

    You are an excellent Musical Director for us bass players and very inspiring.

    You have given my life a new direction! I’m euphorian. Thanks a lot. Love it. All the best.

    Best regards,
    Erik Banke

  27. Hi tomas

    Thanks for the lesson they are really helpful. I saw in one of the.video you are preparing lessons on arpeggios, if are ready how to access them??

  28. Hi Tomasz
    i ussualy dont comment nothing on any website but i must say your work and the way you give the lessons is just inspiring. im from argentina and your lessons are helping me a lot.
    i just wanna say thank you and thank you again.
    you acctually inspired me to study jazz bass for real at university,
    thanks thanks thanks
    muchas gracias
    vidimo se

    • Hi Ricardo
      Thank you for your comment! You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. I wish you all the best in future. Stay in touch and let us know how you are doing.
      Take care.
      Tomasz

  29. Almost forgot about this site. I want to get up to speed on my 5 string but it’s so much confusion out there. I was going to maybe study some basic stuff from another site first like chord tone basics and then maybe start with your site and then maybe some lessons. Just overwhelmed I guess. I like all kinds of music. Hope to talk to you soon.
    Rob

  30. I started playing bass about 3 months ago and have been looking at many (easily more than 100) online bass lessons. I am taking the self study route initially because of time constraints. This is BY FAR the most systematic and well thought out approach I have ever come across. It is virtually guaranteed, if you stick with it, to create a mature musician with command of his instrument. FANTASTIC!

  31. Hello Tomasz,I watched your video and totally agree with your views, I have spent far too much time aimlessly watching tutorials, I now believe I have a structure to work towards and your attitude has certainly provided inspiration. I am interested in walking bass lines but equally believe your lessons will add to the foundation to benefit other musical styles, enjoy your beer and thanks again

    • Hi Neil! Thank you for such a nice words. It is a remarkable feeling when you hear that you inspired somebody. Now it is your turn to take action and measure your progress.
      Thank you for a beer! Stay in touch. Tomasz

      • Hello Tomasz, I’m continuing to practice and have gone through the four chord types in all keys, as you said it is a considerable amount of information and learning it all will take time, I have noticed though that my knowledge of the fingerboard has definitely improved and I have worked out different fingerings to make my playing more efficient, I’m up to 90bpm for Autumn Leaves but this still needs more daily practice, Thanks once again.

        • Hey, you are welcome! You are doing it the correct way. Never rush when learning fundamentals. The more time you spend at the beginning the easier it will get in the future.
          All the best! Tomasz

  32. Thanks for this. Really great lesson. Learned a new way to play. Looking forward to sit and play my guitar because of this.

  33. This resource is fantastic, i just wish I could get the backing tracks to practice over., can you help please?

    Thanks for taking the time to do this

  34. Thank you Tomasz,
    I finally understand! You explain and demonstrate the material exceptionally.
    Well done and thanks for being generous with your time and knowledge. I will continue to practice until it becomes second nature to me. Now music theory is a lot more enjoyable.

    Sincerely, Vivian

  35. Great lessons. These have really helped me. Question for Tomasz or anyone else that wants to chime in. I know there are many variants of a 12 bar blues. If I am at an open jazz jam session where they play jazz standards and someone calls a Bb blues, what should I assume the chord progression to be? Nobody else there seems to be confused by that….. Is there a standard default jazz blues progression? Or am I supposed to figure it out by hearing it the first time through?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Yes, there is a standard default jazz blues progression. If you downloaded lessons materials for the course you will find there an example of jazz blues in a few different keys.
      Tomasz

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